A few years ago when at U of T, I remember marvelling at fellow student Russell Braun's mellow pipes, comfortable stage presence and unquestionable charisma -- all traits that will be on display as he takes on the title character in Benjamin Britten's BIlly Budd. "It's not your typical complicated opera story where everyone brings baggage and you have to do research before seeing it," says Braun, who's already wowed the Met, Salzburg and Chicago's Lyric Opera. The role of the idealistic sailor who unwittingly gets caught up in murder and mutiny is full of drama. So is Braun's current life. He just arranged a memorial service for his recently deceased father, renowned baritone Victor Braun. He's got two sons, one 11 weeks old. Last year he spent 10 months touring. Sleep is an issue. "Sure, it's extreme," he says about his gruelling schedule. "But as long as the musical experiences are rewarding, it can only have a positive effect on my life." And on ours.