ISAIAH BELL, TENOR
Hailed in The New York Times for “a performance of haunting beauty, ideally depicting emotional distraction with ultimate economy and glowing vocal skill,” Canadian-American tenor Isaiah Bell began the current season with Almaviva in Rossini’s IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA for Opera Lyra Ottawa with further stage outings planned for Metz (Lysander in Brittens’ A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM) and Opéra de Montréal (Junger Diener in ELEKTRA). HE debuted with San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque in Handel’s ODE TO STE CELILIA followed by MESSIAH, both conducted by Nicholas McGegan. MESSIAH also took him to New York’s St. Thomas Church and the Bethlehem Bach Festival hosted his performances of Bach’s WEIHNACHTSORATORIUM. He returns to Bethlehem for Bach’s JOHANNES PASSION in the spring of 2016 and will be heard in Mendelssohn’s LOBGESANG with the Regina Philharmonic Chorus and sings ELIJAH for the Ottawa Coral Society.
In 2014-2015, he was in New York at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, playing Damon in Mark Morris’s new production of ACIS AND GALATEA. Other season highlights included Britten’s OWEN WINGRAVE at the Edinburgh and Aldeburgh Festivals under Mark Wigglesworth, George Benjamin’s WRITTEN ON SKIN conducted by the composer with the Toronto Symphony, Berlioz ROMÉO ET JULIETTE with Kent Nagano and l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Bach’s MATTHÄUS PASSION for the Grand Philharmonic Choir of Kitchener Waterloo, DIE SCHÖPFUNG for the Okanagan Symphony and performances and a recording of the Honegger/Ibert opera L’AIGLON, also with Nagano and the OSM.
He also appeared in the role of Marlow in Tarik O’Regan’s HEART OF DARKNESS with Opera Parallèle San Francisco, and as tenor soloist in concert performances with Vancouver Symphony (Bramwell Tovey), Bethlehem Bach Festival (Greg Funfgeld), Colorado Symphony (Pinchas Zukerman), and New Jersey Symphony (Jacques Lacombe), among others. Recent recordings include a song recital for CBC Radio’s “In Concert” and a new disc of German Baroque cantatas with the Theatre of Early Music.
Highlights of Isaiah’s 2013-2014 season included the MATTHÄUS PASSION with Yannick Nézét-Séguin in Montreal, Britten’s CURLEW RIVER directed by Mark Morris at Tanglewood, a staged MESSIAH with Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre, Bach’s MASS IN B MINOR with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and performances of Britten’s SERENADE FOR TENOR, HORN, AND STRINGS, the Schütz MUSIKALISCHE EXEQUIEN, and Benjamin’s WRITTEN ON SKIN.
On the opera and concert stage Isaiah continues to be recognized for his “beautiful tenor, command of the style, and natural stage presence,” his “willingness to invest himself wholly into the character,” the “fervency and clarity” and “overwhelming emotion force” of his performances and his “uncommonly warm light tenor, smooth musical line and sound artistic choices.”
The British Columbian is also an active performer of song literature. His upcoming solo recital at Wigmore Hall follows recent performances of Schubert’s WINTERREISE with Stephen Ralls, Walton’s FAÇADE and Satie’s TROIS MÉLODIES DE 1916 as part of l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s chamber series, Vaughan Williams’ WENLOCK EDGE and a group of SHROPSHIRE LAD settings orchestrated by Kevin Mallon for the Thirteen Strings, and the Canadian premiere of Alec Roth’s and Vikram Seth’s SEVEN ELEMENTS cycle at Music and Beyond, Ottawa. Previously he premiered a song cycle of his own poetry and music, ON THIS DAY, as part of Montreal’s Journées d’Arts Sacrés du Plateau, and gave a recital of Satie songs in St. John’s, Newfoundland, for broadcast on CBC Radio II.
Isaiah Bell received his formal training at the University of Victoria, from which he holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance. Subsequently he was an ensemble member in the Young Artist Program of Pacific Opera Victoria, Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program, and l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, with supplementary training gained at the Tanglewood Music Centre, Salzburg’s Universität Mozarteum, Edmonton’s Opera NUOVA, and the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s Baroque Oratorio Academy. He is also the composer of four operas and a number of song cycles.