In his dramatic tenor voice, Hossein Aghabeikzadeh, 72, may seem like a character out of a Broadway play, but he is more the common man’s performer in a blue-collar town, practicing his craft and communing with nature.
Positioned on the walkway facing inland, Aghabeikzadeh belts out his favorite opera tunes, listening to see how his voice reverberates off a small inlet in Newark Bay. He practices there because it is one of the less crowded areas in the city to free “vocal tensions” and make his “mistakes.”
“It’s nice; it’s like being on a stage,” Aghabeikzadeh said.
Passersby of all types stop to listen, everyone from parents with babies to retirees. Their responses run from appreciative to ecstatic.
“Sometimes I hear ‘Bravo!’ or ‘Yeah!’ from a distance,” Aghabeikzadeh said. “Sometimes people say ‘Hello’ and smile and say encouraging words.”
Just who is listening has surprised Aghabeikzadeh: many Bayonne youth.
“While I had not originally noticed them, the teenagers and even younger children are showing an interest in my opera practices,” he said. “They want to know how I produce ‘those notes.’”
Bayonne residents see him as a welcome diversion in a world rushing by at breakneck speed.
“It was very nice, very nice,” said a female jogger. “I loved it.”
Another woman walking through the park described hearing singing but thinking at first that it was a radio playing in the distance.
“As I continued walking, I noticed a man walking through the park while singing opera,” she said. “His voice was powerful, yet soothing.”
Richard Dwyer, a theatrical performer himself, first encountered Bayonne’s Pavarotti on evenings while walking his dog.
“I heard this wonderful operatic and inspirational voice in the darkness of the park,” Dwyer said. “I followed the songs and listened to the music while watching a silhouette in between the trees or on the Newark Bay pedestrian bridge.”
Dwyer said he could tell this man was an accomplished singer who enjoyed the outdoors and liked the way his voice carried over the water and through the nearby trees.
Aghabeikzadeh was born during World War II in Iran and grew up in a border town near Turkey, next to Mount Ararat, the biblical mountain of Noah’s Ark. He came to the United States in 1967 to study voice and popular music, but soon focused on opera.
He calls himself a “multi-vibrato vocalist,” using Italian operatic methods taught him by Charles Kellis, now retired, of the faculty of the Julliard School of Music in New York City.
While he has never had fulltime, steady music work, he has performed arias in concert in Boston, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Toronto. He is retired after working as a hotel concierge for decades in New York City. Now divorced, he has two adult children who also live in Bayonne.
Exercising his voice and finding peace
Aghabeikzadeh generally begins each practice with the operas he has learned, such as Otello, Aida, and Tosca, before singing other songs from countries around the world.
Aghabeikzadeh has lived in Bayonne for years, and one of the biggest reasons is Gregg Park and what it reminds him of.
“This is a very nice park. I like it,” he said. “I come from northern Iran, which is very full of nature.”
So Aghabeikzadeh combines his love of nature and music with his impromptu park performances, keeping his voice in shape and finding solace.
“I noticed a man walking through the park while singing opera. His voice was powerful, yet soothing.” – Bayonne resident
Dwyer said Aghabeikzadeh practices speak not just to the man’s talent or his own personal interest in music, but also to a thriving local arts scene.
“His performances in the dark are somewhat symbolic of the Bayonne arts community as a regional attraction, and it is refreshing to see both emerging into the well-deserved spotlight,” Dwyer said. “I believe that Hossein and other artists are helping to drive the inspirational revitalization of Bayonne.”
Some of Aghabeikzadeh’s musical performances can be seen on YouTube.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.To comment on this story online visit www.hudsonreporter.com.