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Founding Artistic Director, Grayson Hirst

Grayson Hirst

Grayson Hirst in Pisa, Italy

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The New York Times has called Grayson Hirst “a stylish singer with a naturally beautiful voice” … “a tenor of acknowledged intelligence and good taste” … “he has a flexible voice, style and excellent musicianship” … “Mr. Hirst sang with the ease and sensibility expected of him” … “a first-class singer.”

The distinguished American tenor Grayson Hirst has performed with leading American orchestras from Alaska to Puerto Rico, among them the Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, National, San Francisco, and St. Louis Symphonies, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the New York Chamber Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic.

The versatile tenor launched his operatic career with a prestigious New York debut at Carnegie Hall singing the stratospheric role of Tonio in the American Opera Society’s revival of Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment with Beverly Sills. His highly acclaimed New York City Opera debut as Peter Quint in Britten’s opera The Turn of the Screw took place soon after.  Grayson Hirst went on to appear in more than 70 leading roles with numerous opera companies throughout the United States, among them the Boston, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Mississippi, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Rhode Island, San Diego, Toledo, Washington, and Virginia Opera Companies, the San Antonio Symphony Opera Festival, Birmingham Civic Opera, and Opera Company of Jacksonville, Houston Grand Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and the San Francisco Opera T heater, to name a few. Being named recipient of a coveted J. Ralph Corbett International Opera Fellowship enabled Grayson Hirst to secure a contract with Stadttheater Bern in Switzerland.  There, his diverse roles ranged from Count Belfiore in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera to Fürst Edwin in the Viennese operetta Die Csárdásfüstin.

Known as a versatile singing actor not limited to the standard repertoire alone, Mr. Hirst turned with equal sureness of technique and style from the works of Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner to the world premier creation of lyric dramas by many of today’s most celebrated operatic composers.  In 1972, Grayson Hirst created the main tenor role, Msgr. Orsino, in the world premiere of Alberto Ginastera’s Beatrix Cenci, the first opera presented during the inaugural week ceremonies celebrating the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  A list of others who have entrusted premiere performances of their works to Grayson Hirst reads like a who’s who of prominent composers in the latter half of the twentieth century: Hugh Aitken, Jack Beeson, Leonard Bernstein, Ezra Laderman, Frank Martin, Tom Pasatieri, Ned Rorem, Roger Sessions, Robert Starer, Hugh Weisgal, Virgil Thomson, and Eugene Zador.

Concert, opera, and recital appearances in China, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Hungary, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, and Brazil have brought international recognition to the California-born tenor.

Notwithstanding the impressive list of standard, Renaissance, and contemporary operatic roles to his credit, Grayson Hirst extended his range beyond the field of opera and distinguished himself as a polished oratorio singer and concert recitalist. Of Mr. Hirst’s many vocal/orchestral achievements, which range from the Verdi Requiem to Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis to Dvorák’s Stabat Mater, and from Szymanowski’s  Symphony No. 3 (The Song of the Night) to Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio , one stands out as the supreme test for the oratorio tenor—the role of the Evangelist in J.S. Bach’s Matthäus-Passion.  Grayson Hirst has sung this work from Carnegie Hall to Kalamazoo with, among others, New York’s Musica Sacra and St. Cecilia, the Aspen Music Festival, the Austin Choral Union, the Rochester Bach festival, and the Berkshire Choral Festival.  His Evangelist was seen over live nationwide television when PBS presented performances of the St. Matthew Passion via satellite from the Lindsborg Festival in Kansas in 1986.  On Good Friday evening in 1979, Mr. Hirst was the tenor soloist in J.S. Bach’s Matthäus-Passion with the Handel and Hayden Society in Boston’s Symphony Hall.  That historic performance celebrated the 100th anniversary of the American premier of Bach’s work by the Society and marked the occasion of the first-ever live radio broadcast transmitted nationwide via satellite.  Frequent appearances with many of America’s leading oratorio and chamber music societies, among them New York’s Amor Artis, St. Cecilia, and Musica Sacra, Washington’s Choral Arts Society, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, the Oratorio Society of Washington, D.C., the Bethlehem Bach Festival, the Columbia Pro Cantare, the Kennedy Center Handel Festival, the New England Bach Festival, the Berkshire Choral Festival, Great Performances at Lincoln Center, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center rounded out Mr. Hirst’s busy schedule.

His national opera telecasts and music festival appearances have included PBS, NBC, CBS, Artpark, Newport, Aspen, Caramoor, Lindsborg, Kalamazoo, Flagstaff, Alaska, Colorado, Wolf Trap, Saratoga, Marlboro, Brattleboro, Madeira, Sedona, and Bard.

Mr. Hirst has recorded opera and oratorio for Disque VDE Gallo and for CRI, Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin for Leonarda Records. His digital compact- laser- disc recordings of Janácek’s The Diary of One Who Vanished for Arabesque records were nominated for a Grammy Award. Other recordings include a disc of unknown songs by Dvorák for Spectrum Records, Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea and the Heinrich Schütz Matthäus-Passion for Newport Classic Recordings, and Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, op. 31, for Vox Cum Laude. 

Recognized internationally as a stellar performer, Grayson Hirst’s career extended beyond his notable achievements as a singer to include distinction as an educator.  From 1986-2015, he balanced the responsibilities of his position as a professor of voice at the University of Arizona with the demands of a busy performing and recording schedule.  Grayson Hirst is the director of Sons of Orpheus—the Male Choir of Tucson, a not-for-profit community choral organization he founded in the fall of 1991.  He frequently serves as an adjudicator of competitions, among them the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the Concert Artist’s Guild Auditions.  Mr. Hirst has served as an advisory panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts Music Program.  He brought over 40 years of experience in opera, oratorio, art song, and vocal chamber music, and his abundant knowledge in the areas of interpretation, diction, language, style, and vocal technique to his master classes presented throughout the United States.

Grayson Hirst is a scholarship alumnus of UCLA, the Music Academy of the West, the Metropolitan Opera Studio, the Aspen Music Festival School, and The Juilliard School where he was a protégé of the renowned Jennie Tourel.



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