Matthew Newlin’s family, lifelong residents of tiny, conservative Georgetown, Ill., were very supportive when he came out — as an opera singer.
Just a few years later, the singer has left his small town roots behind, completed undergraduate and graduate studies with some of the nation’s leading opera coaches and won major international competitions. His travels have taken him around the world and, for now, he’s performing in Miami as a fellow in the Florida Grand Opera’s (FGO) young artist program.
Newlin, 26, reflected on the whirlwind start to his opera career, “When I found opera and this life, I immediately knew it was where I belonged. I felt the need to get away and see the world and follow (my) heart.”
The lifestyle can be challenging, he admits. For the last four years, he called Chicago home in between gigs. For now, Miami serves as home base, but next season he will be living in Berlin and performing in Europe. And for Newlin, who is also gay, the travel certainly doesn’t help with relationships.
“My goal is to be a traveling singer, to see the world and as much as I can before my career is over,” he said. “There are plenty of singers who have families and children and can manage when they’re only home a month or two a year. You just have to find somebody who is willing to go through that with you.”
This weekend, South Florida audiences will be formally introduced to Newlin, who has played minor roles and primarily understudied the leads in this season’s FGO productions. He will play the lead in Tango, one of two operettas being performed in Miami’s Design District as part of FGO’s Unexpected Opera in Unexpected Places initiative.
Newlin will trace the origins and history of the Argentine dance in a contemporary musical monologue composed by Robert Xavier Rodriguez.
“It’s sultry, dirty, and sensual,” describes Newlin. “There is a small orchestra in the perfect environment for this music and type of show,” he said of The Space.
The singer has had the opportunity to collaborate with the composer on the performance, a rare opportunity for a singer.
Rodriguez is alive and working and he’ll be at the performance,” said Newlin. “He’s been an important part of the production.”
Does that make the young singer nervous?
“Yes. But at some point even the composer has to finish the work and hand it off to the performer if it’s going to have a life of its own,” he said resolutely.
Rounding out the performance is Maria de Buenos Aires, an operetta by famed tango composer Astor Piazzolla, featuring Newlin’s colleagues Luis Alejandro Orozco and Catalina Cuervo.
Tango and Maria de Buenos Aires will be presented March 21-24 at 9 p.m. at The Stage, 170 NE 38th St. in Miami. General admission tickets are $25 at FGO.org.