January 16, 2024
Spotlight on Joshua Hopkins
Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins is a man of many voices —master of Mozart, bel canto, French repertoire, and exceedingly challenging contemporary works. Effortlessly adapting his velvety instrument to the demands of every style he takes on, he invariably impresses not just with his voice and the terrific technique behind it, but also with probing, thoughtful interpretations that mark him as one of today’s truly outstanding artists.
Lyric audiences first encountered Hopkins in Weinberg’s The Passenger (2014/15), in which the baritone’s exquisitely sensitive singing and acting were among the greatest strengths of that devastatingly moving production. His next Lyric role could hardly have been more different: the witty Mercutio in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (2015/16), which featured Hopkins’s virtuosic performance of the famous “Ballad of Queen Mab.” A particularly outstanding cast for Così fan tutte (2018/19) included Hopkins — a prominent Mozart interpreter throughout North America — as a vibrant Guglielmo, irresistibly seductive in his duet with Marianne Crebassa’s enchanting Dorabella. In 2021/22 he portrayed the incorrigibly boastful sergeant Belcore in Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, a wonderful vehicle for both his elegant bel canto style and his vibrant stage presence. Following this, he made a fleeting yet impactful appearance as Raimbaud in Le Comte Ory during the 2022/23 Season.
This Season, Hopkins returns to Lyric in another enchanting Rossini comedy — Cinderella. As the Prince’s scene-stealing valet, Dandini, Hopkins will be able to showcase his comedic chops and bel canto flair in a classic Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production.
Nearly all the major lyric-baritone roles in the standard repertoire have figured prominently in Hopkins’s career. He’s particularly closely associated with Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (Glyndebourne, Verbier, Dallas, Houston, Washington), Papageno in The Magic Flute (Toronto, Washington, Santa Fe, Vancouver, Ottawa, Phoenix), and Figaro in The Barber of Seville (Toronto, Vancouver, Kansas City, Oslo, Ottawa). And he’s also attracted attention as Valentin in Faust in Washington, as Marcello in La bohème in Toronto and Houston, and as both Ping in Turandot (company debut) and Mercutio at the Met. Opposite the Maria of Joyce DiDonato, Hopkins scored a great success as Cecil in the Met premiere of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, a portrayal seen internationally through the Met's digital streams.
Hopkins is exceptional in his devotion to contemporary-opera roles. Besides Weinberg’s Tadeusz, he’s been heard in the title role of Britten’s Billy Budd (Central City Opera), as Junior in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place (New York City Opera), and in roles for two important world premieres: Harry Bailey in Jake Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life (Houston Grand Opera, subsequently San Francisco Opera), and the leading role of Niccolò Machiavelli in Mohammed Fairouz and David Ignatius’s The New Prince (Dutch National Opera).
Joshua Hopkins is widely regarded as one of today’s most prominent concert artists and recitalists. Many major orchestras have welcomed him as a guest artist, among them those of New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, and Ottawa. His many acclaimed recital appearances include recent performances of an extraordinarily moving new work that he personally conceived and commissioned: Songs for Murdered Sisters—a collaboration between composer Jake Heggie and author Margaret Atwood, personally conceived by Hopkins in memory of his sister, Nathalie Warmerdam. Hopkins has sung it on tour at Stanford Live, Vocal Arts DC, and Toronto’s Koerner Hall in Toronto. He’s also recorded this work for a film produced by Houston Grand Opera.
Hopkins is proudly Canadian, and audiences in Canada have experienced the full breadth of his artistry. Among his most important successes there came in 2019 with his return to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for concert performances of Massenet’s Thaïs, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis with the late Erin Wall in the title role. Hopkins sang the opera’s male lead, Athanaël, probably his most dramatic role to date. The performance — later released on CD — won the coveted 2021 JUNO Award for Best Classical Album: Vocal or Choral. For anyone who knows Hopkins as a singer of light Mozart roles, the performance will be a revelation, from an artist who never ceases to astonish his audience.