After living in New York for 10 years, Tynan Davis ’02 was making plans to move home to Texas when a text message opened the door to a career opportunity she never imagined.
A friend gave the casting director of “The Phantom of the Opera” Davis’ contact information, and the next day Davis had an audition, which resulted in her joining the North American tour of the famous opera.
Davis’ path to landing the role began when she was a child sitting underneath the piano as her mom, a classically trained pianist, accompanied singers, ballet classes and church choirs.
From age 9 to 16, Davis sang with the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio. Throughout high school, she competed in UIL choir competitions before attending SFA.
“At SFA, I studied with Dr. David Jones, who was like a grandfather to me,” Davis said. “We had such wonderful conversations. On afternoons when I didn’t feel like singing, he would put on an Anna Moffo or Mirella Freni record, and we would listen and talk about Italy, singing and life. I cherish those days in his studio.”
Davis said the operetta “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss was her first SFA performance, which she remembers for the crazy wigs and big dresses. “There was a goofy elegance about it,” she said. “We were a bunch of kids playing dress up and pretending to be refined, when we actually were waiting for Thursday night so we could go to Jitterbugs.”
After receiving her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance, Davis moved home to San Antonio where she opened a private voice studio and taught at middle and high schools in the Northeast ISD.
In 2005, she made her way to the Big Apple, where she became an usher at the Metropolitan Opera House. “If you’re not getting paid to sing in the opera, you might as well get paid to watch it and hand out programs,” she said.
Davis’ career has included many highlights—performing with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Odyssey Opera, Opera San Antonio, Austin Lyric Opera, Bronx Opera and others. She’s also toured with jazz artist Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and engaged in seasonal appearances with Grammy award-winning ensembles Conspirare and Roomful of Teeth. She also teaches master’s classes—most recently at the University of Arizona as a guest of renowned soprano Elizabeth Futral.
“I’ve been very lucky because most of the singing I do is varied and interesting,” she said. “I’ve not been pigeon-holed into one singing style.”
That diversity of singing styles no doubt led to Davis securing the role as a swing (person who covers multiple roles in the chorus) and understudy in her latest musical undertaking, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”
At the audition, Davis sang 32 bars of “Unusual Way” from the musical “Nine” by Maury Yeston for the casting, production and music directors. “The music director also wanted to hear some opera, so I sang an aria Dr. Jones taught me my freshman year, ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ from ‘Gianni Schicchi’ by Puccini. Then, I was asked to read some dialogue excerpts from ‘Phantom’ and was asked to stay for a dance audition, where I learned two short sequences from the show,” Davis said.
Not immediately knowing the outcome of her audition, Davis went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she had a summer contract with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. However, four days after arriving, she received a call from the musical’s casting director who told her she had landed the role.
Two weeks later, Davis flew to Los Angeles to join the company, which has been touring the country for two years. As a swing and an understudy, Davis, who is a mezzo soprano, is responsible for knowing five female ensemble tracks and the principle role of Madame Giry.
Three weeks after joining the company, Davis had her first “Phantom” performance at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. “I was like a deer in headlights. I had no idea what was going on. We like to use the phrase ‘Shove with love’ when a new person goes into the show. I was shoved with so much love that first night,” Davis laughed.
Referring to the cast and crew as “Phamily,” Davis is on a six-month contract with the show and said she’s enjoying every second.
It’s really fun,” Davis said. “When I’m on stage, I have a hard time keeping a straight face in the serious scenes because I’m often thinking, ‘You’re here!’”