April 02, 2021
Spotlight on Quinn Kelsey
There’s nothing more gratifying for an opera company, or for an opera audience, than discovering a gifted young artist and then watching that artist’s talent blossom. That’s been a special pleasure for everyone in the Lyric family who first heard Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey during his tenure at the Ryan Opera Center.
Quinn is a Verdi baritone—the real, rare thing. His instrument was made for this repertoire, in which he’s conquered one prestigious opera house after another. Although he’s sung a wide variety of roles (18 in all) at Lyric, the core of his repertoire here has been Verdi, most recently Miller in Luisa Miller, his signature role, Rigoletto, and Germont in La traviata. Among his many Verdi successes in Europe have been Montfort in Les vêpres siciliennes in Frankfurt, Germont at Covent Garden, Count di Luna in Il trovatore in Dresden, and Rigoletto at the Opéra National de Paris.
As an artist, Quinn isn’t just about Verdi: he’s triumphed in Roberto Devereux, Lucia di Lammermoor, The Pearl Fishers, Don Quichotte, The Cunning Little Vixen, and many other works by a wide range of composers (by the way, he’s also a Grammy winner as a soloist in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, recorded with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony). Because the world is so lacking in true Verdi baritones, it’s that repertoire, above all, that has made him so sought-after and such an asset to Verdi productions worldwide. His voice sails through the largest opera houses in this very demanding music, with all the necessary size, color, and force. While he can ring the rafters with stupendously full-voiced sound, he can also mesmerize his audience, caressing a Verdi line with the elegant phrasing and vocal velvet that are so distinctively and uniquely his.
Quinn is also a memorable collaborator onstage. Anyone who heard him at Lyric in Verdi’s glorious father-daughter duets—with Rosa Feola in Rigoletto and with Krassimira Stoyanova in Luisa Miller—will recall how those scenes contained some of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and profoundly moving Verdi singing in recent Lyric history. The communication between Quinn and his partners was so specific and so sensitive that, for everyone listening, time seemed to stand still.
It’s that kind of singing that confirms Quinn Kelsey’s place in the pantheon of today’s most remarkable Verdians. As always, it’s a joy to have him at Lyric again!