Meet the Student: Q&A with Countertenor Sam Higgins
Countertenor Sam Higgins, from Milton, Massachusetts, stars as Dulcamara’s Assistant in Curtis Opera Theatre’s hilarious new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (L’elisir d’amore). He entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2021 and studies voice with adjunct faculty member Julia Faulkner. All students at Curtis receive merit-based, full-tuition scholarships, and Mr. Higgins is the Arthur Tracy Fellow.
What initially sparked your interest in music, and how did your formative years performing as a boy soprano inform your decision to pursue a career as a classical singer?
My parents are both classical musicians, so my interest in music sparked long before I can remember! I still remember which were my favorite records they would play, and I grew up listening to my mom play the piano and my dad playing the bass every day. In terms of my career, I started soloing with orchestras as a boy soprano at age eleven, and I think it’s always felt natural for me to be on stage. That career took off, and I sang a number of boy soprano roles over those next few years. The combined experience of singing with an orchestra and the rehearsal process drove my desire to be a professional opera singer. Those formative years as a boy soprano provided a foundation for my love of opera, and they got my foot in the door with a lot of different classical music organizations.
Could you describe your path to becoming a countertenor and attending Curtis?
My path to becoming a countertenor was quite simple. I kept singing in my boy soprano register through the break of my voice and never really noticed my voice changing. I do, however, remember being substantially stressed out about the voice change because I wanted to keep singing up in that range, and I didn’t know what a countertenor was at the time. In terms of Curtis, it was a dream for a really long time. No one believes that they’ll get into Curtis, so when I applied, it was purely based on the successes I had been having in the field and not out of actual conscious thought that I would get in. Attending Curtis as a countertenor is a dream because it’s the best place on the planet for crafting one’s own path. Aside from the operas, the Curtis recitals are pretty flexible, and they occur three times a week, more, I’m sure, than any other conservatory. These recitals are open to any Curtis student and have been an incredible learning experience.
Listen to Sam Higgins’s 2020 performance on NPR’s From the Top HERE.
Tell us about Dulcamara’s assistant. What is this supporting character role like, and how has the experience been preparing for your upcoming performances of The Elixir of Love?
Preparing for this role has been incredibly entertaining and rewarding. Our director based this role on Charlie Chaplin, so it requires a lot of full-body comedy, which has been such a fun exploration for me. I only sing sparingly with the chorus, so the real joy has been finding this character when his boss is so influential and menacing. I think Dulcamara’s assistant is timid but also mischievous in that he has his own goal: to finally drink that “Elixir”!
What have been some of the most surprising, challenging, or memorable moments in your time here at Curtis so far?
For me personally, one of the most challenging performances I did was a piece composer Adrian Wong wrote for me for a Curtis performance. It was both very technically demanding and emotionally taxing, as I had a personal connection to the text and the meaning. The piece is called Deep Blue, and it is an incredible testament to what our oceans have gone through over the last number of years.
Watch Mr. Higgins perform Adrian Wong’s Deep Blue for countertenor and string quartet on December 11, 2021 at Gould Rehearsal Hall at Curtis.
Performers: Sam Higgins, countertenor; Alexandra Cooreman, violin I; Lingyu Dong, violin II; Sofia Gilchenok, viola; Ania Lewis, cello.
What is your favorite repertoire to sing, and who are some of your musical idols?
My favorite rep to sing is definitely Bach, as it fits so well into my voice and has been the music I’ve probably listened to the longest. My family has a tradition of decorating the Christmas tree along to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, so that piece is very close to my heart. I have a number of musical idols, a few of them singers, but many of them instrumentalists. My biggest musical hero is Martha Argerich. I think her musicality coupled with technical mastery of the piano, is unmatched, and her ability to play such a wide range of repertoire so stylishly is beyond my comprehension.
What do you like to do when you’re not practicing, studying, or performing?
When I am not practicing or studying, I love to read. One of the things that help me calm down from the never-ending Curtis schedule is to sit down outside with a book. I also love cooking and hiking, and both are wonderful distractions for when my mind is amuck.
Visit Sam Higgins’s official website HERE.
CURTIS OPERA THEATRE: THE ELIXIR OF LOVE (L’ELISIR D’AMORE)
Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Felice Romani
Friday, March 10, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 12, 2023 at 2:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Film Center
1412 Chestnut Street
Click HERE for more information.
Single tickets for The Elixir of Love start at $19: Curtis.edu. Subscription tickets are also available.
The Curtis Opera Theatre is generously supported by the Ernestine Bacon Cairns Trust, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation.
Photos of Sam Higgins: 1.) Nichole MCH Photography 2.) Cameron Whitman