Octavio Moreno, one of our nominees for Best Supporting Actor in August's Houston Theater Awards, grew up thinking of opera as people just screaming on stage. Not very compelling, not worth his time. He initially wanted to be a professional soccer player in Mexico, where he was born, but after a knee injury he had to rethink his plan. He then wanted to become a poet and study Hispanic literature--still no thoughts of pursuing music, let alone opera. It wasn't until he decided, completely on a whim and after overhearing a conversation outside of the building where he had to declare his course of study, that he wanted to study music that he considered it as a profession.
"I really, really loved words. I liked to write poetry, or at least what I think is poetry. It wasn't even until after four or five months of studying music and attending concerts that I started remaking my view of operatic songs," says Moreno.
What He Does: Moreno is an opera singer who has sung at Opera in the Heights and was in Houston Grand Opera's specially commissioned mariachi opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (which also was performed to acclaim in Paris last year), and also teaches voice, guitar, and piano lessons to children. He will perform the title role in the company's upcoming production, Rigoletto.
Last year he also released a solo mariachi album called "Amar a esa mujer."
Why He Likes It: "Not so much the teaching, but the singing I find really--I don't want to say relaxing--but it gives something to my life. Everybody has something to do during the day and lots of things to take care of. And whenever I'm singing, the world stops for a minute and I can suddenly have time to have fun during the day, to take a break."
What Inspires Him: "The two most important things that keep me moving on, not only with singing but to be someone in life, are my daughter and my wife. When we were in Philadelphia, I told my wife many times, 'You know what, let's just pack up and go home and do something else. Anything else.' And she would say to me 'Well, you've made so many sacrifices, leaving your family and everything, so let's just try it one more time.' After she said that, something good happened. And later on when I was doubting myself again, she would say, 'No, keep it up, keep it up.'
"And then my daughter, who is now 3, came along and I knew there was no turning back. The only way to give her the best is to show her what is best by example. And if she finds out that her daddy is a quitter, she might turn out to be a quitter as well. And I certainly don't want that for my daughter. So everything that I do, I try to set an example for her. And she's going to have that support from her father. So, with those two things--my wife always supporting me, and my daughter always in my thoughts--there's no turning back, I think."
If Not This, Then What: "I like mariachi music so I would probably be doing some of that. I like teaching, so I'd probably be teaching as well. I like car mechanics. I don't think I would be in a shop, but I love getting my hands greasy and fixing up things now and then, so probably that as well. There are many things that I really like.
"I enjoy teaching, but when I teach voice specifically there are some things that I can hear when listening to other people that influence my own technique. There are things that I ask from my students, that when I go ahead and practice on my own, I think 'Why don't I try what I told my student to do?' and it's very interesting how much you can learn from teaching. That's the part of teaching that I really, really enjoy very much."
If Not Here, Then Where: "I lived in Houston before from 2008-2010 [when he was an HGO Studio Artist]. Once I finished with Houston Grand Opera, the opportunity to apply for a green card came along and my wife and I were talking about what we should do if we got it. But since we lived far, far west in Mexico, close to Arizona, we were thinking about maybe just staying there so that we could be close to to home. But we decided to go with Houston. So we never thought about anywhere else besides Houston.
"Maybe later on, when we're retired, we would love to go back home and just stay there. Other than that, we haven't thought about anywhere else. I love Houston. It's a great city to be in." Moreno's voice teacher, the internationally recognized voice teacher Stephen King of Rice University, is another big factor for him.
What's Next: "Well, I have a few shows from September through May. After that, I'm thinking of doing some auditions in New York City for opera companies and managers. And I'm also thinking of trying for the Royal Opera House studio in London. So if that happens, I think that's going to be our next stop."
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