We are thrilled to be connecting with Raguel Gabriel again. Raguel is a Singer, Actor, Producer and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this.
Raguel Gabriel is a Trinidadian classically trained singer and actor currently living and working in the United States, with his base as New York City. He describes himself more specifically as a ‘singing actor’ with an intense passion for both music and drama. Raguel has carved quite a unique path where he continues to use his talent as performer on the classical music stage, opera, musical theatre, popular music, contemporary and classical acting, on-camera acting and even has experience as a model. He has recently added the title of producer to his resume and plans to continue to fashion a distinct path in the areas of his passion.
Check out our conversation with Raguel below.
Last time we chatted you were working on some very detailed goals. How has the journey been since then, especially with the unexpected global pandemic?
I think ‘unexpected’ turned out to be the theme of life in 2020. To answer you about the goals though, I am happy to say the biggest one was accomplished. Last time you interviewed me I was working feverishly to continue my journey in America, live and work here as an artist and I am happy to say I was successful with that. It was a long, intense process but the fact that I am still here, granted the ability to do what I set out to, based solely on the work in my performing arts resume and talent-is something I am very proud of. I don’t usually use the word ‘proud’ when it comes to me but I know how hard I had to work to see this goal through and I give thanks every day. There’s nothing like working on something and seeing it come into fruition and I did not give myself any other option but to succeed. With the pandemic though, a lot of things suddenly shifted and some of my goals were pushed back and a lot of challenges came my way. Like most of us I had to go back to the drawing board so to speak, start over, switch up or suddenly, stop. It was very hard at first and with the state of the world and everything going on I had to work for months to get myself out of the darkness. Looking back now it was clear though that even in all that, there was a reason for it. It was a year of new lessons. I paused, reflected, reset and most importantly…listened.
We’ve heard you just wrapped up a classical vocal recital in New York City-congratulations! What more can you tell us about the performance?
Yes! Thank you! Speaking of ‘listening’. I was always listening for guidance from God, the Universe, my heart, on doing my first fully classical recital. I had never felt ready nor had a primary desire to do it before the day I graduated from drama school in 2018. I was always more comfortable doing the full productions you know with the costumes, other actors on stage, sets, the whole works, moving on stage. I truly believe it was the incredible dramatic training that gave me that something extra I needed inside to finally be ready to stand on one spot with just a piano-and sing. However, I needed the right music, in the right time. The time came this year on June 12th. Together with an amazing pianist named Jeffrey Middleton, we performed Schubert’s beautiful song set named Schwanengesang. I could not have an audience at the time so I decided to have it livestreamed from the stage of the beautiful Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in NYC. With this performance I launched my very own RTG productions and dedicated the set to the people in my home country. I really wanted this music to be experienced especially by people who never even heard of Schubert or had given classical music a thought. To offer what little beauty, light and escape I could have, amidst the constant news of the virus and politics.
We’d love to know why you chose to sing this particular music of Schubert and the process behind that
I’ll never forget how this music found me. NYC was steadily becoming the covid 19 epicenter and one day while coaching with Jeffrey at his studio, he suggested we stop meeting for a while. Just until we learned what the virus really was and we’d keep working while apart. At the last session before our hiatus, I asked him to suggest some new repertoire for me so I could fill my time up at home with as much music as possible. He walked over to his huge music collection, chose one book, sat at the piano and started to play and hum a piece. Then another. I had goosebumps after the two pieces which (I now know) were Aufenthalt and Der Doppelganger from Schwanengesang. Anytime I respond to music like that on a first listen I know there’s something in it for me. I rushed home and read about these two songs and realised they were only two from a full set. That night I went to my basement, took all the lights off, put headphones in and listened to the entire song set by a wonderful tenor. I kid you not-by the end of it I was in tears and completely moved. I knew at that moment I had to perform this music. I had found the music for my first recital. I ran upstairs, printed the sheet music and it never left my side right up to the day of performance. The studying and living with this music was a much needed refuge and escape.
How did you come to collaborate with pianist Jeffrey Middleton?
Jeffrey is an extremely talented, knowledgeable and experienced musician based in NYC. Not to mention, an amazing human being. We go way back as he was actually in the orchestra for the very first opera I sang in more than a decade ago! We did not really meet at that point but years later he was my musical director when I sang the role of Hoffmann in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann and so we got to know each other more. When I moved to NYC he became my vocal coach and mentor and beyond that, a friend and someone I trust. We even share the same birthday! It’s nice to work with someone who really gets you, understands your soul and what lights the fire in you as a singer. So when it came time for Schwanengesang the bond and connection was so strong that the music just soared. Of course not without the intense work required. It was not an easy set to sing but I love challenges! Schubert did not use a lot of extremely high notes with this but his demands came in other ways. Sometimes it was the way he took you to the high note. An exclaim out of nowhere! Or the quietest piano on an extremely low note. There was definitely an emotional price to pay. Like when you play a great tragic Shakespearean character. You love playing it so much, living it, but it’s going to cost you. So Jeff and I had run throughs with small audiences where I learned how to balance it out. Walk the line. Schubert was such an economical composer, every single thing written had a purpose. So I had to work really hard, but I enjoy the work. Jeffrey is very strict and thorough and kept me in line musically. I love that. We worked countless hours, note by note, word by word. With Schubert demanding such strong sensitivity in his music I felt truly blessed to work with someone that knew me from ‘vocal Adam’ if you will. I’m continually working with Jeff and we’re currently exploring some new music I hope to sing in the near future!
As both classically trained singer and actor-how did the actor in you contribute to this musical vocal project?
I can honestly say I could not have sang Schwanengesang without the actor in me. My goal anytime I step on stage is to be as truthful as possible. My greatest idols are those singers who go beyond just standing there and sounding great, but care to really go to dramatic depths. Singers that don’t just-sing. I always felt, even as a little boy, that although you are singing, there is a character inside of that song. He or she is speaking from a very specific place. A singer’s job is to become that person, feel their emotion and hand that over and welcome the listener into that. That’s acting if you ask me. Going back to what I said earlier about getting that extra something after graduating from drama school. The Schwanengesang text is that of German poems-and quite often emotional and extremely descriptive texts. As an actor, I love working with texts and my training taught me how to really go beneath the words. I treated the songs as if they were fourteen scenes in a play. I wanted to become the young man I felt was the character in the song set. There was a clear journey and it was my job to walk it. It was not too hard because most of his journey had become mine as well. In the latter part of 2020 I found myself in a very distant small town in Oklahoma of all places, as I needed to get away from NYC for a while. It was also part of survival. While there, the music and text just sank into me even further as I was surrounded in real life by the imagery the poets described: the whistling wind, running brook, rustling trees, engulfing fog, wide open spaces, shining stars. Going through the character’s same feelings of longing, feeling distant, travelling, missing love. It was wonderful to have the time to prepare my body as a vessel for the work I was about to share on stage. So that night I stepped on stage, I felt like I was flying in true ‘singing actor’ mode!
What are your future plans and goals for RTG Productions?
RTG Productions at this point, will be used to execute whatever needs to be expressed artistically as a result of what’s going on in my life at that present moment. Such as was with Schwanengesang. I already have an idea of what I would like the second project to be but we’d have to see if life wants it to sway that way. I’ll feel it instinctively. No matter what, my intention is to grow with each experience. Producing the recital taught me a lot and so now I can build on that and go a step further in all aspects. Some new music just came my way and had a great effect on me! At present I am enjoying working with an amazing voice teacher named Dagmar Apel whose teaching has already affected me positively and will definitely help with the next, even more vocally challenging project. I know for sure my heart and body is not done with Schubert’s music. That’s all I’ll say for now. With my love for all genres of music and of course acting, I’ll let my heart guide as to whether there’s a need for a recital, concert, play or collaboration. I’m extremely excited to see where the road leads in terms of my personal projects!
Alright, so before we go, how can our readers connect with you to learn more and show support?
For more information on me and my work please visit raguelgabriel.com
In-studio images (1-5) Andres Hernandez Photography On stage images (6-8) RTG Productions