GRAVELLY VOICED DON YULE always wanted to sing, but didn’t think it was an option for his professional future. Instead, he decided to major in mechanical engineering. Thank goodness, for the sake of New York’s opera scene, that he soon decided to toss practicality aside and finish his undergrad years with a major in music. The music program wasn’t strong at Oklahoma State, but Yule was dually avoiding the draft and following his heart. As he says, “Everything fell away except music.” After Indiana University graduate school and a stint with the St. Louis Municipal Opera, Yule says he knew he should be in New York. Apparently so, because he found instantaneous success here. On his second day in the city, Yule auditioned with the New York City Opera and landed the roll of Gluttony in Weisgall’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” (with Brooklynite Beverly Sills). He has been with NYCO every season since 1960.
“But I remind my students, that was an unusual story,” Yule says. “A one in a million chance.”
The students he refers to are the foreign exchange students he hosts at his Prospect Heights home — “like a bed and breakfast with lessons” — during the opera off-season. He teaches them English and what he calls the “New York survival program.”
His favorite role, Blitch in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, is one he hasn’t actually played yet. As he explains, “you have to leave something to the future,” a sizeable challenge for a man who estimates he has played more than 400 roles since his 1953 operatic debut. Yule is also the bass soloist in the choir at the Height’s Grace Church.
Yule can next be seen in the commanding role of King of Egypt in NYGO’s August 13 presentation of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. The free 7:30 p.m. show will be held at the 72nd Street pavilion in Central Park.
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IN DEMAND, UK-BASED, BROOKLYN-BORN COMPOSER CARL DAVIS will return home to participate in the Celebrate Brooklyn! festivities. On August 1, as some of Charlie Chaplin’s best short works are screened in Prospect Park, Davis will conduct 16-piece NY chamber orchestra The Knights, as they perform the scores he wrote for those silent films — The Rink (1916), The Immigrant (1916) and The Adventurer (1917). The evening will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Davis has created music for all of Chaplin’s 12 Mutuals films, the two-reel shorts that Chaplin himself wrote, directed, produced and starred in soon after signing a contract with the Mutuals Film Corporation in 1916. (This contract made Chaplin the world’s highest paid entertainer: 12 months, 12 films, $670,000.)
According to his web site, Davis regularly conducts The London Philharmonic, The Royal Philharmonic, The Philharmonia, The Halle, the Northern Sinfonia, The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Whew.
Also, world-renowned director and choreographer MARK MORRIS, based in Fort Greene, will perform as part of Celebrate Brooklyn! on July 31, beginning at 8 p.m.
Both performances are free to the public (with a suggested donation of $3) rain or shine. Visit www.briconline.org/cb for more information.
TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES has extended the deadline for entries to its “Designing the 21st Century Street” contest for the intersection of 9th Street and 4th Avenue in Park Slope. July 31 is the registration deadline and September 2 is the new submission deadline. Numerous issues indicate that this sloping, heavily used, view-obscured asphalt rink could be drastically improved. Details for the project, coordinated by TA’s Public Space Advocate Will Sherman, are available at 21stcenturystreet.org.
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IN OTHER NEWS:
BAY RIDGE RESIDENT DOMINIC BRANDO was rescued from his blazing studio apartment by Ladder 109 early Friday, reported the Daily News. VINCENT TROTTER, the Staten Island fireman who actually pulled the semiconscious man from the smoke, has been hailed a hero but says he was just doing his job.
Brando, who is in his 40s, was rushed to Staten Island University Hospital where he was in a serious condition with second- and third-degree burns to his body.
BAY RIDGE NATIVE VICTORIA HOFMO, a historic-preservation advocate and member of the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, was featured in a New York Times article about Brooklyn’s small but rich Scandinavian history.
“Scandinavians are like a forgotten group, but they were the backbone of the colony of New Amsterdam,” she told the Times. “They first came here along with the Dutch in the 1600s. The majority came as sailors, then often became carpenters and went into the building trades. It doesn’t matter if there are, like, three Norwegians left, because what they contributed still exists.”