Courtesy of Camilla Tassi
Kohl Weisman ’19 is not sure about what kind of artist he is.
He was raised on progressive rock and musical theatre, taught himself piano in order to play video game music, enjoys improvisational jazz guitar and has played numerous roles in opera productions at Yale. Weisman is also a Chinese literature major and a member of Yale’s club rugby team.
“It’s been a mixed bag, but the stuff that’s been my core is singing,” Weisman said. “I don’t want to think too much about what I’m doing, since I just tripped into opera at Yale and that’s become one of my passions here.”
Weisman first became involved with opera through a music department course he took during the fall semester of his first year at Yale on the performance of vocal music — a class that focuses on preparing and performing solo classical songs and operatic repertoire.
Two of Weisman’s colleagues in the course were involved in the Opera Theatre of Yale College, known by its acronym OTYC, and needed singers to fill chorus roles for an upcoming production. Weisman volunteered to take a chorus role, but soon after, one of the show’s principal roles was vacated, and Weisman decided to take it on.
Weisman said that he was drawn to the company’s do-it-yourself energy and the idea of a small group of students putting on an opera “against all odds.” Since his first year, Weisman has performed in operas with both the OTYC and the Yale Baroque Opera Project — a spring-semester course offered each year that culminates in a fully staged production of a baroque opera.
Weisman takes voice lessons with Yale School of Music Professor Janna Baty. He described studying with Baty as one of the most formative experiences during his time at Yale.
“[Weisman] continues as he always has to grow largely by doing his own thing,” Baty said. “He is utterly fearless. He’s willing to risk everything on stage, from exhibiting a mental illness that results in a tragic breakdown, to prancing around in a hot pink Terry cloth sweatsuit.”
Last school year, Weisman deviated from his usual role as a performer to fill the role of director for two OTYC productions, including the group’s mainstage show. These experiences have inspired Weisman to focus more on direction and production in his future operatic endeavors.
Although opera has been Weisman’s primary creative outlet at Yale, he has also pursued other artistic projects. Last spring, he took a role in a student-written play called “An Awkward Bow,” and he plays guitar in a Latin jazz group led by Gabriel Mininberg ’20.
“You don’t know where the music is going with [Weisman],” Mininberg said. “One minute we’re playing Elis Regina and the next we’re playing what sounds like early 2000s house music, then you’ll find him at the piano the next day playing French opera, and he’ll stop to talk to you about his favorite shoegaze album.”
Mininberg noted Weisman’s ability to “bring musical projects to life.”
Weisman said that theatricality is a common theme across his diverse artistic endeavors. He said that his love of theatricality began through his early exposure to the progressive rock music he listened to with his father.
“I think my conception of music from the very beginning has been very dramatic,” Weisman said. “As opposed to normal theater stuff, which is all about creating this sort of verisimilitude and this idea that it could be happening, in opera people are singing, and people don’t normally interact like that — [opera is] automatically detached from any sort of realistic social environment, so it’s put into this heightened place.”
Weisman’s interests do not often converge, but this semester, he is enrolled in a music department course on Chinese opera. Weisman said that this course has allowed him to find commonalities between Chinese opera and the Baroque opera he performs.
Weisman noted other ways that his interests converge, such as the intensity of the disciplines he participates in and the “instant reward” he feels when performing.
“I do like the necessity of rigor and discipline; I guess I like the challenge,” Weisman said. “Rugby and opera definitely have that in common — the way to succeed is [by combining] focus and abandonment.”
After graduation, Weisman plans to go to graduate school to study voice.
Rianna Turner | email@example.com .