The Scene


Morgan Smith

Morgan Smith
Nico Hudak.

I am from White Plains, New York, the son of a Presbyterian boy from Nashville and a Jewish girl from Manhattan. I am the third of four children, and was fortunate to have had a cello thrust in my hands at age 5. My family represented my first band, my first audience, my first collaborators.

Because my mother loved opera, on my 7th birthday I saw Hänsel and Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera. I remember two things in particular: the chocolate bar at intermission, and singing “tra-la-la-la” all the way home.

My first time on a stage was acting the roles of The Wolf & Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods as a Sophomore in High School. I had joined the cast for the best of reasons: a girl named Hallie. The passion for the girl dwindled, but passion for the theater remained. And, most importantly, a vocal coach named John Brooks identified in me some potential. He became my teacher, and through full scholarship gave me access to his expertise and wisdom in ways which might otherwise have eluded me due to personal circumstances. We should each have such a teacher.

I went to Columbia in Manhattan to play soccer and study music, and then went on to the Mannes College of Music at the New School on the Upper West Side. During those years I was flat broke, struggling to weather the storms of family drama, and most days wondered if I would ever be happy. I wondered what happiness would even look like, and I think being exposed to fundamental operatic themes—struggle and loss, love and redemption, courage and heroism—served to see me through in ways that I am only just beginning to understand.

I sang first because someone told me I could. I kept singing because a few critics characterized me as talented or memorable or authentic. I continued to sing because I kept getting jobs. But today I sing because I have something to say. I sing because that is the space where I feel most acquainted with myself; where my heart and my mind and my body and my soul all converge. I sing because I leave the theater feeling like I have a few thousand new friends.

I am grateful to sing. I am thankful to be entrusted with sacred and enduring art, again and again. And I am continually transformed and renewed through the act of participation in it.

These days, life off of the stage is more sweet than I could ever have imagined trudging through the gritty New York streets as a young man. My dear friend Richard Troxell (tenor) introduced me to his friend, Amy. I fell hard and fast for this brilliant, witty, and deeply compassionate woman. She is relentless in her pursuit of a gentler world, and anyone fortunate enough to cross her path benefits from her generous spirit. Because she works in child advocacy and policy, a dinner conversation may start with thoughts on Jake Heggie’s latest opera and end with debate around juvenile justice reform. Raising our kids together is a joy and an adventure. As Amy has said, “It’s rather operatic, really.”

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