May 14, 2021

Spotlight on Kyle Ketelsen

In Broadway jargon, the phrase “triple threat” describes a performer who sings, acts, and moves onstage with equal brilliance. American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is opera’s “triple threat.” Give him any role and count on him to sing it superbly. He’ll also act it with immense intelligence, great detail, and total believability while creating a physicality for it that brings the character instantly to life.

When you watch this charismatic artist onstage, you’re seeing someone who has totally absorbed the character into himself. Take, for example, his definitive Méphistophélès, which was crucial to the success of the magnificent Faust produced by Lyric in 2009/10. Ketelsen was riveting from the moment he first appeared, exuding dangerously alluring charm and elegance. It wasn’t just that he gave Gounod’s music the ultimate in French style; he also moved with such extraordinary grace that one could have mistaken him for one of the dancers onstage.

Brenda Rae as Ginevra and Kyle Ketelsen as the King of Scotland in Handel's Ariodante, 2018/19

Lyric audiences discovered Ketelson when his career was just beginning to take off. He debuted with the company on opening night of the fiftieth-anniversary season (2004/05), making his presence felt in a very starry cast with his portrayal of Masetto in the new production of Don Giovanni. Lyric audiences since then have had other memorable opportunities to savor Ketelsen’s artistry, with superb characterizations of six very different roles. In addition to Méphistophélès, he’s excelled in the title role of The Marriage of Figaro, as Escamillo in Carmen, Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville, Leporello in Don Giovanni, and the King of Scotland in Ariodante.

Isabel Bayrakdarian as Zerlina and Kyle Ketelsen as Masetto in Don Giovanni, 2004/05

In all his performances, it’s clear that Ketelsen is a team player. He commands the stage whenever he’s on it, but at the same time he relishes detailed interaction with his fellow artists.  Especially memorable in The Marriage of Figaro at Lyric was the give-and-take he and Danielle de Niese’s Susanna brought to their scenes together. So totally authentic was their delivery of the Italian text, and so completely attuned were they to every twist and turn in the Figaro/Susanna relationship, that they created true, vital, totally believable conversation, which is what so much of Figaro is about.

Danielle de Niese as Susanna and Kyle Ketelsen in the title role of The Marriage of Figaro, 2009/10

Ketelsen’s international career was launched in Mozart repertoire, and for more than 15 years he’s been major houses’ go-to artist for both Figaro and Leporello. Any Don Giovanni fan should track down Ketelsen’s terrific Leporello in the DVD from London’s Royal Opera House (a company with which he’s enjoyed a very rewarding association). Throughout the past several seasons, while returning frequently to his Mozart roles, Ketelsen has revealed a spectacular versatility, astonishing audiences who may have known him chiefly as a Mozart singer. He’s reveled in the formidable demands of such imposing roles as Henry VIII in Anna Bolena (Minnesota Opera), Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress (Dutch National Opera), and Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande (a vocally magnificent, emotionally devastating characterization, heard at the Metropolitan Opera and Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées). The most recent addition to Ketelsen’s repertoire, the spellbindingly dramatic role of Kaspar in Der Freischütz, created a sensation earlier this season in the premiere of a new production at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera.

It’s a rare thrill to watch a complete artist at work. Kyle Ketelsen is a complete artist, and it’s always an absolute joy to see and hear him onstage at Lyric.

Kyle Ketelsen sings excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro and The Rake’s Progress in Celebrating Sir Andrew Davis, from Mozart to Stravinsky.

Now streaming

Celebrating Sir Andrew Davis, from Mozart to Stravinsky

Celebrating Sir Andrew Davis, from Mozart to Stravinsky

Music Director Sir Andrew Davis leads members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Lyric Opera Chorus, and star soloists in a rousing concert that celebrates his remarkable career at Lyric. The program includes selections from Mozart's beloved comedy, The Marriage of Figaro — the first opera Sir Andrew conducted at Lyric — and Stravinsky's English-language masterpiece The Rake's Progress — the last opera he would have conducted as music director this spring — with personal tributes from some of your favorite Lyric artists.

Join us to raise a glass to Sir Andrew — and to more than three decades of his glorious music-making at Lyric!

 

Header photo: Kyle Ketelsen performing in Celebrating Sir Andrew Davis, from Mozart to Stravinsky. Credit: Kyle Flubacker

All other photos: Dan Rest, Todd Rosenberg, Cory Weaver