This article is from National Post.
It would be hard to miss Mark Doss. Not because he’s an opera star and a Grammy Award winner who graces stages around the world. But because he’s the guy marching through the streets playing a melodica or hurtling through traffic on a scooter.
“You could hear me shouting, ‘Yes! Whoo! Go! You can do it!’ ” the 54-year-old bass-baritone yells. “People are like, ‘What’s wrong with him? Is he having a seizure?’ No, I’m making it up this hill.”
Today, he’s surfing the pavement on his Trikke, a three-wheeled vehicle he first saw on a late-night infomercial 10 years ago. “This is my joy,” he says as he weaves up and down his East York street.
In fact, a lot of things bring him joy. When he packs for trips — in the last year, he has performed in Vienna, Bologna and Madrid, to name a few — he takes a jump rope, a weighted hula hoop and his scooter.
In Milan, he would ride his scooter to rehearsals, covering 10 kilometres in as little as 35 minutes. “Hey! Veloce!” The men in the street would exclaim. “Yes, fast!”
He leans the Trikke on a car and gets on his scooter. He pushes off and his leg extends like a ballet dancer doing an arabesque. “You get your longest stride with your leg out.”
“They’re not that easy to ride, those things,” the Post’s photographer mumbles to me as Doss whizzes by us, beads of sweat on his brow.
“Whoo, miles and miles,” Doss is saying.
Indeed, the Cleveland, Ohio, native has come miles and miles. He was first exposed to opera as a boy. A man on television was singing The Toreador Song, the famous aria in George Bizet’s Carmen, and he broke a glass with a high note.
“Wow, he just broke that glass with his voice. That’s so cool!” Doss exclaims. His enthusiasm startles his elderly neighbour, who looks over from an adjacent porch.
Doss would end up playing the part of Escamillo (the Carmen character who sings The Toreador Song) about 130 times. In the last 25 years, he has done thousands of performances, playing more than 60 roles. He is currently starring as Thoas in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Iphigenia in Tauris.
But before the opera, there was the priesthood. His family lived next door to the church rectory and after high school, Doss entered the seminary program at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. He chose to leave in his second year to become a regular student, enrolling in music courses. In the summer of 1983, he did an apprenticeship with the Sante Fe Opera in New Mexico, a relationship that continues to this day. This past summer, he performed the role of the devil, Mephistopheles, in their production of Faust.
“I just did fencing for the first time in Santa Fe,” he says. “I’ve done stage combat so you know the moves but I took it from an instructor there.”
Fencing? What’s next? “I did a lot of dancing in Faust with the ballerinas. The choreographer said, ‘Yeah, maybe Dancing with the Stars is next for you.’ Hmm, maybe.”
He’s learning French, German and Italian. He’s taken kendo and hapkido. He brings a portable Ping-Pong table and a robot that shoots balls at him to play backstage during performances.
Doss retreats into the home he shares with his wife, Dawn Rivard, a wig and makeup designer, and returns with his melodica. He plays a few notes.
“People say, ‘Why opera?’ Because it has everything: It has dance, the orchestra, the drama, the singing, the scenery. Why should I want to do something that has less? That makes me aspire to do just about any and everything before I leave the planet — there’s never enough time. That’s something that keeps me alive and young.”