The opening night for the opera “Of Mice and Men,” in Sydney, Australia, this July ended in a six-minute standing ovation.
Four-time Grammy winner Anthony Dean Griffey — who played one of the two leads, Lennie — was on the receiving end of the high-level applause, a rarity at the Sydney Opera House.
SEE THE SHOW
7:30 p.m. tonight
The tenor, a North Carolina native and a professor of the practice in UNC’s music department, will perform tonight at Memorial Hall.
“It’s a time for me to share with UNC students, faculty and the community the gift I’ve been given,” Griffey said.
Griffey has been sharing this gift — his unique voice and experiences — with University students since he came in 2009 as an artist-in-residence.
“It’s important as an artist to give back and share the knowledge you’ve learned,” he said.
Chris Nickell, a senior majoring in music performance, was coached by Griffey as a sophomore.
“He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Nickell said. “He kind of took me under his wing.”
Nickell was contemplating his possible summer opportunities when Griffey made a suggestion. He offered Nickell the chance to accompany him to Sydney, where Griffey would perform in “Of Mice and Men.”
“It was life-changing, getting to see rehearsals, getting to coach with Tony,” Nickell said.
“The dedication he has to his craft — he’s the consummate performer.”
When Griffey’s availability aligned with the season of Carolina Performing Arts, the organization jumped at the opportunity.
Last season, Griffey was scheduled to perform but had to drop out due to surgery.
“It’s a delicate balance — or maybe a waltz — when you’re trying to work with all these performers’ schedules,” said Ellen James, marketing manager for the Office of the Executive Director for the Arts.
Four music department faculty members will join him on strings and Terry Rhodes, the department’s chairwoman, will sing three duets with him. Warren Jones will be performing on piano.
Rhodes said Griffey and the collaborators have reached a new level of energy and intensity as of late.
“It’ll be a highlight for me,” she said.
“To work with people who bring out the best in you — I can’t ask for anything better.”
Thursday, Griffey will be singing British and American classical and operatic music, as well as some American favorites.
Griffey said while he hopes the audience finds the concert enjoyable, he sees his performances predominantly as a method of communication between himself and his audience.
“It’s a learning and sharing experience,” he said. “People will respond to anything as long as it’s sincere.”
Nickell said Griffey is able to convey the emotions and stories found in music in a way that is easily relatable to audience members.
“He’s human, and he shows that on stage,” Nickell said. “He’s not trying to be perfect. He’s trying to be human.
“That’s something any human in the audience can understand.”
Contact the Arts Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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