Countertenor

David Daniels

“To say that he is the most acclaimed counter-tenor of the day, perhaps the best ever, is to understate his achievement. He is simply a great singer.”
The New York Times

© Robert Recker & Virgin Classics

Introduction

American countertenor David Daniels is known for his superlative artistry, magnetic stage presence and a voice of singular warmth and surpassing beauty, which have helped him redefine the countertenor voice for the modern public.

Highlights include the title role in Orfeo (Royal Opera House, Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago); Orlando, Tamerlano and Rinaldo (Bayerische Staatsoper); the title role in Giulio Cesare (Glyndebourne); Oberon A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Gran Teatro del Liceu); Bertarido Rodelinda (Bolshoi) and his debut at the Wiener Staatsoper as Trinculo in Adès’ The Tempest. He also created the role of Oscar Wilde in Theodore Morrison’s opera Oscar in Santa Fe. He is admired for his performances of lieder and art song and has given recitals in New York, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Barcelona, Moscow and at the Edinburgh, Tanglewood and Ravinia Festivals.

David was the recipient of Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year for 1999 and the 1997 Richard Tucker Award.  He was also the recipient of an Opera News Award in 2013. He is Professor of Music at the University of Michigan.

 


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Discography

 
  • HANDEL Serse More info  

    Label: Chandos

    Release Date: 26 Aug 13

    Conductor: Christian Curnyn

    Serse: Anna Stephany
    Romilda: Rosemary Joshua
    Arsamene: David Daniels
    Amastre: Hilary Summers
    Atalanta: Joélle Harvey
    Ariodate: Brindley Sherratt
    Elviro: Andreas Wolf

    Early Opera Company

  • 07 Jun 17 50th Anniversary Gala
    Metropolitan Opera
    More info  

    “Baroque opera was compellingly represented by a duet from Giulio Cesare sung by Stephanie Blythe and David Daniels…”
    George Loomis, Opera Magazine, July 2017

  • 13 May 17 GLUCK Orfeo ed Euridice
    Atlanta Symphony Hall
    More info  

    “In their solo roles, countertenor David Daniels and sopranos Janai Brugger and Susanna Phillips were exquisitely sublime. For much of its history, the Gluck opera has been performed by mezzo sopranos singing a role originally written for an operatic castrati. But with the continued prevalence of countertenors — men who sing in a practiced head voice that fits in the mezzo range — many modern performances and recordings have eschewed women in the title role. Daniels, who last sang “Orfeo” in Atlanta with the Atlanta Opera in 2009, has a voice that is unlike anything else. Countertenor voices have been described as otherworldly, a vocal type that somehow sounds a bit off — squeezed, unnatural, lacking power and presence. By this metric, Daniels is not merely a countertenor. Daniels’ overall sound — timbre, dimension, grain, quality — is unmatched.”
    Jon Ross, MyAJC, 12 May 2017

    “Countertenor David Daniels bore the largest share of solo singing in the lead role of Orfeo (aka Orpheus), essentially his signature role. He is an emotive singer with surprising power and rich vocal color, in contrast with many countertenors who tend toward a thin or transparent sound. Both as actor and singer, he suits Orfeo well.”
    Mark Gresham, Arts ATL, 12 May 2017

  • 31 Jan 16 Recital: 31 January 2016
    Terrace Theater
    More info  

    “…four songs by Reynaldo Hahn, fit both artists like a glove. Daniels’s voice has the perfect blend of sweetness and smokiness to bring across these understated gems, starting with “À Chloris”… And he conveyed an aching vulnerability in “Chanson au bord de la fontaine” (Song at the edge of a fountain), in which unaccompanied vocal lines — here given poignancy…”

    “The Beethoven and Hahn sets, as well as five Brahms songs presented with expert nuance and fine German, did demonstrate Daniels’s stylistic range and versatility. But there’s no denying that the early music remains a forte. The last song of his Purcell set, “Sweeter than roses,” had the heavy honeyed richness of afternoon flowers. And the lone Handel aria, “Dove sei” from “Rodelinda,” a slow and melodious excerpt, hit a sweet spot in his voice, showing that this operatic repertoire remains home turf.”

    “…four marvelous American folk-song settings by Steven Mark Kohn, in which quietly expressive piano parts and Daniels’s sensitivity found ways to vary the simple light words (of, say, “On the other shore”) in telling ways. Then came two encores, both perfectly understandable even without printed texts (a tribute to Daniels’s excellent diction): Poulenc’s “La belle jeunesse” and Alec Wilder’s “Blackberry Winter.” ”
    Anne Midgette, Washington Post, 1 February 2016

  • 04 Jul 15 Andrew Carnegie Anniversary Celebration
    Queen's Hall Edinburgh
    More info  

    “Daniels is a versatile singer whose mellifuous tones are well-suited to a variety of styles; from Purcell arias to the witty delivery of a clutch of American folksongs including ‘The Curst Farmer’s Wife and Ten Thousand Miles Away…”

    “…The duo’s performance of Vaughan Williams’ suite of songs set to Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Songs of Travel’ was mesmirising…”

    “Daniel’s flair for the dramatic was to the fore in Britten’s ‘Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac’ where he was joined by American tenor james Kryshak. The singers beautifully highlighted the tension between the flancing vocal dissonaces and the piano melodrama in this equisite work.”
    Susan Nickalls, The Scotsman, 6 July 2015

  • 14 Jun 15 ADES The Tempest
    Wiener Staatsoper
    More info  

    “Aus dem hochklassigen Ensemble ragen der Tenor Thomas Ebenstein als gar nicht monsterhafter Caliban, der Countertenor David Daniels als Trunkenbold Trinculo, Herbert Lippert als schmerzgebeugter König von Neapel sowie Sorin Coliban als profunder Gonzalo hervor.”

    “Stand-outs from the high quality ensemble cast include…the countertenor David Daniels as the drunkard Trinculo…”
    Ernst Naredi-Rainer, Kleine Zeitung, 16 June 2015

    “Die Hofgesellschaft – köstlich abgerundet durch die Rüpel David Daniels (im Counter-Bereich) und Dan Paul Dumitrescu (als Basso profondo) – führt Herbert Lippert als König an: Sein gefühlvoller Trauergesang auf den scheinbar verlorenen Sohne fließt in eine regelrechte Chaconne, mit der Adés nach Manier barocker Meister sein Werk kunstgerecht und stilbewusst beendet. Bei alledem wird (auch vom Chor) noch filmreif gespielt! Tatsächlich: Der Jubel ist berechtigt.”

    “The court society – deliciously rounded off by the bully David Daniels ( the Counter-tenor )…The praise is justified.”
    Wilhelm Sinkovicz, Die Presse, 15th June 2015

    “…David Daniels (Trinculo) pulled out all the stops for their comic episodes as the inebriated pair…”
    Moore Parker, The Opera Critic, 18th June 2015

  • 06 Feb 15 MORRISON Oscar
    Opera Philadelphia
    More info  

    “A sterling cast also helps, too, starting with countertenor David Daniels in the title role, a role written with him in mind…deliver every word with conviction, shape every phrase sensitively.”
    Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, 12 February 2015

    “The opera was conceived as a showpiece for the world’s most prominent counter-tenor, David Daniels, and Daniels’s singing is superb, displaying more power than we hear in baroque operas.”
    Steve Cohen, The Opera Critic, February 2015

    “Daniels conquered as Oscar Wilde. He’s onstage for well over two hours: “tour de force” doesn’t begin cover it.  Daniels’s Wilde is a steel green carnation, at his best in the aria “My sweet rose,” the most memorable tune in the opera. This was simply great performance.”
    Roy Wood, Parterre.com, 7 February 2015

    “Countertenor David Daniels gave a very effective performance, showing Wilde’s pride and occasional arrogance, but also the pain and despair of his incarceration and the ensuing humility.”
    David Browning, Bachtrack.com, 8 February 2015

  • 15 Oct 14 HANDEL Partenope
    San Francisco Opera
    More info  

    “Countertenor David Daniels is never less than arresting onstage, but even by those standards his Arsace was a triumph: full-toned, expressively probing and marked by vivid vocal colors.”
    Joshua Kosman, SFGate, 16 October 2014

    “Countertenor David Daniels, a veteran Handel singer, was the evening’s standout as Arsace. His voice is a marvel: large, brilliant and full of feeling. And he’s equally adept in the role’s comic business. His account of the aria “Ch’io parta” combined melting beauty and an apt air of devastation.”
    Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News, 16 October 2014

    “Illustrious countertenor David Daniels also gives an exemplary performance…”
    Janos Gereben, San Francisco Examiner, 16 October 2014

    “Arsace (the great countertenor David Daniels)…He was his as-ever top-notch counter-tenor. Later, with Arsace’s sleep aria, “Mà quai note,” he would work his expressive magic.”
    Robert P. Commanday, San Francisco Classical Voice, 16 October 2014

  • 07 Apr 14 HANDEL Hercules
    Canadian Opera Company
    More info  

    “The pure countertenor of David Daniels captured the essence of Lichas, a good friend who seems unable to help in any way…”
    Richard Ouzounian, The Toronto Star, 7 April 2014

    “David Daniels was powerful as the herald Lichas (his first gorgeous aria sets the tone for the entire evening).”
    Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail, 7 April 2014

  • 04 Mar 14 The Enchanted Island
    Metropolitan Opera, New York
    More info  

    “…the real stars of the show — David Daniels as Prospero, the exiled duke of Milan; and Susan Graham as the sorceress Sycorax, Prospero’s former lover (in this presentation) and Caliban’s mother — came into their own in Act II, each with meltingly poignant, exquisite numbers of love, loss or regret.”
    James R. Oestreich, New York Times, 28 February 2014

    David Daniels reprised the part of Prospero…his lovely phrasing, control, and stage presence still keep him in the front ranks of countertenors.
    Eric Myers, New York Classical Review, 27 February 2014
    “…in our Renaissance of countertenor singing, aficionados of that vocal type will find much to please them. David Daniels’s Prospero recalled his greatest Handelian singing, by turns affecting and virile.”

    Paul du Quenoy, ConcertoNet, 26 February 2014

    “Daniels still does pathos very well.”
    John Rockwell, Opera, May 2014

  • 28 Jan 14 HANDEL Theodora
    Concert Tour with The English Concert/Bicket
    More info  

    “Countertenor David Daniels brought his trademark technical fluency and bright sound to the role of Didymus.”
    Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 January 2014

    “Daniels approaches Didymus from the inside out, and the countertenor’s eloquent fervor is reaching new depths.”
    Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 29 January 2014

    “His singing of ‘The raptur’d soul defies the sword’ was energetic, and ‘Kind Heav’n, if virtue be thy care’ provided opportunities for deployment of his celebrated bravura technique.  Mr. Daniels’s exuberant singing of ‘Deeds of kindness to display,’ crowned with stunning high notes, soared, and his performance of ‘Sweet rose and lily, flow’ry form’ was as entrancing a serenade as any damsel in distress might desire.  The first of his duets with Theodora, ‘To thee, thou glorious son of worth,’ was captivatingly done.  The pinnacle of Mr. Daniels’s performance—and, indeed, of the performance as a whole—was ‘Streams of pleasure ever flowing,’ which was phrased with an abundance of sensitivity that emphasized Händel’s inspired setting of the text.  In the subsequent duet with Theodora, ‘Thither let our hearts aspire,’ Mr. Daniels’s tone took on an ethereal quality that aptly conveyed the transfiguration of Didymus’s martyrdom.”
    Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts, 31 January 2014

    “Daniels has been singing this role for over a decade, and his voice sounds as youthful and sweet as ever.”
    George Grella, New York Classical Review, 3 February 2014

  • 20 Nov 13 HANDEL Agrippina
    Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona
    More info  

    “David Daniels dibujaba un Ottone impecable, aportando una voz en plenitud y una actuación escénica igual de sobresaliente.”
    Pablo Melendez-Haddad, ABC Cataluna, 18 November 2013

    “Daniels es siempre una garantía de técnica y estilo… ”
    Jorge Binaghi, Mundo Clasico, 26 November 2013

  • 16 Aug 13 HANDEL Serse
    Early Opera Company/Curnyn (Chandos CD, 2013)
    More info  

    “David Daniels colours his tone sensitively in the grief-laden ‘Non so se sia la speme’ and relishing the indignant coloratura brilliance of his one bravura aria, ‘Sì, la voglio’.”
    Richard Wigmore, Gramophone, September 2013

    “David Daniels as Arsamene matches [Rosemary] Joshua for steadiness of purpose and the sincerity of his musical realisation of Arsamene’s emotional turmoil, notably so in ‘Non so se sia la speme’ and ‘Quella che tutta fé’.”
    Curtis Rogers, Classical Source, September 2013

    “Romilda is brilliantly sung by Rosemary Joshua, ideally matched to the Arsamene of David Daniels, whose lamenting arias approach the sublime here.  A total success.”
    Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 6 October 2013

    “David Daniels’ Arsamene is vocally buoyant, musically graceful and dramatically engaged.”
    George Hall, Opera, January 2014

    “Rosemary Joshua’s Romilda is her father’s child with nobility in the voice yet also a vulnerable femininity while her beau David Daniels is as strapping and heroic as a counter-tenor can manage.”
    Warwick Arnold, Limelight, 19 February 2014

  • 01 Aug 13 MORRISON Oscar
    Santa Fe Opera
    More info  

    “Co-commissioned by the SFO and Opera Philadephia, Oscar was written for David Daniels in the taxing title role, and he’s as fluent, flexible and gorgeous as ever. His countertenor never sounded better than in the legato aria, ‘My sweet rose,’ and in the final sort-of duet, ‘Sweet, I blame you not,’ for singer and dancer.”
    John Stege, Santa Fe Reporter, 30 July 2013

    “Santa Fe has given the opera a brilliant launch…the countertenor David Daniels looks amazingly like Wilde, sings handsomely and projects the writer’s widely fluctuating emotions.”
    George Loomis, The Financial Times, 4 August 2013

    Daniels portrays the cleaned-up Wilde with great sensitivity, and he sings most expressively.
    Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 2 August 2013

    “The title role was written for countertenor David Daniels, who acted and sang through a long evening in as compelling, fresh and pliant a voice as this writer has ever heard from him.”
    Rodney Punt, Huffington Post, 6 August 2013

    “Mr. Daniels was superb, not only singing but also acting the role with a savvy Wildean mix of arrogance and vulnerability. His sustained tone was beautiful, and his occasional purposeful flirtations with a baritonal register were amusing.”
    James R. Oestreich, New York Times, 1 August 2013

    “David Daniels at the top of the cast list, brought exceptional beauty and sensitivity to the title role.”
    Charles T. Downey, The Classical Review, 1 August 2013

    “As Oscar, Daniels is absolutely superb. Shorn of his dark beard and blonded up, he looks exactly like existing photos of Wilde. His mannerisms are never fey, but there is no doubt that he is gay. Vocally, he is magnificent. Although the runs and roulades of Baroque music feel snuck in to show off his abilities, his legendarily clean execution of the most complex passages are also a marvel here. On the decidedly un-Baroque side, his passionate singing in the intense moments rival that any purveyor of Puccini’s Tosca or Strauss’ Electra could muster.”
    Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones, 14 August 2013

    “David Daniels was excellent in the part, ably dispatching several aria-like pieces, the most memorable of which enlisted coloratura to express Wilde’s appalled reaction to Reading gaol.  Costumed by David C. Woolard, he looked amazingly like Wilde.”
    George Loomis, Opera, November 2013

  • 04 Apr 13 HANDEL Giulio Cesare
    Metropolitan Opera, New York
    More info  

    “Daniels was in excellent voice as Cesare, a role he performed here six seasons ago. That occasion marked the first time the Met used a countertenor for the part. From the opening aria to ‘Va, tacito,’ Daniels mastered the difficult run of trills and sang with force and clarity throughout.”
    Wilborn Hampton, The Huffington Post, 4 April 2013

    “In the title role, David Daniels showed why he is still the world’s premiere countertenor. Working harder technically seems to have brought even greater focus to his estimable musicianship. High notes and other special effects were well-judged, and his command of this role, the accompanied recitatives and the virtuosic ‘Qual torrente’ especially, is complete.”
    Judith Malafronte, The Classical Review, 5 April 2013

    “Mr. Daniels, who played Caesar at the Met in 2007 is again remarkable, singing with his full-bodied sound, emphatic delivery and technical command. He conveys the emperor’s vulnerability when he finds himself bewitched by Cleopatra or touched by the anguish of the suffering Cornelia. But when called for, Mr. Daniels can make fun of himself, as in a spirited aria when Caesar must rush from Cleopatra’s chambers to avoid the advancing forces of Ptolemy. As Mr. Daniels stops to dispatch bravura run after bravura run, Ms. Dessay’s frantic Cleopatra keeps trying to push him out the door to safety.”
    Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 5 April 2013

    “As Cesare, Mr. Daniels demonstrated that he is the master of this repertoire. He works harder in the florid passages these days, but every phrase hit the mark beautifully, and he made Cesare amusingly pompous as well as heroic.”

    Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal, 9 April 2013

    “David Daniels as Caesar commands attention…he played and sang the warrior as believably as the smitten lover.”
    Robert Levine, Classics Today, 12 April 2013

    “David Daniels’s innate musical integrity made him a commanding Cesare, even when executing a military-drill-cum-dance-routine in ‘Va tacito’.”
    F. Paul Driscoll, Opera News, June 2013

  • 10 Feb 13 HANDEL Radamisto
    Concert Tour with The English Concert/Bicket
    More info  

    “The title role was written for a star soprano and adapted for an even bigger star castrato; here it was starrily cast with countertenor David Daniels. The role played to his strengths…it was a beautiful vehicle for the vibrant tone and astounding breath control for which Daniels has always been celebrated.”
    Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 11 February 2013

    “David Daniels showed his vast experience as an affectingly vulnerable Radamisto.”
    Hugo Shirley, The Telegraph, 11 February 2013

    “Carnegie Hall was well filled with voice aficionados on Sunday afternoon for a concert performance of Handel’s Radamisto, with the fine period-instrument band English Concert deftly conducted from the harpsichord by Harry Bicket. And they got what they came for. The nominal attraction was the countertenor David Daniels in the title role, but the casting was strong across the board. The bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni nearly stole the show, as his characterizations so often do, with his bullying, blustery Tidirate (though Mr. Daniels momentarily upstaged him in return, standing to acknowledge and extend applause for his performance of Radamisto’s great aria ‘Ombra cara,’ just as Mr. Pisaroni was attempting a stage entrance). Mr. Pisaroni made the most of his bravura moments and commanded the stage with his physical presence as well as with his voice.
    The other main characters all had lyrical showcases in addition to vocal fireworks, and that is where Mr. Daniels really shone. His more subdued and reflective arias, especially that ‘Ombra cara,’ were nothing but gorgeous.”

    James R. Oestreich, New York Times, 25 February 2013

  • 13 Feb 12 HANDEL Rinaldo
    Lyric Opera of Chicago
    More info  

    “It’s hard to imagine a ‘Rinaldo’ better served musically than it is by Lyric’s international cast — starring countertenor David Daniels in the title role — and presided over by Baroque specialist Harry Bicket. Daniels makes the resolute hero a sympathetic presence throughout. The American countertenor vents Rinaldo’s grief affectingly in his emotionally charged ‘Cara sposa’, before tossing off the virtuosic roulades of ‘Venti, turbini’ [and] musters enough stamina to make it all the way through to the martial showstopper, ‘Or la tromba’, supported by four trumpets.
    John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, 2 March 2012

    Mr. Daniels was affecting as he mourned his abducted sweetheart in ‘Cara sposa,’ and thrilling in the martial ‘Or la tromba,’ snapping out vivid ornaments in duet with the accompanying trumpet.”
    Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal, 6 March 2012

    “Mr. Daniels, a commanding Rinaldo, dispatches virtuosic passagework with aplomb, elegantly bends lyrical phrases and shows the character’s growth from callow hero to questioning man awed by life and love.”
    Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 1 March 2012

    “Daniels continues to display the ultimate artistry of the countertenor, especially in the remarkable series of runs, trills and roulades that flow through three acts.”
    Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times, 1 March 2012

  • 31 Dec 11 The Enchanted Island
    Metropolitan Opera, New York
    More info  

    “Prospero, here the charismatic countertenor David Daniels [who sings] with a transfixing blend of melting sound and forceful delivery.”
    Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 1 January 2012

    “Daniels gives a commanding performance as Prospero, especially in arias near the very beginning and at the end. These are solemn works which he invests with a simplicity and intimacy that gives them great emotional power.”
    Howard Kissel, Huffington Post, 1 January 2012

  • 10 May 10 HANDEL Serse
    Houston Grand Opera
    More info  

    “Daniels’ powerful Arsamenes reconfirmed his status as opera’s top countertenor. He distinguished every aria with his purity of sound and clarity of placement, the sense of great vocal force with seeming effortlessness. While fine in arias of frenzied consternation, his role boasts several beautiful laments, and Daniels’ work was especially distinguished in that emotionally wounded vein.”
    Everett Evans, Houston Chronicle, 2 May 2010

  • 07 May 07 GLUCK Orfeo
    Metropolitan Opera, New York
    More info  

    “Few singers sound as poignantly natural as Mr. Daniels: he’s a wonder, with a warm, virile voice of enormous expressivity. The opening scene takes place at a solitary grove where Orfeo mourns over the ashes of Euridice, his beloved wife. As the chorus sang Gluck’s gravely forlorn hymn, Mr. Daniels cried out three times ‘Euridice,’ singing with a haunting blend of intensity and elegance. He also proved a master of ambiguity. During the scene in Elysium when Orfeo, come to claim his wife from the dead, is transfixed by the lush beauty of the sunny fields, Mr. Daniels sang the blissfully subdued aria ‘Che puro ciel’ with awestruck tenderness. At the same time he conveyed the underlying anxiety in Gluck’s dangerously seductive music. This Orfeo had to steel himself lest he become enchanted with life in Elysium.”
    Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 4 May 2007

  • 10 Jul 06 HANDEL Giulio Cesare
    Glyndebourne Festival Opera
    More info  

    “In its range of colour, articulation and expressive power, Daniels’ singing is superb, a reminder that there is no better counter tenor in the world today, while his exuberant stage presence fits seamlessly into McVicar’s production.”
    Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 7 August 2006

    “As Cesare, David Daniels played the swaggering general with flair, and sang his more melancholy arias with sensitivity and elegance.”
    Rupert Christiansen, 8 August 2006

Repertoire

BACH
Christmas Oratorio
Mass in B Minor
St John Passion
St Matthew Passion

BERLIOZ
Les Nuits d’été

BRITTEN
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon)

GLUCK
Orfeo (title role)

HANDEL
Agrippina (Ottone)
L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato
Hercules (Lichas)
Giulio Cesare (title role)
Imeneo (Tirinto)
Messiah
Orlando (title role)
Partenope (Arsace)
Radamisto (title role)
Rinaldo (title role)
Rodelinda (Bertarido)
Saul (David)
Serse (Arsemenes)
Tamerlano (title role)
Theodora (Didymus)

THEODORE MORRISON
Oscar (title role)

MONTEVERDI
L’incoronazione di Poppea (Nerone)

MOZART
Mitridate (Farnace)

PERGOLESI
Stabat Mater

VIVALDI
Bajazet (title role)
Griselda (Roberto)
Stabat Mater