Justin Vickers

Style: Opera; Classical; Musical Theatre

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Title: Professor of Music / Artist Teacher of Voice

Bio:

Education and honors:

2020-2021 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom

A.Mus.D. in Performance and Literature — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

M.M. in Voice Performance — University of Kentucky

B.M. in Voice Performance — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The American lyric tenor Justin Vickers has been lauded for his “beautiful, crystalline tone” and The Washington Post declared him “a pliant Mozartian tenor.” In the past decade, Vickers has appeared in China, Russia, France, England, Austria, Albania, Mexico, the South Pacific, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia—in opera, concert, recital, and in the recording studio—singing literature ranging from Michael Tippett, Judith Weir, and Benjamin Britten to Verdi’s La traviata and Daniel Catán’s La hija de Rappaccini. With an operatic repertory of nearly forty leading tenor roles, Vickers is a tenor of inexhaustible range and musical curiosity paired with a flexible instrument of considerable size and an array of timbrel colors. Surely one of his career highlights included preparing the roles of Britten’s Peter Grimes and Captain Vere in Billy Budd with the late Philip Langridge, one of the great interpreters of those roles.

The Washington National Opera invited Vickers to cover Gennaro at the last minute for their 2008-2009 performances of Lucrezia Borgia opposite Renée Fleming, under the baton of Maestro Plácido Domingo, based on the success of his Opera Boston performances in 2006. For his Gennaro, Vickers was celebrated in the Boston Globe as “tall and swaggering, his singing sensitive and elegant… with a ringing tone!” Also, in 2008, the tenor portrayed the tragic Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette for Illinois Opera Theatre. The tenor was fortunate to return to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts for Illinois Opera Theatre’s performances of the revised version of Daniel Catán’s Spanish-language opera La hija de Rappaccini, with the conductor of its première Eduardo Diazmuñoz at the helm. Vickers shared the privilege of premièring the new aria “Beatriz, puerta del mundo,” which was composed for the production. In 2005, Vickers made his international operatic debut at the Arbat Opera in Moscow, creating the title role of Italian painter Amedeo ‘Dedo’ Modigliani in the world premiere of Jerrold Morgulas’ Anna and Dedo. Vickers made his Carnegie Hall debut in November 1999 with Maestro Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York in the American première of Donizetti’s Adelia, singing the role of Comino. He made his Minnesota Opera debut in January 2000 singing the Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier. Vickers returned to Carnegie Hall on Valentine’s Day of 2000 singing Rustighello alongside Renée Fleming and Marcello Giordani in Lucrezia Borgia. Of his Rustighello, Classical Singer wrote that Vickers possessed “a sweet, flexible voice and a lively, highly specific projection of the text that could set an excellent example for singers on this and other stages.” As an artist with Opera Orchestra of New York, he performed the leading tenor roles in Adelia and in Lucrezia Borgia for their Young Artist Performance series. He also performed on Opera Orchestra of New York’s Benefit Musicale, accompanied by Eve Queler at the piano, alongside Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Vickers made his international concert debut as Cassio in Verdi’s Otello with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México in March 2000, also under the baton of Maestro Queler. The summer of 2000 marked Vickers’ Merola Opera Program debut as Gabriel von Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, a role he subsequently performed across the nation with San Francisco Opera’s national touring company, the Western Opera Theatre. Vickers has also performed Eisenstein in a gala Christmastime performance of Die Fledermaus at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center with the National Chorale and for Opera Tampa under Maestro Anton Coppola.

During the fall of 2001, he made his debut with The Washington National Opera, covering the roles of Ferrando in Così fan tutte and Lennie in Of Mice and Men, while his debut role at The Kennedy Center was the Ballad Singer in the Floyd opera. Of his debut, The Washington Post reviewed that “as the Ballad Singer, Justin Vickers has a voice that stands out for its beauty.” He was again heard at Carnegie Hall in April 2001 with Opera Orchestra of New York as Tavannes in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. His portrayal of Tavannes was cited as a standout in the lengthy opera and The New York Times regarded him as “a fine young tenor.” The tenor added the boisterous Italian, Alfred, to his repertoire for Connecticut Opera’s spring 2002 Die Fledermaus, under Maestro Willie Anthony Waters, to critical acclaim. He returned to Connecticut Opera to sing Narraboth in Salome in 2003. Vickers enjoyed his professional debut performing the title role in Idomeneo with the Wolf Trap Opera Company during the 1999 Festival Season. Opera News wrote, “As Idomeneo, tenor Justin Vickers displayed a well-molded voice, his clear diction and emotionally charged delivery in the recitatives establishing the character. From his first aria, ‘Vedrommi intorno,’ into Act II’s ‘Fuor del mar,’ Vickers offered distinct character development.” Also at Wolf Trap, Vickers performed Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, a role he has reprised for Opera Festival of New Jersey and the Hawaii Opera Theatre. His additional repertoire favorites include Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which he performed opposite soprano Amanda Pabyan in New York City, as well as Rodolfo in La bohème and Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi.

Highly in demand for modern opera interpretations, he joined Encompass New Opera Theatre again at Symphony Space in June 2005 for a Gertrude Stein Trilogy showcasing the world première of William Banfield’s jazz-fusion opera Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, creating the role of Leo Stein; Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters, in which he essayed the mischievous Samuel; and Virgil Thomson’s Capital Capitals, taking on the verbose Capital II. The New York Times called Vickers’s interpretations in the Stein Trilogy “playfully operatic,” noting that his “crisp diction suddenly made whole lines of Stein’s patter start to make sense!” In 2004 he created the central role of Tom Cobb for Encompass in the world première of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Seymour Barab’s A Perfect Plan at Symphony Space in New York City to riotous reviews! He was asked by Russian composer Alexander Zhurbin to interpret the role of Konstantin Treplev in the American première of The Seagull (an operetta based on Chekhov’s play) for the 2005 New York Musical Theatre Festival on Broadway under the direction of Lewis J. Stadlen and alongside the celebrated Broadway star Judith Blazer. Among his modern-opera roles, Vickers has recorded (Albany Records) and portrayed the title role of Mario in the professional premiere of Francis Thorne’s Mario and the Magician for the Center for Contemporary Opera in April 2005, for which The New York Times praised his “sweet and mellow tenor.”

Contemporary Works & Recording Projects

Vickers is an active proponent of modern song composition. He is currently engaged in the preparations of numerous major song cycles and song works, working closely with the composers who are writing for his voice: Thomas Schuttenhelm’s newest song cycle for the tenor, Four Aves (2020), Apollo’s Lament, an extended cantata for Vickers and guitar by Schuttenhelm; a further Schuttenhelm setting of a poem by Peter Pears, “Ode to Music”; a cycle that sets the poetry of Jewish painter Marc Chagall and another that sets poems of Alexander Pushkin, both by Jerrold Morgulas; Martha Horst’s extensive Songs from a War Journal, which sets texts from Siegfried Sassoon’s wartime diaries; two versions of a setting of Chinese poetry from antiquity by Tony Solitro, Same-Heart Knot, for tenor and piano, as well as for tenor and guitar; Two Oscar Wilde Songs by Timothy J. Bowlby, “Hélas!” and “E Tenebres”; and a companion cycle of Chinese poetry to Benjamin Britten’s Songs from the Chinese that was composed for Vickers by British composer Colin Matthews.

Vickers has a new release on Albany Records (TROY1800) that was released in December 2019. The Scottish-themed disc, titled Caledonian Scenes: Songs of Judith Weir, Benjamin Britten, and Hamish MacCunn, features the world première recording of MacCunn’s Cycle of Six Love-Lyrics (1899), alongside a number of his songs, accompanied by American pianist Gretchen Church. The balance of the disc is Britten’s Four Burns Songs (in Colin Matthews’s piano reduction) and Weir’s Scotch Minstrelsy, accompanied by Scottish pianist Geoffrey Duce.

In 2017, Vickers was honored to perform the world première of Zachary Wadsworth’s Secret Songs in The Music Room of Britten’s and Pears’s home, The Red House, in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Wadsworth’s Secret Songs is a setting of Uranian poetry of early gay pioneer Edward Carpenter, which was commissioned by Vickers for the Britten-Pears Foundation’s 2017 Exhibition on the 1967 “Decriminalization” of Homosexuality in England. At the 2015 Red Note New Music Festival, Vickers sang the first performance of Jonathan Green’s Michelangelo cycle Amore cieco. At the 2014 Red Note New Music Festival, Vickers was thrilled to première John David Earnest’s song cycle, the Songs of Hadrian, a homoromantic memorial work detailing the life of the second century Roman emperor Hadrian and his love for his eromenos Antinuous. Vickers commissioned and premièred Tony Solitro’s tour-de-force War Wedding in Philadelphia in 2012.

In January and December 2013, Navona Records released the first two of The Shakespeare Concerts Series recordings, Shakespeare’s Memory and The Fair Ophelia, respectively, on which Vickers is the featured tenor soloist performing multiple world premières of Joseph Summer’s Shakespeare settings, alongside two separate recorded versions of Michael Tippett’s cycle Songs for Ariel with pianist R. Kent Cook—recorded individually on both piano and harpsichord, the latter of which was released on Full Fathom Five in April 2015. Vickers has additionally recorded three of Hamlet’s monologues from Summer’s operatic setting of Hamlet with acclaimed Alarm Will Sound pianist John Orfe (forthcoming). Vickers previously recorded for Albany Records, singing the title role of Mario in the professional New York première of Francis Thorne’s opera Mario and the Magician (2006). He was fortunate to perform the world première performance for the composer of the especially-composed aria “Beatriz, puerta del mundo” while portraying the pivotal role of Giovanni in the revised version of Daniel Catán’s Spanish-language opera La hija de Rappaccini. Vickers has sung the world premières of Jerrold Morgulas’s Anna and Dedo in Moscow; Bill Banfield’s jazz-fusion opera Gertrude Stein Invents a Leap Early On in New York City, creating the role of Leo Stein; and he sang the lovesick Tom Cobb in Seymour Barab’s A Perfect Plan; and appeared on numerous seasons of the New York City Opera-sponsored VOX Series for the performance of new and workshopped opera. Vickers sang the world première of Alexander Zhurbin’s Fourth Symphony, City of the Plague, at Moscow’s International House of Music. In 2012, Vickers performed the world première of Benjamin Britten’s excised “Epilogue” to his song cycle The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, using Vickers’s own transcription from the composer’s manuscript, which was forgotten in the archives of the Britten-Pears Library—sixty-seven years after Britten composed it. The previous year, the tenor recorded early songs from Britten’s juvenilia at the request of the Britten-Pears Foundation, in Britten’s Music Room with the composer’s Steinway, accompanied by Lucy Walker, with whom the tenor has also appeared in recital at the Aldeburgh Parish Church and at the University of Surrey, Guildford, England.

Additional projects for the tenor include the world première recordings of selected songs and the Cycle of Six Love Lyrics by Scots composer Hamish MacCunn with the American pianist Gretchen Church. Vickers is also recording Judith Weir’s Scotch Minstrelsy and Britten’s Four Burns Songs, in addition to multiple Britten cycles. Vickers is also recording Alexander Zhurbin’s The Shakespeare Madrigals, for voice and piano; Ivor Gurney’s Five Elizabethan Songs; Solitro’s War Wedding; in addition to Earnest’s Songs of Hadrian and the other cycles that the tenor has premièred.

Voice Type: Tenor

Music Styles Taught: Opera; Classical; Musical Theatre

Availability: I am available as a performer; I have a wait-list for private lessons; I am currently accepting private students; I am available as a clinician or presenter; I accept students through a college or university program

Contact Information

Studio

Illinois State University, College of Fine Arts, School of Music, Campus Box 5660
Normal, IL
USA 61790-5660

E-mail: vickers@ilstu.edu
Web: www.justinvickers.com

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