The Met Opera’s ‘Dead Man Walking’ Star Ryan McKinny Talks Travel

In my latest column where I interview actors, singers and other creatives about travel as it relates to their craft, I interviewed Ryan McKinny, a bass-baritone singer who plays the role of Joseph De Rocher in the MET’s blockbuster production of “Dead Man Walking.”

The opera opened the MET’s 2023-2024 season to accolades on September 26, and on October 21st, it will play live in HD cinemas globally, giving people all over the world an opportunity to see a performance even if they can’t get to New York.

My conversation with De Rocher follows:

Where do you currently live?

Asheville, NC

What is your favorite neighborhood in NYC and why?

Hell’s Kitchen. My wife and I met when I was living there and going to Juilliard. We shared a 400 sq foot apartment for years and loved it. Great restaurants, proximity to Lincoln Center and easy to get anywhere else. Feels like New York to me.

Can you share some of your favorite spots near the MET Opera and what makes them so great?

I know it’s obvious, but my first thought is always Central Park – it’s such an incredible oasis in the middle of the intensity of the city. I also love the Folk Art Museum at Columbus and 66th. Always really interesting and diverse exhibitions, and it’s free admission. And as far as food goes, Rosa Mexicano just across the street has upscale Mexican food with a great vibe.

The best place for a pre-or post-opera meal at any opera house globally and why. What are the dishes to order?

I’m a plant-based guy, and there’s an incredible Vietnamese vegan restaurant right behind the Music Center in Los Angeles called Âu Lạc. Get the yucca root fries, curried rice, and the sweet and spicy tempeh.

Best watering holes near opera houses around the world and the drinks to get.

Here in NYC next to the MET is the Empire Hotel which has a great rooftop bar with a view of Lincoln Center. Go for a Negroni.

Insider tips for enjoying an opera. What would make the experience better and why?

Don’t spend too much time doing homework. This art form isn’t about understanding every little thing- it’s about letting the sound and the emotions wash over you. There is no right or wrong way to feel about it. Don’t let “opera experts” tell you what’s good or bad! You bought the ticket, and you get to decide if you like it or not.

What other opera productions are on your radar right now and why?

I’m very excited to see “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.” It’s a powerful piece, and the cast and creative team are amazing.

Share your insider New York gems.

I travel with my wife and kids so my gems tend to be family-related. Check out the Queens Hall of Science, the Intrepid, and the Highline, and take a ferry to Governors Island and rent a bike to explore.

Can you share your favorite opera houses around the world and why?

The MET is tops for sure- it doesn’t get more glamorous than Lincoln Center. Then Bayreuth for the acoustics and history and Sydney for the amazing architecture and harbor views.

How much time do you currently spend on the road?

About nine months out of the year.

Can you share your travel essentials?

Eye mask, kitchen knife, meditation cushion, Bluetooth speaker.

What are your requests when you stay at a hotel or what do you look for when you’re trying to find a hotel to stay at?

Since I travel with my family most of the time, usually we stay in an apartment. The most important thing for us is a peaceful living room/kitchen area with as much light as possible.

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