Bass-baritone Kelly Markgraf has been hailed by the New York Times for his “heart-stirring” singing and “charismatic” stage presence. Respected as a singing actor of depth and versatility, he has performed music from the Baroque to that composed expressly for him. In the summer of 2017 he created the role of Paul Jobs in Mason Bates’ premiere The ®evolution of Steve Jobs at the Santa Fe Opera, which later received a 2019 GRAMMY Award for Best Opera Recording. He also created the role of Hannah-Before in Laura Kaminsky’s transgender opera As One, one of the most frequently performed new operas in the United States today. Since its widely acclaimed premiere at BAM, Mr Markgraf has reprised the role many times including recent productions with Opera Colorado and San Diego Opera.
Mr. Markgraf has enjoyed collaboration with some of the world’s most esteemed conductors, including Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Alan Gilbert, Giancarlo Guerrero, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Robertson, Robert Spano, and Edo de Waart. He has performed with the nation’s leading symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, he made his San Francisco Symphony debut as Bernardo in a live concert recording of West Side Story which was later nominated for a GRAMMY Award.
The 2019-20 season held his return to the San Francisco Symphony for staged concerts of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilege alongside Isabel Leonard and under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, and his first foray as baritone soloist in Carmina Burana. 2019-2020’s Covid cancellations included Mr. Markgraf’s South American debut in Saõ Paolo, Brazil in Mozart’s Requiem with Giancarlo Guerrero, and the rescheduling Marc Neikrug’s chamber opera A Song by Mahler. Now slated for 2021, it will premiere at Chamber Music Northwest and tour to the La Jolla, Santa Fe, Lake Champlain, and Toronto Royal Conservatory chamber music festivals. Written for expressly for him and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Cano, the 2020 tour will conclude with a performance with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Future highlights also include a return to Verdi’s Requiem, this time with the Tucson Symphony under the baton of José Luis Gomez.
The 2018-19 season marked the release of his recent world premiere recording with Giancarlo Guerrero and The Nashville Symphony of John Harbison’s Requiem on the Naxos label, and also the release of the premiere recording of As One. In yet another world premiere, Mr. Markgraf created the role of Ring Lardner in Joel Puckett’s THE FIX at Minnesota Opera. The bass-baritone’s 2017-18 season featured his debut with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo for concerts of West Side Story under Paavo Jarvi, encore productions of As One with Chautauqua Opera, Hawaii Opera, and San Diego Opera, and performances of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti with the Tucson Symphony. In the summer of 2018 he collaborated with the Fry Street Quartet for performances of Barber’s Dover Beach at Chautauqua Institute and reprised the role of Sam in Trouble in Tahiti, this time at the National Concert Hall in Taiwan.
As a frequent chamber music collaborator, Mr. Markgraf has appeared at Alice Tully Hall with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and acclaimed pianist Wu Han, as well as the OK Mozart, Chamber Music Northwest, and Music@Menlo festivals. He has twice performed in recital with the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Carnegie Hall, and has collaborated in recital with pianists Gil Kalish and Ken Noda.
Committed to unique collaborations and creating new works, Mr. Markgraf gave the US Premiere of Shostakovich’s War Front Songs at Symphony Space, presented rare songs of Holocaust composer Viktor Ullmann at Alice Tully Hall, portrayed the role of Allazim in Mozart’s unfinished opera Zaide at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, and bowed as Mamoud in John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, conducted by the composer.
An artist of unusual versatility, Mr. Markgraf was lauded for his agile dancing in his portrayal of Dick McGann in Street Scene at Opera Theater of St. Louis, and can be seen on DVD with the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall in choreographed excerpts from West Side Story, along side Thomas Hampson and Yo-Yo Ma.
His discography includes the world-premiere recordings of Harbison’s Requiem on the NAXOS label with Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony, Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, and Carlisle Floyd’s Wuthering Heights, the new definitive recording of West Side Story with the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas and Cheyenne Jackson, two albums of chamber music from the Music@Menlo Festival, and The ®evolution of Steve Jobs which was recorded live during its premiere at The Santa Fe Opera. Mr. Markgraf has been seen on PBS’s nationally televised Great Performances and heard on NPR’s Performance Today. He hold degrees from Boston University, the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, and the Juilliard School.