Jesús Garcia returns to Houston this weekend to perform with Bay Area Chorus.
By Don Maines
Jesús Garcia’s Tony Award for La Bohème is “proudly displayed” at his mother’s home in League City, where the internationally renowned tenor is visiting this week before performing May 5-6 with the Bay Area Chorus of Greater Houston.
The group’s two performances of “inspiring works” will include the late Alexander Sveshnikov’s “Solov’em zaletnym,” which Garcia first sang as a student at Clear Creek High School, where he graduated in 1994.
The invitation to sing with the Bay Area Chorus of Greater Houston came from the group’s artistic director, Milton Pullen, when Garcia was home last Christmas.
For years, Garcia had hesitated to come out to Pullen, who was Garcia’s “taskmaster” choir director at Clear Creek High.
“Mr. Pullen shaped my entire career,” explains Garcia. “He was very much a father figure for me. What he thinks of me is really important, so I was always kind of avoiding the subject. I finally bit the bullet and called him and invited him and his wife to dinner. I told him that I would bring my mom and my boyfriend.”
With the stage set last December, Garcia arrived at Outback Steakhouse with his mother, who is a bank manager in Galveston, and his boyfriend of more than four years, actor Steve Pacek, who starred in the bawdy Robert Askins comedy Hand to God at the Alley Theatre in 2016.
“It just couldn’t have gone any better,” says Garcia. “I really wanted to let (the Pullens) into my life. At the end of the evening, Mr. Pullen and his wife hugged Steve. I realized that my fear was like in a dream when something is chasing you and you turn around and there is nothing there.”
Garcia, who now lives in Philadelphia, was in high school when he first learned about opera from a scene in the landmark 1993 movie Philadelphia, in which Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks, in an Oscar-winning performance) describes to his lawyer (Denzel Washington) the powerfully dramatic and “ the Divine” emotions of “La Momma Marta” (as sung by Maria Callas).
“Can you hear the heartache in her voice?” asks Andrew. “Can you feel it, Joe?”
Garcia was awarded a Tony when he portrayed Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann’s celebrated 2002 Broadway production of La Bohème. Puccini’s classic also inspired the 1990s rock opera Rent, by the late Jonathan Larson, whose characters battle AIDS rather than the tuberculosis plague in Puccini’s original story.
Also this year, Garcia will portray two classic operatic characters: the title role of Faust this summer in Finland and Count Almaviva this fall in The Barber of Seville for Boston Lyric Opera.
The character of Faust, who sells his soul to the Devil, “is a long sing,” says Garcia. “It will take months and months of training for me to do the role justice.”
What: Jesús Garcia with the Bay Area Chorus of Greater Houston
When and Where: 4 p.m. May 5 at League City Church of Christ, 1801 E. Main St. in League City, and 4 p.m. Sunday, May 6 at Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 W. Bay Area Blvd. in Friendswood.