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William Watson (Tenor)

Born: USA

The American tenor, William Watson, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Carthage College, with additional study at the American Conservatory of Music and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.

William Watson has performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Capriccio by Richard Strauss, Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk by Dmitri Shostakovich, and most recently created the role of President Van Buren in the world premiere production of Amistad by Anthony Davis. With Cleveland Opera, he has sung Jaquino in Fidelio, Pedrillo in Entfuehrung aus dem Serail, and David in Meistersinger. He has performed several times with Chicago Opera Theater, from his debut as Tonio in Daughter of the Regiment to Pedrolino in W.A. Mozart’s Jewel Box. Watson has sung leading roles with Palm Beach Opera, Texas Opera Theater, Pennsylvania Opera Theater, and Central City Opera. In Europe, he performed for two seasons at the Aachen Stadttheater in Germany, appearing in Cosi fan tutte, Idomeneo (Idamante), and Verkaufte Braut (Wenzel). He also sang Cosi at the San Sebastian Festival in Spain, Cenerentola at the Europera Festival in France, and L’elisir d’amore in Klagenfurt, Austria.

William Watson has been guest soloist with major symphony orchestras throughout the USA and Canada, including those in Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Montreal, Milwaukee, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra with such conductors as Sir Georg Solti, Leonard Slatkin, Jesús López-Cobos, Hugh Wolff, Lukas Foss, Mark Elder, and Charles Dutoit. He has also sung with the orchestras of Alabama, Buffalo, Nashville, Dayton, Wichita, Oregon, Jacksonville, Fort Wayne, Monterey, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and New York’s Orchestra of St. Luke’s, with which he made his Carnegie Hall debut.

William Watson continues to develop his reputation as one of America’s finest J.S. Bach Evangelists. St. Matthew (BWV 244) performances include the Alabama Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Winter Park Bach Festival, Albany Pro Musica, Pro Arte Chorale (NJ), as well as the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (ON) and his debut in the Netherlands with the Noord Nederlands Orkest. William Watson’s St. John (BWV 245) Evangelist appearances include the symphonies of New Jersey, Youngstown, and Kitchener-Waterloo. Other concert appearances have included Carmel Bach Festival, Baltimore Choral Arts, Grant Park Music Festival (Chicago), Vancouver Chamber Choir, Les Violons du Roy (Quebec), Choral Arts Philadelphia, Bach Society of St. Louis, Berkshire Choral Institute, and New York’s St. Cecilia Chorus at Carnegie Hall.

In a long association with Chicago’s esteemed Music of the Baroque, William Watson has performed a long list of works, including all the major works of Bach; most of the major oratorios of George Frideric Handel plus his operas, Alcina and Semele; many works of Purcell; the operas of Monteverdi and other Baroque masters; and several works of W.A. Mozart and Haydn.

2001 has been highly successful and diverse year for William Watson. He performed at Carnegie Hall as J.S. Bach St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) Evangelist with the Oratorio Society of New York. With Chicago Opera Theater he sang in back-to-back critically acclaimed productions – the role of Amon in Philip Glass’ contemporary opera Akhnaten, followed by the role of Apollo in Monteverdi’s Orfeo. Watson will accompany the latter production to the Brooklyn Academy of Music next spring. On short notice, he jumped into the world premiere production of Philip Glass’ newest opera, In the Penal Colony, performing the lead role of the Visitor. He traveled to Prague to sing with the Czech National Symphony in the Mass in B-flat by Vorisek, recorded by Cedille Records. He performed live on Chicago’s WFMT in Schubert’s Schoene Müllerin. Also on WFMT, as well as nationally on NPR, was a broadcast of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with Watson as the Evangelist with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque. Later this season, he will perform the Bach St. John (BWV 245) Evangelist with the Columbus Bach Ensemble as well as his Magnificat (BWV 245) with the Bethlehem Bach Choir.

William Watson is a visiting assistant professor of voice at the School of Music of Northern Illinois University.

William Watson can be heard on the London Records St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti. He also appears on the Newport Classics CD Where’re You Walk (English Handel arias) and on Cedille Records recent release of the Vorisek Mass in Bflat with the Czech National Symphony.

Source: Northern Illinois University Website; Thea Dispeker Website (October 2001)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2002)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Christine Schumway Mortine


Video: BWV 55

Georg Solti


BWV 244

Links to other Sites

William Watson (Thea Dispeker)
William Watson (Northern Illinois University)
Music of the Baroque Chorus

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