Samuel Schultz lends his voice to ‘A Little Night Music.’
by Donalevan Maines
Like certain randy politicians, adulterous men in A Little Night Music don’t learn their lesson until they get caught with their pants down.
Samuel Schultz is smarter than that in Houston Grand Opera’s staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical, playing this month in Houston. His character, the practical Mr. Lindquist, doesn’t deny inconvenient truths that foolish Fredrik and a wolfish count spend the whole show evading.
Schultz also wears underwear from beginning to end. “It’s not like underwear that appears in a catalog today,” says Schultz, describing his costume as “boxers and a dress shirt with a tie and high socks with sock garters.” One pictures the turn-of-the-20th-century undergarments in the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, which inspired both A Little Night Music in 1973 and Woody Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy in 1982.
In real life, Schultz was considering a career in politics while working as a page in the U.S. Senate during the fall of his sophomore year in high school in 2002. “I decided to take a break from politics,” he explains. “At our graduation ceremony [in January 2003], the Majority Leader, Bill Frist, who had been a medical doctor before running for the Senate, told us that if we had other gifts or talents we were inclined to pursue, do that first. He said that public service would always be an option, while those others may not be. Also, the things you will learn will enrich your own service to the world.
“I felt, at 16, that the question of where to go in life was answered,” says Schultz. “It gave me the freedom to pursue singing.”
His months as a teenager in the nation’s capital were eye-opening for a youngster from the small town of Elk Mound, Wisconsin. “Elk, like an elk, and mound, like a pile of dirt,” says Schultz. “The community in which I grew up was an evangelical Christian community where there were not a lot of different opinions. It was liberating for me to encounter so many different types of people. I could see the world in a gray scale rather than black and white. I think it eventually led me to accept myself.”
Schultz earned both his bachelor and master of music degrees in voice from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, where he came out as gay. “When I moved to Houston, I decided I wasn’t going to keep it a secret anymore,” he explains.
In A Little Night Music, Schultz believes, the characters most worth listening to are the quintet of “liebeslieders,” a sort of Greek chorus who include his character. “The liebeslieders have the most to say in the shortest amount of time,” he says. “They know more about life and its realities and its complexities.”
Famous for the song “Send in the Clowns,” the show, says Schultz, “is like life. It’s comedic at times, sentimental, a bit tragic and it is touching. These are real people who have real relationships. Nothing is perfect. Truth is at the core of the show, a poignant aspect that makes people love the show.”
Schultz was praised by Opera News for possessing a “smoky-dark baritone.” He placed second in the Upper Midwest Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, received a Fielder Career Advancement Grant, and was a finalist in the Dallas Opera Guild Competition.
For more information about Schultz, including his performance as Morales in Carmen at HGO in April, visit samuelschultzbaritone.com.
For ticket information about A Little Night Music, visit houstongrandopera.org.
What: A Little Night Music
When: March 7–23
Where: Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue
Info: houstongrandopera.org or 713.228.OPERA (6737).
Donalevan Maines also writes about Obsidian Art Space’s Ruined in this issue of OutSmart.