Old American Songs, New Jersey Festival Orchestra, August 2023

“The...diverse, folkish themes [of Copland’s ‘Old American Songs’] are drawn from 19th-century Americana songs, a far cry from the Italianate roles guest soloist [Stephen] Gaertner sings routinely on international opera stages. Fittingly, he shelved his rich, lustrous Verdian timbres for a creamier tonality with lyricism bubbling at the top. Clean diction and simple phrasing kept the performance naturalistic, with an interpretive style that felt more aligned with the art songs of German Lieder. The approach was particularly effective in keeping ‘Ching-a-Ring Chaw’ and ‘Long Time Ago’ — both based on minstrel tunes and ballads — grounded and tasteful. Other standouts included ‘The Little Horses,’ a children’s lullaby from the South, which brought out a delicate and sensitive lyricism. In ‘Zion’s Walls’ — a Revivalist song that Copland reused in his opera ‘The Tender Land’ — Gaertner used a ringing vibrato to reflect the deeply spiritual themes. The orchestra used painterly textures and colors to narrate Copland’s unique Americana, well balanced with Gaertner even in his most delicate treatments.”
(Courtney Smith, www.njarts.net, August 21, 2023)

American baritone Stephen Gaertner made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2007 as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor. His other roles at the Met have included Melot in Tristan und Isolde, Chorèbe in Les Troyens and Paolo in Simon Boccanegra (a performance available on Sony Classical HD DVD), in addition to covers of several major Verdi baritone roles: Carlo in Ernani, Di Luna in Il Trovatore, and Germont in La Traviata; he also covered the role of Rigoletto with Los Angeles Opera. He made his European debut at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège in 2010 as Escamillo in Carmen. Recent career highlights have included appearances as Macbeth at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, Opernfestspiele Heidenheim and Opéra de Dijon; Germont in La Traviata with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre; Amonasro in Aida with Teatro San Carlo, Naples; Iago in Otello with Teatro de la Ópera, San Juan; Rigoletto with Opera Grand Rapids; Riccardo in I Puritani with Teatro Verdi Trieste; and Scarpia in Tosca and Nabucco with Sarasota Opera.

Mr. Gaertner has also been a frequent performer of opera in concert. He appeared with Teatro Grattacielo at Alice Tully Hall in New York City as Cristiano in Zandonai’s I Cavalieri di Ekebù and as Cascart in Leoncavallo’s Zazà (the latter under the baton of the late Alfredo Silipigni). He also made several appearances with Opera Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall: as Sonora in La Fanciulla del West, Abayaldos in Donizetti’s Dom Sébastien, and Frank in Puccini’s Edgar, all under the baton of founder and music director Eve Queler. He has also sung Macbeth in concert with the Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz and Carlo in La Forza del Destino in concert with New Amsterdam Opera in New York City. He made a stunning U.K. debut in 2015 at London’s Barbican Hall as Cascart in Zazà in concert with Opera Rara and Maurizio Benini conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, garnering high praise from the exigent London press; he also appeared in 2021 at London’s Cadogan Hall as Tamar in Leoncavallo’s Zingari in concert with Opera Rara and Carlo Rizzi conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. These two Opera Rara appearances resulted in studio recordings, both released on Opera Rara CDs to critical acclaim; the Zingari recording earned a nomination for the 2023 International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) in the Opera category.

Mr. Gaertner has performed extensively across North America and Europe in such diverse roles as Riccardo in I Puritani, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, the title roles in Nabucco, Macbeth and Rigoletto, Di Luna in Il Trovatore, Germont in La Traviata, Paolo in Simon Boccanegra, Chorèbe in Les Troyens, Escamillo in Carmen, Amonasro in Aida, Iago in Otello, Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, Tonio and Silvio in Pagliacci, Marcello in La Bohème, Scarpia in Tosca, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Lanceotto in Rachmaninoff’s Francesca da Rimini, the title role in Gianni Schicchi, and Balstrode in Peter Grimes. His other concert appearances have included Britten’s War Requiem at Catholic University in Washington, DC and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble. He has also been the recipient of awards from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, Opera Index Inc. and the Oratorio Society of New York.


Verdi: Falstaff

May 10, 16, 18m, 2025

Portland Opera