Hailing from the Santa Cruz mountains of California, bass-baritone Christian Pursell is a rising star among the next generation of singers. His post-pandemic season kicks off with his role debut as Escamillo in Carmen at Cincinnati Opera in July 2021, followed by appearances as Escamillo with Houston Grand Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Mr. Pursell returns to the Bay Area in December 2021 to perform in Handel’s Messiah with San Francisco Symphony, and will join Arizona Musicfest in February 2022 for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
A graduate of the prestigious Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera, Mr. Pursell’s performance credits with the company include Lieutenant Ratcliffe in Billy Budd, Walter Raleigh in Roberto Devereux the Jailer in Tosca, Count Lamoral in Arabella under the baton of Marc Albrecht, and an Angel in It’s a Wonderful Life conducted by Patrick Summers. Previous roles performed include Marcello in La Bohème, Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore, Pandolfe in Cendrillon, Harašta in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Liberto/Littore in L’Incoronazione di Poppea.
Other recent opera engagements include debuts at Wiener Staatsoper as Second Englishman in Prokofiev’s The Gambler, Houston Grand Opera as Tom in Laura Kaminsky’s Some Light Emerges, and a critically acclaimed performance of Dandini in La Cenerentola with the Merola Opera Program.
As a concert soloist, Mr. Pursell has performed Samuel in Handel’s Saul with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in Walt Disney Concert Hall, a concert version of Strauss’ Salome with the Fabio Luisi and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and performances of Britten’s War Requiem, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Haydn’s The Creation, Faure’s Requiem, Pärt’s Passio. His first commercial recording, the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was released in 2017.
Pursell most recently won 3rd prize in the 2021 James Toland Vocal Arts competition. He is the recipient of the 2019 Igor Gorin Memorial Award, and is a national semi-finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (2016). He is a Richard F. Gold Career Grant recipient (2018), winner of the Partners for the Arts competition (2018), second award winner of the Jensen Foundation competition (2017), winner of the Theodor Uppman Award from the Sullivan Foundation (2017), and recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation (2017).
A native of Santa Cruz, California, Mr. Pursell is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and received his Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.