Music News & Reviews

Met Opera veteran gets a rare chance to sing before an audience in his hometown area

Dramatic baritone Malcolm MacKenzie has built a successful opera career from his home base in Davis.
Dramatic baritone Malcolm MacKenzie has built a successful opera career from his home base in Davis.

Malcolm MacKenzie has hit plenty of high notes – as well as melodious lows – during his almost 25 years as a professional opera singer. From his home base in Davis, the dramatic baritone travels nationwide to appear with top opera companies including New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

On Saturday, he’ll be making a rare concert appearance close to home. MacKenzie will sing with the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra in “European Masterworks.”

“It’s actually my first time with the Sacramento Choral,” he said. “They’ve asked me several times before, but … I’ve never been available; I’m usually doing an opera right now, but as things worked out, I was available (for this concert) and I’m really happy to have them call me.”

Among the works he’ll sing with SCSO are Mendelssohn’s rarely performed “Psalm 42” and Rossini’s operatic “Stabat Mater.”

MacKenzie, 49, limits his schedule to five or six productions a year to spend more time with his family – wife Heather, a former Sacramento Ballet dancer and now a physical therapist, and daughter Megan, a sophomore at Davis High School. (Daughter Madison studies at UC Irvine.)

Q: How did an opera singer make Davis home?

A. We’ve lived in Davis since 2001. My wife and I both are originally from Davis. … We were both in the same major at UCLA – kinesiology – and we recognized each other. We lived in Los Angeles for 13 years. She went to USC for her graduate degree, and I started traveling for work. (After we got married and started a family), we realized there was no reason to stay in L.A. and all our family was still here in Davis. So, we moved home.

Q: How did you go from kinesiology to opera?

A: I thought I’d be a doctor. … I had sung in college and had a wonderful teacher. I enjoyed it, but I quit singing and finished my degree. I became a police dispatcher and was working toward (paramedics certification). Police dispatcher is really a high stress job with 12-hour shifts. My wife said, “I really liked you better when you were singing.” So, I started seeing my old teacher again. I actually got hired to sing in the chorus of the L.A. Opera while still police-dispatching. With like no experience, I auditioned for the L.A. Opera to be a resident artist baritone and got the job.

Q: What is a dramatic baritone?

A: It’s in between bass-baritone and baritone, so I tend to do a lot of heavies. … Tenors get the love interest. The baritone is usually the friend of the tenor or his nemesis. That’s the baritone’s lot in life. You almost never get the girl.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

European Masterworks

What: Season finale of the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra, featuring baritone Malcolm MacKenzie

Where: Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6

Cost: $53-$23