Donald Braswell brings opera to the cave

Dec 25, 2019–Three Tenors to perform in Boerne’s Cave Without A Name Dec 28

Gli Unici will perform a program of show tunes, opera, ballads, and jazz for their first appearance in Cave Without A Name on Dec 28.

In 2008, Hill Country native Donald Braswell II stepped into the national spotlight after placing in the Top 5 on America’s Got Talent. Echoes of that journey still resonate for the singer, who will perform with his group of three tenors “Gli Unici” this Saturday in Boerne’s Cave Without A Name.

“There definitely is a lingering effect,” Braswell said of his appearance on the national program. “A pretty large fan base developed from all of that. When I initiated a touring campaign after the show, they formed fan groups that actually, physically follow you everywhere!”

Braswell’s backstory also drove interest. In 1995 he was struck by a car in an accident that severely damaged his throat. Doctors told him not only would he never sing, he might not be able to speak normally. Braswell set out to rehabilitate his voice, and after strenuous therapy returned to singing, culminating in his turn on television and subsequent successful career touring and teaching.

[Read my 2009 column in more detail: http://fullhouseproductions.net/ARCHIVE2009/090624Braswell.htm]

Braswell’s musical journey has followed the arc from when opera was ignored and even mocked, to today when opera singers have cracked the popular music charts. He traces the beginning back to 1990 and the debut of the original Three Tenors.

“That first concert in Rome with Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, and Placido Domingo revitalized the entire classical music industry,” he said. “It brought in a whole new audience, including a lot of the younger generation. It really catapulted into something that has not stopped and continues to draw a massive audience.”

Braswell, who was attending Juilliard at the time, studied under Pavarotti, who he considered a friend and mentor, along with Domingo. But Braswell admits he had misgivings about the “popularization” of opera by his idols.

“It did greatly influence me,” he admitted. “But at the time I was an opera snob. I felt that the commercializing aspect was a detriment, and I was nervous about the industry. I was a purist and a preservationist, and I still am.”

But Braswell also recognized that professional opera was “entering a bad period,” with surging costs of production and large donors pulling out their support. He changed his tune.

“As fearful as I was to see it, it actually saved the industry. We had people come into opera houses who had never been there before.”

This weekend, Braswell and tenors Timothy Birt and William Chapman will perform in a place they have never been before–the Cave Without A Name in Boerne. Owner Tom Summers has been featuring musical groups from chamber ensembles to Broadway revues, but this will be the first appearance of Gli Unici underground.

The group normally performs with a small ensemble, but it was unavailable for this date, and hauling large musical instruments down the narrow steps poses a challenge. So this performance will be acoustic, with backing by professional orchestral tracks. The group will present a program of show tunes, opera, ballads, and jazz.

As other performers have discovered, the cave acoustics will naturally amplify and enhance the vocals, so audiences will be in for a unique listening experience.

“I believe it is really good to come and see people perform who have dedicated their lives to a very refined art form,” Braswell said. “Whether we are performing a modernistic composition or a classical piece, it is good to see what the physicality of that means.”

Braswell equates operatic singing to an “Olympian” effort.

“In what we do as singers there is an acceleration of part of the body to such a degree it has an almost Olympic characteristic to it. You can’t understand it until you are sitting in front of it–until you have heard it without microphones, and experienced the raw characteristics of the human instrument and what its capabilities are, in this case very close up. It is very passionate, very physicalized, and very beautiful.”

Details:

“Gli Unici”–a vocal trio in the tradition of the famous Three Tenors–will appear in concert in The Cave Without A Name in Boerne, Texas, for the first time on Saturday, December 28, 2019, at 7 p.m.

Advance tickets are $30 and available until 5 p.m. the day of the show; and $35 at the door. Tickets and information are available at www.cavewithoutaname.com or by calling 830.537.4212.

Cave Without A Name is located about 9 miles north of Boerne TX at 325 Kreutzberg Rd. Detailed directions at www.cavewithoutaname.com.