Growing up in East Meadow, then Centereach, Christian Van Horn knew he could sing. Loudly. He’d sung in his church choir, and school musicals, where he quickly fell in love with the backstage camaraderie — and the numbers.
“It was 80 girls and four guys — just liked the odds,” he says, laughing.
On a whim, he took a few voice lessons while attending Stony Brook University. The teacher was so impressed with his raw ability that she suggested he could make a career as a professional opera singer. He’d never been to the opera. He never even listened to classical music.
Some 20 years later, Van Horn, 41, is a veteran bass-baritone and international opera star, who's appearing through April 3 in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “La Cenerentola,” Gioachino Rossini’s raucous, comic take “Cinderella.” Tara Erraught is the downtrodden heroine, Javier Camarena plays her dashing prince, and Van Horn is Alidoro, replacing the traditional fairy godmother with a clever godfather of sorts.
“It’s a ton of fun, and a great way to introduce kids to opera,” says Van Horn, of the family-friendly show. “There’s a 15-foot cake onstage — everything is oversized and larger-than-life. And then there are moments of sheer beauty, with incredible singing.”
Now living outside Richmond, Virginia, with his wife and 5-year-old son, Van Horn admits his pursuit of music was relentless He studied with Richard Cross, an esteemed voice teacher at Stony Brook, Yale School of Music and the Juilliard School. “I drove him everywhere and spent as much time with him as I could,” he recalls.
Cross introduced him to recordings of renowned basses like Italian star Cesare Siepi (“I was blown away”), Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov (“obsessed”) and American Sam Ramey (“the most recorded bass in the history of classical music”).
Van Horn always enjoyed music (especially Bob Dylan and Joan Baez growing up) but classical music offered something different, like the “Beethoven 9” symphony, which can bring him to tears. “I hadn’t felt that kind of emotion in any other music,” he says.
His parents were supportive, though Dad (a Grumman contractor and practical sort) suggested his son might want to consider getting a teaching degree as backup.
“But I didn’t,” says Van Horn. “I never looked back, never had a Plan B. I thought if I gave that an option then it would be an option, and I didn’t want it to be. I think I was so focused I willed this to happen.”
WHAT Rossini’s “La Cenerentola,” sung in Italian with English translation
WHEN | WHERE March 12-April 3, Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, W. 64th street at Columbus Avenue
INFO $30 and up; metopera.org