Joseph Beutel grew up in Fort Wayne, but he has been a world traveler since going to college. And now another trip abroad is taking place as he goes to Vienna, Austria, to perform a leading role in the opera “Der Kaiser von Atlantis.”
Vienna has been important in the world of opera: The history of its State Opera House goes back to the mid-19th century. Opera is so important in Austria that the opera house maintains a school for youngsters ages 8 to 14.
Beutel is excited to perform there Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
Beutel grew up attending Fort Wayne Community Schools' magnet program at Weisser Park Elementary and Memorial Park Middle Schools. His first role was when he was a fifth-grader and performed in a musical titled “Johnny Appleseed.” He portrayed Johnny, and he had his first taste of the magic of performing.
He remembers thinking, “This is really fun,” he said during a telephone interview. He loved theater and now wishes he had done more, although at Memorial Park he appeared in three musicals: “Anything Goes,” “The Music Man” and “Damn Yankees.”
He also was an instrumentalist, playing in the school's jazz band.
Beutel grew up in a music-loving family. His maternal grandfather played trumpet in the U.S. Navy band. His maternal grandmother is an accomplished pianist who has spent years accompanying school groups.
His mother is a cellist, performing for weddings and other occasions as well as being in a group that meets regularly for the sheer joy of playing music. His father has a beautiful singing voice. And Beutel found music is a good place to live his life.
While attending South Side High School, Beutel accompanied class members on a trip to New York City. On one free evening, he went to the Metropolitan Opera House and treated himself to a $10, standing-room-only ticket to see Puccini's “La Boheme,” his first opera.
“Wow! That was really moving,” he recalled thinking.
Also while in high school, he was selected to go to the Grammy Awards in California for a program that accepted 12 students from around the country. In college, he was picked to sing with the World Youth Choir and traveled to China, Japan, Korea, Italy, Germany and Belgium.
When he began college at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., he started performing opera.
One professor told him, “'You're going to be a bass, and you're going to be very good.'”
“He taught me the basics,” Joe said.
In an opera workshop, its director told him, “You're really good.” So he had encouragement.
However, he left school for a little while to let his voice mature. That didn't work because, as he explained, “My heart died without music.”
He went to New York City to audition for big music schools but eventually opted for Indiana University's excellent School of Music. There he focused on his voice and had two big roles, one in “The Magic Flute” and the other as Mustapha in “The Italian Girl in Algiers.” Those were two contrasting roles that he felt kept his voice healthy.
After earning his master's degree in music, he left for New York and he is “making it.”
Robert Nance, founder and director of the Heartland Chamber Chorale, was certain Beutel would succeed.
“He is a gifted singer,” Nance said. “We are proud of Joe. He is an artist's artist, genuine, an endearing artist who remembers how he was nurtured.”
Beutel has sung a variety of roles, many with the Santa Fe Opera and the Minnesota Opera. Some of his roles include Colline in “La Boheme,” The Bonze in “Madama Butterfly,” Sarastro in “The Magic Flute,” two roles in “Les Vespres Siciliennes” and Adonis in “Venus and Adonis,” among others.
He played the British Major in the world premier of “Silent Night” at the Minnesota Opera.
He has participated in several young artist programs and workshops and has won some prestigious honors and awards, including being a District Winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Earlier this month, he sang Handel's “Messiah” with the Santa Fe Symphony. He then traveled to Vienna to perform in Opera Moderne's presentation of “Der Kaiser von Atlantis,” by Viktor Ullmann.
Opera Moderne, Beutel said, is a New York City opera company with a goal of showing different kinds of opera to different kinds of audiences.
“Der Kaiser von Atlantis” will be performed at a former World War II Nazi base currently known as Maria Theresien Kaserne and now used by the Austrian army.
Beutel will be playing Tod (Death), a difficult role, but one he is eager to perform.
He also is eager to perform all over the world.
“That is my ultimate dream,” he said. “Music covers all humanity. It reminds us that we have emotions, that we love.”
And he is now living his dream, sharing his gift worldwide.