“‘Time After Time’ was never better, and I heard Sinatra sing it!”
With Lyrica Classic Christiaan performed at the chamber vocal music concert “20th Century Music – From Rachmaninoff to Sinatra” at at National Opera Center in New York City in April 2019.
The most frequent question Christiaan Smith gets is, “If you could pick only one genre, what would you sing?” That’s probably because he has performed and written in many – perhaps too many – styles. From Opera, Broadway, and Jazz, to Nashville Pop, he shows no signs of stopping.
Believe it or not, the former Gaston in the Broadway national tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast got kicked out of his undergraduate opera program for singing jazz with Miles Davis’ bassist. Did that stop him from singing opera? No! He went on to tour Italy, singing opera in Pavarotti’s hometown. He has an opera performance certificate beyond his master’s degree in opera singing. He’s sung nearly 40 roles, mostly on operatic stages. He’s worked with opera legend Marilyn Horne and composer Jake Heggie, performing the lead character in Heggie’s smash-hit Dead Man Walking in three different productions. Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote the book that turned into the Hollywood film, has seen most performances of the opera. She said of Christiaan’s portrayal, “I’ve seen a lot of people play [Joe DeRocher] on stage but you brought the character the most dignity.” After that inspirational moment, it was the legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne who tipped the scales for Christiaan to begin the Broadway chapter of his career when she pulled him aside and told him to pursue, “more than just opera, because you can, my dear.”
So, with Broadway aspirations, Christiaan moved to New York City in 2014, and just a year later he landed the role of Gaston in the national tour of Beauty and the Beast for its final 2015-2016 season. He received 14 glowing reviews, most of which said he “stole the show” as Gaston. He performed all 326 performances, making him the only lead character with perfect attendance. Christiaan followed Gaston with performances of Sir Galahad in Spamalot, and he received a coveted IRNE Award for Best Actor in a Musical from the Independent Reviewers of New England for his 2017 portrayal of Robert in The Bridges of Madison County.
The 2017-2018 season also saw Christiaan in Nashville and the U.K., writing and recording original songs with platinum and No. 1 writer Chris Eaton while studying pop vocal technique with Lady Gaga’s teacher, Don Lawrence. During that time, Christiaan recorded nine original songs at the famed House of Blues Studios with some of Nashville’s best musicians. One of those songs, All The Way, was featured on Playbill.com prior to Christiaan’s solo recital at Carnegie Hall where he premiered the song with cello and piano. This Carnegie Hall recital, entitled Songs We Know: when hits become art, was Christiaan’s long-planned attempt to bridge the gap between pop and opera, and break down the stereotypes that got him kicked out of opera school in the first place. The thesis was this: operatic singing is not incomprehensible and, on the flip side, pop music has depth. For the recital, Christiaan arranged and performed well-known Top 40 pop songs for voice and piano in a through-composed operatic recital format. An audience member noted in the post-show Q&A: “I think you proved your point.”
2019 saw Christiaan spearhead the recording, Spotify and iTunes release, and premiere of Come Fly With Us, a big band album recorded the old-fashioned way. It was recorded in a St. Louis warehouse, in the round, with no headphone monitors and no autotune, and the project resulted in Christiaan becoming the headline performance under the Arch at Taste of St. Louis with a 20-piece big band. Christiaan’s latest single, Undefeated, is now available on YouTube and will soon be released on Spotify and iTunes. He live streams a short concert every Sunday at 8pm from his Instagram, @christiaansmithmusic.