Zachary, thank you for accepting our invitation to do this exclusive interview for Pink in Our Lives. Maybe a little introduction for our readers is in order:
You are a world famous young baritone (age is unimportant when looking like you!), who is based in Oakland, California, USA. Known for your glorious talent, the voice off course (singing all over the world in operas by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti, Purcell, etc.), but also known for the classical lieder and orchestral works you perform. Many people also know you from being a popular singer on the website “Barihunks” (dedicated to “hunky” lower-voiced opera singers), where we often see you on stage and off, baring a lot of skin and enormous chest. Your fabulous looks also got you invited to pose 3 times for the Barihunks Charity Calendar, including this year’s edition!
We recently posted two pictures from the Barihunks site here on Pink in Our Lives, because we would love to let people know that you are not only a fabulous singer, but also a HUNK!
To grab the hunk by the horns, as they say…… you are also gay.
How is life for you as a musician and being gay? Does it give you limitations, or does it help with getting new roles? It seems that now a days that directors are screening musicians before auditions, on their studies, opera houses where they have worked, religion, but also on sexual orientation.
“I haven’t always been “out”, so I’ve seen both sides. I think in a many ways, being a gay artist gives me a lot of freedom. I’m able to demonstrate a level of vulnerability in the roles I play (when it’s appropriate) that some of my colleagues can’t or won’t. It’s also interesting that when I’m playing hetero-romantic roles, that being gay allows for a little more romantic/sexual realism with my female colleagues. They know I won’t be knocking on their hotel room door when rehearsal is over, so we are able to take more risks in rehearsal and performance. I’m sure I’ve been passed over for roles because of my identity, but I’ve also been too short, too loud, too bald, too strong… I just keep moving forward, studying and working on my technique, and stay true to what I have to offer the art”.
Did “coming out” keep doors closed in music world, and is there a taboo on it? Or is it a non-issue?
“I think the opera world is very accepting of gay artists, musicians, and even administrators. The symphonic and choral crowd is a little more straight, but I haven’t felt any doors closed based on my orientation. It’s actually almost never discussed. I’m out and proud of who I am, I want equality for all, and I want to do great work in my career”.
You started your career as a countertenor (AKA male alto). Why did you change voice type?
Did it come naturally or was it a search for the instrument? Did you get nasty comments on the countertenor AND being gay in those days?
“Sure, as a countertenor I encountered lots of people who were not understanding or supportive of the voice type – even my own family. I think it made more sense to people that I was a countertenor when I finally did come “out”, but it always felt like I was a novelty voice type. Part of why I retrained and moved into baritone repertoire was that I felt limited vocally, and couldn’t express all I wanted to say musically with the countertenor voice. I also didn’t feel like I had anything left to prove as a countertenor: I had done some great work, won some competitions, had lots of music written for me, etc. I could retire from that voice type happily”.
How was your coming out and can you tell us a little bit how this went for you and your family and friends? (What age, who was the first person you told this, parents, friends etc.)
“Coming out was rather complicated for me. I was a 22 year-old Mormon boy, married for 2 years, and living a hetero-normative life. I lost practically everyone around me when I came out, and had to rebuild my community of family/friends from scratch. My ex-wife and I worked very hard to heal our relationship and have been very close friends for many years. My family didn’t really have the option to disapprove – I was already fully independent, and our relationship was never that great. I guess in that way I was lucky. I know how hard that process can be for some people, much more isolating and scary. I was lucky to live in the San Francisco area, and make new friends and community fairly easily”.
“I was certainly thinner in my early 20s, at the beginning of my opera career – that was already a transition from my childhood/teen years of being very overweight… I think after I came out, I started allowing myself to observe men, and the image of man, in a different way. I never really had a father figure or role model I could identify with when I was growing up, so I had to figure out what to grow into on my own. I lost about 100 pounds (45 kilos) around age 18-20, so I knew I could change my body with work and dedication. Fitness and bodybuilding has been a great hobby for me since then. It helps keep me balanced, and gives me an outlet away from opera scores, the archaeological work of being a singer, etc… “Opera people” and “gym people” are very different – it’s been great for me to live in both worlds”.
I’m sure you have a pretty large group of gay followers in the opera world. How do you feel about that? Do you get naughty offers from your fans, and what was the most outrageous one?
“I am thrilled that anyone is paying attention to classical artists! I think it’s great that opera singers and other classical musicians are getting attention in a time where some people say the art is dying. WE ARE STILL HERE!! I’ve had several naughty offers and odd encounters with fans, which I end up laughing off. The most outrageous was a guy asking if I would physically harm him pretty severely, and saying he would pay me to do it. I suggested he get professional mental help immediately..…”
Would you consider accepting a role in the opera “Brokeback Mountain” by Charles Wuorinen,
if that would mean you are naked on stage, and acting in a staged FAKE sex scene?
“I would consider the offer, yes. I’d have to be sure the conditions were right, and would have to talk it through with my partner. I think if it adds to the context of the story, nudity or implying sex isn’t a bad thing. I have seen plenty of nudity on stage and screen that hasn’t worked, or made sense, or added value to the story. I would NOT want to do that”.
If you ever got an offer for a nude cover shoot in respectable gay magazine, for a large payment, would you do it? And if yes, who would be you photographer? “If I had control over what got published, and could keep it tasteful or fun, I’d consider it. As for photographer, I admire Michael Stokes, Mike Ruiz, Rick Day, Bradford Rogne, and several others. The choice of photographer would have to be based on the feel of the project”.
Do you consider yourself as a role model for the younger gays, being famous and Out? Or do you consider yourself more role model as a musician/singer, because you are also a gifted vocal coach?
“I try to put forth a good example in my work, in my business dealings, and in my life. I try to keep in mind that I should BE the kind of man, artist, teacher, mentor, partner, and friend that I would want to have or be. If that can spill over into influencing people that might only know me through interviews like this, my blog, Facebook followers, etc., then that’s an honor”.
From what I know…you’ve been in a long-term relationship with your boyfriend, Adam. (He is so cute!) How did you meet, tell us as much as you want to share…details….Love at first sight. Is he also a musician? What does he think of you being a Barihunk?
“Adam and I got set up on a “blind date” by one of my best friends. She met him at a party, and after a lot of talking and laughs, Barbara decided that Adam and I would be a great match. She was right! Adam has his own career as a nurse, but stays involved with music as a member of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and numerous karaoke trips (yes, I go too…). I think he has fun with my Barihunk-ness, and we joke about it a lot to keep it in perspective. He loves coming to as many performances as he can, and is so supportive of my work. It’s not easy to be in a relationship – gay or straight – where there’s media attention. I’m lucky to have found someone who has lots of experience as a model and actor (yes, he’s gorgeous…), who understands what the job takes, all while being a kind and caring and communicative guy”.
Zachary Gordin performing L’heure exquise from Reynaldo Hahn:
Last but not least, I’m going to fire some quick questions and words at you. Just tell us what comes up first in your head.
Barihunk? “We don’t all have small voices… “
Safe sex or bareback? “Better safe than sorry”.
Gay bashing, did you ever experience this? “Teasing and bullying as a child, yes. Bashing, no”.
Favorite opera part for the future? “Iago in Otello”.
Page/blog Pink in Our Lives? “Fun and relevant cultural info. So happy to be featured”!
Covent Garden or the Metropolitan Opera House? “One of each”!
Cut or uncut? “Are we talking about operas? ;o)”
Andrew Christian or ES collection? “Andrew Christian Trophy Boy”!
Favorite composer? “I love anyone that knows how to tell a story with sounds and words. Mahler and Verdi are my current obsessions”.
What music did you listen when you woke up this morning? “Silence! There’s usually enough music playing in my head”.
Top or Bottom? “You mean Midsummer Night’s Dream? I’ve only played Oberon, King of the Faeries…” 😉
Europe or USA? “Both feel like home”.
What I will never do again is….? “Put my life/work on hold to make someone else’s dreams come true”.
Modeling nude or Modeling Fashion? (depends if you can keep the clothes…!) “Fashion! Naked is easy…”
Clubbing or Classic? “Clubbing”!
Favorite cock-tail? “Manhattan or neat scotch”.
Favorite soprano colleague? “Shana Blake Hill. She’s the full package diva, and a truly noble woman”.
Ambitions? “To live an honorable life while making the world a better place with my art, and not create much wreckage in the process”.
Thank you so much for commenting Zachary. We Wish you a tremendous wonderful and glorious career, keep sharing and posting the pictures on Facebook and Barihunks of course. Hopefully we will meet each other again soon. “My pleasure! Anytime”!!!
Great interview, thanks to Christiaan, to end the year 2014 and showing that our LGBT community is represented in every layer of the population and in every profession. Showing that being gay doesn’t only mean being a sissy and throwing overboard all the stereotypes. Follow this barihunk on Facebook or his personal page: www.zacharygordin.com
Lesley Middleton and Christiaan D’Hooghe