Alexander Kariotis & the Rock Opera Orchestra
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Alexander Kariotis & the Rock Opera Orchestra

Maplewood, New Jersey, United States

Maplewood, New Jersey, United States
Band Alternative Classical


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The best kept secret in music


By Jeff Theodore
If you want to embarass Alexander Kariotis, say that he's walking in the footsteps of the recently departed tenor Luciano Pavarotti. He turns beat red and vehemently urges you to cut it out.

But the number of ways that the paths of Kariotis and Pavarotti have crossed is striking - no matter how much Kariotis denies it.

First, Pavarotti was the first opera star Kariotis ever saw in concert. Then, as a student at the Mannes Conservatory in New York City, Kariotis got a chance to be in the presence of Pavarotti, when the tenor paid a visit to the U.S. to perform at Carnegie Hall.

"The first time we talked it was like we had always known each other," recalls Kariotis, who lives in Maplewood. "We weren't like buddies or anything but it was neat to be around a guy like that."

Soon after, Kariotis earned raves as a semifinalist in an opera competition in Milan, Italy, and went on to study under Arrigo Pola, Pavarotti's voice coach. And in a final twist of fate, Pavarotti passed away Sept. 6, which is Kariotis' birthday.

Unlike Pavarotti, though, Kariotis is a rocker too. Through his 11-member rock opera orchestra, he is breaking new ground with a sound that he says is more genuine than most. Kariotis and his crew practice in a Jersey City wine warehouse, where they'll put on a show Thursday.

"Doing this music gives me a chance to do what I love with both opera and rock," Kariotis says. "And not in some hokey way, like some groups that may be doing it as a gimmick. Opera and rock have been a big part of my life."

In large measure, Kariotis' brother, Tony, is responsible for shaping Kariotis' musical development. While the pair were growing up in a Chicago suburb, Kariotis would follow his older brother around as he traveled on gigs throughout the Midwest with the band Gambler.

"Wherever the band played, I played and would open up shows for them with my rock songs," Kariotis says. "My brother was one of those kind of rock and roll guys who was into the art of writing songs, not into all the sex and drugs stuff."

Tony Kariotis was the first to realize that his kid brother had something different about his voice. So, he arranged to take him to see Pavarotti that first time.

"There was just something about his voice," Kariotis says, recalling his initial Pavarotti experience. "My brother saw how excited I was about it and encouraged me to go into opera all the way."

One of Pavarotti's maxims that sticks out in Kariotis' mind is that opera singers should forever remain students of their craft.

"He'd (Pavarotti) say you're either going to find your voice or lose it trying," Kariotis says.

In the prime of his opera career, Kariotis lost his biggest advocate: elder brother, Tony, died after a battle with Lou Gehrig's disease.

"My wife and I were in Europe performing at opera houses when I found out my brother was dying," Kariotis says. "When I would visit him in Chicago, he would tell me, 'Get back out there. I'm dying.' When he died, a big chunk of me went with him."

Kariotis says his big brother would give a thumbs up to his rock opera orchestra.

"I think this is another chance for me to hang out with him again," he says. - JERSEY JOURNAL


Still working on that hot first release.



Exposed to rock 'n roll at a young age, Alexander was only 9 when he lost both his eyebrows setting off homemade pyrotechnics for his big brother's band. It was love at first...light? He quickly formed his first rock band, The Nodes, and frequently opened for Gambler (EMI America), his brother's rock band in Chicago.

After hearing Luciano Pavarotti sing at Ravinia, Alex was so inspired that he auditioned and won a scholarship to study opera at the Mannes Conservatory of Music in New York City. He kept his hand in pop music by flying back and forth to LA to sing back-up at the Roxy and record with his brother at the famous Warner Bros. Studios in L.A. and Sun Studios in Memphis.

After graduating form Mannes, he moved to LA where he received a full scholarship from UCLA to continue his studies in opera. While there he also played guitar for a few gigs with the Tokens, (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and wrote songs with his brother for Wrestle Rock!

Soon after that Alex moved to Europe to study with Pavarotti's teacher, Arrigo Pola, and the renowned operatic tenor, Gianni Raimondi. He was a semi finalist in the International Enrico Caruso voice competition for young tenors in Milan.

Alex has performed at the Berlin Philharmonic with the St Hedwigs Orchester, the Collegium Orchester, the Hohenfels Orchester, and a live radio broadcast for Radio Brandenburg Berlin. Alex has had numerous solo concerts in LA, Chicago and Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center. His opera roles to date include Rodolfo in La Boheme, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Canio in Pagliacci and Nemorino in L' Elisir D'Amore, to name a few.

While in Europe, Alex was offered a publishing contract for many of his rock/dance tunes with Warner Chappell/Touch & Go Music. He then decided to return to America and work on fusing his two passions; rock and opera. Northwestern gave him yet another full scholarship to do his Masters in Voice, and he received stunning reviews for his role as Tony Candolino in Master Class by Terrence McNally. Alex appeared in both the Chicago production, directed by Peter Amster, and the Columbia Artists production in Toronto with Elizabeth Ashley, directed by Leonard Foglia.

In the midst of this, Alex began working on his new style of music. Writing this music inspired him to create his one-man show, Holdin' On, which premiered at the Laurie Beechman Theater on 42nd st. in NYC. It has since been performed to great acclaim and SRO houses Off Broadway at the Zipper Theater and the Belt Theater, as well as theaters in New Jersey and LA. It is now under consideration by several theaters around the country and is being directed and dramaturged by Lynn Thomson, dramaturg of the Broadway hit RENT, on and Off Broadway.

Alex and his music are unique in that he is truly a crossover artist. He has lived in both worlds and unites the fans of both of these genres with his magnetic personality and the innovative music he writes.