A Jewish Moroccan-French opera singer, producer, and actor, David Serero is no stranger to the Broadway stage. He has won four BroadwayWorld Awards for Best Performer of the decade, Best Producer of a Musical of the decade, Best Producer of a Play of the decade, and Best Opera Singer of 2021, as well as an award from the Mayor of New York City during the worst of the pandemic. Mayor Bill DeBlasio recognized Serero’s achievements in bringing the Broadway musical scene back from dark to light, and in offering hope to the people of New York City through new musical productions.
In May, Serero’s unusual adaptation of The Ten Commandments, The Musical hit the stage in New York to great acclaim. He spoke with Inside Arabia about his career, hopes, and aspirations.
- Your origins are Moroccan and French, and you are as multilingual as you are multitalented. Tell me about yourself, how you came to have a career in music, and how you started producing musicals both on and off Broadway.
My Moroccan origins are the most inspiring musical [source] I have. [My Moroccan experience] is full of happiness, joy, generosity, and life! I decided to become a performer when I was a child. I first started as a pianist, then became a singer, then began producing records and concerts. When I discovered opera and musicals, I moved to producing and directing.
I have always invested in being the best artist I can be. I’m so blessed that I found what I wanted to do right away and that I always followed that path every day of my life.
I have always enjoyed bringing people together on and off stage. While I love to do solo concerts and solo recordings, I also need the ensemble efforts, the collaboration. I love the human experience, and even though it can be challenging sometimes, I can’t live without it. It’s part of my life and so rewarding at the end of a production run, to know that you originated all that happiness among the authors, artists, technicians, organizations (such as the American Sephardi Federation), and the audience. It’s actually very humbling to me.
- What is The Ten Commandments all about and how did you decide that The Ten Commandments was a story that needed to be told on Broadway?
This musical from France was written by the genius Pascal Obispo, along with Lionel Florence, Patrice Guirao, and Elie Chouraqui. I had always dreamed of bringing this critical musical to America someday. I had also dreamed of singing the part of Moses, originally performed by Daniel Levi. For me, Levi was a symbol of faith, peace, and spirituality. Few characters can bring you that.
Back in 2020, I chose to [get a] move on and start the English adaptation of this piece. It all worked perfectly. When I started to record the first demos in November 2020, I knew I had something special. And then when I received the blessing from the authors to carry their work to the U.S., I understood the value of their trust.
So I worked really hard to create a new version of this musical by detaching the piece from the original production. I wanted to be able to play it in any theaters in the U.S, which are very different than the venues where it premiered in France.
I was able to test it in front of various audiences. And I made certain adjustments. We got a complete standing ovation on opening night — and then the same thing happened every night in the following performances. The New York audience is very critical, and to receive such a reaction brought tears to my eyes every single night.
- You have a wry sense of humor that you bring to your works of art. You like to make them unusual and fun. What especially did you have fun with in producing the show?
Thank you so much! I believe that I have defined my style and signature on stage throughout the years. I keep only the best of everything, including the script, music, and performers. I don’t keep a line in the script if it’s not necessary. I like to go straight to the point and move on with the plot. I analyze each performance and bring notes to actors (and myself) to improve each show.
The story of The Ten Commandments is very modern, and it’s interesting to see how humankind has not changed throughout the years.
Playing the part of Moses is a lot of fun: I made it a Shakespearean role by taking it to several stages of characterization. Moses is one of my favorite parts to play among the dozens I have played in my career. He is, after all, one of the first African leaders!
- In the last year or so, you’ve done something really unusual for Morocco, and indeed unusual for the Arab World. You’ve founded a new opera company. Tell me about that.
It’s indeed such an important project for me. Unfortunately, it was delayed for a while due to covid and the closed borders. But I have made progress with the casting of all the Moroccan opera singers available. I have also worked very hard to create new operatic pieces performed in darija [Moroccan dialect] and based on Moroccan folktales. The inaugural performance of the new opera company is planned for November 30, 2022 at Studios des Arts in Casablanca.
I have also built a music library at the Casablanca Conservatory of Music which I’d like to expand, so Morocco will soon become one of the important places in the opera world.
- What future projects are in the planning?
I directed and produced a feature documentary on fashion designer Elie Tahari which was very successful, and I have now six feature documentaries that I am directing and producing. I’m now working on the editing and the remaining filming, which will take me the whole summer. Then I have concerts in Europe with debuts in Poland, the Czech Republic, South Africa, and Brazil, and then back to Morocco for the Royal Opera of Morocco, producing new musicals and opera.
I also plan to bring The Ten Commandments, The Musical, to other cities in the U.S. and throughout the world. This piece is very dear to my heart, and I wish to spread the message of fraternity and love that it embodies.