Mark Doss, Opera Singer, Bass Baritone Born: Cleveland, Ohio
Mark S. Doss was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio to American parents; a mother from Madisonville, Kentucky who did secretarial work and a father who was also from Cleveland who worked for US Steel and the US Postal Service. Mark credits his parents’ “rigorous work ethic” as having had a great influence on him and as giving him the example he needed to reach the level of success he has today.
When Mark was a young boy, he saw a movie in which the baritone singing the “Toreador Song” from the opera Carmen breaks a glass with his final high note. This inspired him to want to also achieve such spectacular feats with his burgeoning voice.
At East Technical High School in Cleveland, Mark participated in drama and chorus and performed in the school production of Godspell. He was also involved in varsity sports and was part of the varsity basketball team. In his senior year, the team was ranked one of the top 20 in the country. Despite the team’s great ranking, however, Mark experienced a lot of negative peer pressure to follow “the crowd.” Mark moved up positions to starting forward due to players getting caught making bad decisions with respect to drugs. As starting forward, Mark scored 18 points in one game, a personal best and recalls this experience as a formative, teaching at an early age him how to maintain his integrity and personal code of ethics and is proud of the choices he made during that time.
The summer after high school, Mark completed a summer work-study program that trained youth in the performing arts. Despite being convinced that he had a vocation to be a Catholic priest, Mark took courses in music and continued performing in musical theatre and recitals while enrolled in Saint Joseph College’s seminary in Indiana. Mark holds that opera was a path that chose him, and not the other way around, as he eventually left the seminary after two years and become a secular student graduating with a BA in music and sociology in 1980.
Mark went on to complete a Masters in music at Indiana University in 1983, studying voice with Walter Cassel and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni. His first performance of opera was during the school’s production of Borodin’s Prince Igor playing Khan Konchak and ended up performing six roles at Indiana, including Mephistopheles in Faust.
After graduation, Mark completed an apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera and eventually become an ensemble member of Chicago’s Lyric Opera Center for American Artists where he stayed for two years. He began his professional career as an opera singer at the age of 28 in 1986 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. There, he became a Metropolitan Opera Finalist Winner and quickly moved to the international level, winning First Prize in the International Verdi Competition in Busseto, Italy and the National Institute for Music Theatre’s George London Opera Prize in 1987. He also made his debut at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto as Sparafucile in Rigoletto, later followed by the role of Der Sprecher in The Magic Flute, Sparafucile again in the 1992 production of Rigoletto, and as Ferrando in Il Trovatore.
In 1993, Mark moved to Toronto for love having met his partner, Dawn Rivard. He also won the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording category that year for his performance on the Deutsche Grammophon recording of Handel’s Semele conducted by John Nelson.
From 1995-1997, he was an Associate Professor of Voice at Michigan State University. However, due to conflicts with his performance schedule, Mark left the position but still continues to give master vocal classes and mentor apprenticing artists at opera companies today.
Mark is renowned for his ability to sing in 10 languages and has sung over 55 roles for over 60 opera companies around the globe, and is today one of the leading opera singers in the world.
Grateful for his resounding success and remembering what it was like growing up as a poor inner-city youth needing help from his local community, particularly from the church, Mark makes a conscious effort to use his vocal skills for the benefit of the communities that gave so much to him. Thus he makes time to give fundraising concerts for churches in cities such as Traverse City, Michigan, Chicago, and Cleveland and welcomes new opportunities to give back to worthy causes.
In September 2011, Mark received the Entertainment Award from Planet Africa, which recognized his achievements as an international artist and a positive role model for Canadian and American youth.
When he is not performing, Mark divides his time between Toronto and Erie, Pennsylvania. He enjoys riding his Trikke and Razor and playing tennis and chess. He recently married his long-time Canadian partner, Dawn, and has two sons from a previous marriage.
Education: Saint Joseph’s College, Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music and Sociology (1976-1980); Indiana University’s School of Music, Master of Music Degree (1980-1983)
Opera Companies: Lyric Opera of Chicago; Canadian Opera Company; San Franciso Opera; Brussels’ Théâtre de le Monnaie; Deutsche Opera Berlin; Royal Opera House; London’s Covent Garden; Teatro La Fenice; Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Oper Frankfurt; New York City Opera; Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin; and Teatro alla Scala.
Roles: Mefistofele in Boito’s Mefistofele; Escamillo in Carmen; Mephistopheles in Faust; Zaccaria in Nabucco; Leporello in Don Giovanni; Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor; the High Priest in Samson et Dalila, Jaroslav Prus in The Makropulos Case; Jochanaan in Salome; Amonasro in Aida; Mustafa in L’Italiana in Algeri; Thoas in Iphigénie en Tauride; Alidoro in La Cenerentola (Cinderella); Argante in Rinaldo; and Scarpia in Tosca.
Awards: First Prize in the International Verdi Competition in Busseto, Italy (1986); Metropolitan Opera Finalist Winner (1986); The National Institute for Music Theatre’s George London Opera Prize (1987); Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording (1993); Planet Africa Entertainment Award (2011)
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK AND WHY?
- The Bible, because of its wealth of stories and ideas on how to lead a fulfilling life.
- “The Road Less Traveled” by Scott Peck, because of the author’s detailed ideas on Spiritual Growth and practical ways to achieve it.
- “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey because of his basic and down to earth concepts on using “principles” to guide one’s life and to effectively bring about change in the world and in oneself.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
Marcus Aurelius: “If any man can convince me and bring home to me that I do not think or act aright, gladly will I change; for I search after truth, by which man never yet was harmed.” OR: Albert Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. The more I realize I don’t know, the more I want to learn.” OR: Ellis St. Joseph – from the Outer Limits’ Episode called “The Sixth Finger”: “An experiment too soon, too swift, and yet may we not still hope to discover a method by which, in one generation, the whole human race could be rendered intelligent, beyond hatred, or revenge, or the desire for power? Is that not after all the ultimate goal of evolution?”
GIVEN THE CHANCE, WHAT WOULD YOU LOVE TO DO THAT YOU HAVE NOT DONE YET?
Sing a great role on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Cesare Siepi, Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni and Albert Einstein.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
I do what I do because I have always wanted to do “everything” and opera is the culmination of “all the arts”, so that’s why I love and enjoy doing it.