David Ronis, assistant professor, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera
Hometown: Syosset, N.Y.
Educational background: B.F.A. in voice, SUNY Purchase; M.A.L.S. (Liberal Studies), SUNY Empire State College
Previous positions: Freelance performer in opera, concert, theater and TV commercials for 25 years; adjunct assistant professor/director of opera studio, Queens College, City University of New York; adjunct assistant professor, Hofstra University
Favorite subject in school and why?
Naturally, music and theater are my passions, but I’m crazy about foreign languages. I’m pretty conversant in Italian, French, Spanish and German and I’ve sung in Russian, Czech and Hebrew quite a bit. I’ve always been intrigued by the distinctive inflections, cadences and vowel colors associated with each language and I’m definitely a bit of a grammar nerd.
What attracted you to UW-Madison?
UW-Madison is an incredibly vibrant institution that continually makes significant contributions in so many scholarly fields. That, in itself, is very exciting. But even better, there’s such a strong sense in Madison that the community deeply values, supports and interacts with the campus and vice versa. This is an ideal environment in which the Wisconsin Idea can truly flourish and I love being a part of that.
Favorite place on campus?
I have a few, including the lake path in Muir Woods, the top of Bascom Hill and also the Allen Centennial Gardens.
What was your first visit to campus like?
It was a whirlwind. I came for a one-day interview, met with faculty and students in the School of Music, and immediately felt incredibly welcome. People were genuinely warm, engaged and interested in getting to know me. What a lovely introduction!
How did you get into your field of research?
My path, first as a performer and later as an educator, evolved quite organically. I didn’t go to grad school until I was well into my 40s. By then, I had lived and performed enough to have a number of academic questions about the art I practiced that I was eager to address. I’ve always been interested in what distinguishes good acting in opera, and my graduate work, an interdisciplinary, design-your-own-course-of-study degree, got me started investigating just that. Now, it’s always a joy to be able to put my research to practical use in the rehearsal room and on stage.
What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?
Most people are aware of the trend in opera today towards better acting standards — that it eschews the old style, in which singers essentially stood, sang and made rather meaningless arm gestures. But it’s also interesting to note that practice is commonly known in operatic circles as “park and bark!”
Last good book or movie?
I’m enjoying the second of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, The Story of a New Name. And I loved the film Florence Foster Jenkins.
Food and wine, hiking and reading novels.
Story courtesy of University Communications.