NEW YORK (CBS New York) — The off-Broadway opera star ‘Intimate Apparel’ wows Lincoln Center audiences with her rich voice.
Justin Austin tells CBS2’s Dave Carlin that his role is a childhood dream come true.
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“When I was little and most people wanted to be a firefighter or whatever, I wanted to be an opera singer,” the 31-year-old baritone said.
“Intimate Apparel” features music by Ricky Ian Gorden, direction by Bartlett Sherr and book by Lynn Nottage, adapting his play.
“Something like ‘Intimate Apparel’ is amazing because we have the opportunity to showcase artists of color, to showcase artists who aren’t of color on the same stage,” Austin said.
The setting is New York in 1905. Austin’s character, George, is in love with a seamstress named Esther. This saga of love gone wrong is comfortable and grand.
“I think we should celebrate different colors, different experiences and different cultures,” Austin said.
What’s next for Austin? After “Intimate Apparel” closed, he began preparing for his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House.
“My last two debuts were canceled due to COVID, but I’m happy to finally have the opportunity to stand on this stage, to sing on this stage. It’s something, probably the only thing my parents ever wanted, and it didn’t happen for some reason,” he said.
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Austin’s parents, both professional opera singers, learned early on for their son that he couldn’t be ruled out of this career.
“My parents, actually, they didn’t want me to be an opera singer. They knew the difficulties and how difficult it was,” Austin said. “I was a boy soprano and traveled the world doing operas.”
Austin says he worked until he was 12 or 13 when his voice changed.
“It actually changed in the middle of a performance…At the end of that duet, it was two tenors,” he said with a laugh. “That’s actually why I moved to New York. I joined the Boys Choir of Harlem to find a safe buffer between changing my voice and how am I going to become a manly singer when I’m used to singing as a soprano.
His voice is now rich and just where he wants it.
“The two tracks that I feel as a baritone but also a fan of baritones – ‘Don Giovanni’, absolutely, and ‘Ragtime’,” Austin said. “I stand on the shoulders of everyone who has inspired, encouraged, supported and helped me.”
“Intimate Apparel” runs through March 6 at Lincoln Center’s Newhouse Theater.
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Many events and productions are planned at Lincoln Center this spring. For more information, visit lincolncenter.org/lincoln-center-at-home.