By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Adam Diegel, star of “Tosca,” now playing at the Seattle Opera, was once told to change careers after a bad audition.
But Diegel never gave up and continued to believe in himself and has been performing internationally for the past 10 years.
Diegel was born in Seoul, Korea to a German American father and a Korean mother.
Their family moved around a lot while his father was in the military. The family settled in Memphis, Tenn. after living in places like Virginia and Texas. Diegel spent 18 years there.
Growing up, Diegel’s father was a huge classical and opera fan. But Diegel was not. In fact, he hated it and wondered why a woman would be screaming in a foreign language.
Nevertheless, Diegel started singing in the church choir.“I did a solo one Sunday, and my dad recorded it and played it back to me. It was the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Diegel said.
From that point on, Diegel was determined to improve and he looked for a voice teacher.
His first teacher in Memphis told him she heard potential, so Diegel decided to go back to school.
The only musical knowledge he had was from playing clarinet and saxophone through junior high and high school.
In college, he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Memphis, and went to work at an investment company when he was 25. But Diegel received his formal musical training at Yale University.
As he started his music career, Diegel always had support from his parents.
Diegel’s mother was a ballet dancer and knew what it took to have the motivation, determination, and discipline to be a performing artist.
“There are so many times in the beginning when you’re going to fall and fail, but then you really find out what you’re made out of in those times,” Diegel explained.
Diegel’s father was also very encouraging because he loved the art form.
One of the first auditions that Diegel went to was to sing in front of an important person in the industry at the Metropolitan Opera. At this point, he had been singing for a little over a year.
“Everyone encouraged me to sing for this person, and it was horrible. She looked at me when I was done and said, ‘Adam, you might want to consider doing something else,’” he said.
“It takes years for a voice to develop. Although I’ve been doing it for about 10 years, I’ve learned things even as early as last week,” he said.
Diegel credits the start of his opera career to a former voice teacher, Julie Freeman, whom he met in Memphis. She taught all types of genres, including Broadway, opera, pop, and contemporary.
“Julie heard the potential and encouraged me to go this route. She set the foundation for me, and has been instrumental all these years,” he said.
Other inspirations included Mark Ensley from the University of Memphis opera department.
“He was one of the professionals that I met who had a really good understanding of what the business was about and the art form,” Diegel said.
Diegel and Ensley shared many of the same mantras of the business.
“These people that come to the opera, they want to be entertained, they want to be taken to whatever place that you’re trying to convey, and they want to be transported there, forget about worries, forget about the day, and just be moved and inspired.” Diegel said Ensley shared that with him 11 years ago, and it has always stuck with him.
Charlie Reicker, who worked at the Metropolitan Opera for over 30 years, was also a big supporter of Diegel. He was one of the first people who hosted Luciano Pavarotti in his apartment the first time Pavarotti visited New York City.
Diegel’s most memorable role was his first leading role in “Carmen” as the understudy for the character of Don José at Indiana University. The role enabled him to prove himself in the opera scene.
“I really like performing this one (Tosca), it’s fun to sing the drama, the story is fun, melodramatic like every drama, and I can connect more to this one,” he said.
Diegel hopes to continue improving himself and has been working with his new teacher, Diana Soviero, in New York.
“More often than not, I am the only Asian American in the cast,” he said.
Diegel’s long-term goals would be to diversify his roles and get into heavier repertory.
He is singing a lot of Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi now, but would like to sing more of Richard Wagner’s music.
Although Diegel travels about 10 months of the year, the jet lag is tough. He always tries to meet up with folks in the industry to explore the outdoors and also play golf, his second passion in life.
Diegel’s next stop is Perth, Australia, where he will be performing in “Madame Butterfly.” (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.