American baritone John Chest, winner of the prestigious 2010 Stella Maris International Vocal Competition and the Arleen Auger Prize in the 2012 Hertogenbosch International Vocal Competition, is on the verge of a major operatic career.
Chest has held apprenticeships with the Santa Fe Opera and the Chicago Opera Theatre, and took part in the prestigious Merola Opera Programme. He is a recent graduate of the Opera Studio at the Bayerische Staatsoper, where he sang over eighty performances including Fiorello Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Schaunard La Bohème, Lovec Rusalka, Petrucci Lucrezia Borgia, Carmen with Jonas Kaufmann, La Bohème with Anja Harteros, and Lucrezia Borgia with Edita Gruberova. Other past roles include Dandini La Cenerentola, Guglielmo Così fan tutte and Il Conte Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro. Equally passionate about art song, Chest is a frequent recitalist and last season also saw his first performance of Die Schöne Müllerin.
Highlights of the 2011/12 season included Chest’s role debut as Ned Keene in a new production of Peter Grimes at the Norwegian Opera, Il Conte Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro for the Nationale Reisopera and, at the end of the season, Nardo La finta giardiniera at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Engagements this season include Masetto Don Giovanni in Bari, a recital at the Wigmore Hall and revivals of La finta giardiniera in Morocco and in Luxembourg. In the 2013/14 season he will take up a Fest contract with Deutsche Oper Berlin, the highlight of which will be his debut in the title role of Billy Budd in a new production by David Alden.
Chest holds a master’s degree in music from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he studied with David Holloway.
John Chest is represented by Intermusica.
May 2012 / 244 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Roberto in Mozart La Finta Giardiniera / Luxembourg, Grand-Théâtre
cond. Andreas Spering / dir. Vincent Boussard
“… masterfully interpreted by American baritone John Chest”
Pierre Degott, resmusica.com, March 2013
Recital: Barber, Schumann & Wolf / Historischer Reitstadel
acc. Marcelo Amaral
“Chest has a solid, earthy baritone voice, capable of showing every vocal nuance. [...]
The highlight of the concert was Robert Schumann‘s Liederkreis op. 24. Chest began in a casual narrative tone, then opened up a great range of expression, which is only slightly less than that of the great cycles of Schumann’s more mature years. Especially effective and moving was ‘Ich wandelte unter den Blumen’ with the pinch of irony typical of Heine’s texts, yet still with gripping depths of emotion.
Chest created a wonderful legato in ‘Schöne Wiege meiner Lieder’, and attacked ‘Warte, warte’ with emphasis. This was Romanticism without tasteless sugar-coating: it was soothingly melodious sound, declamatory sincerity with touches of the theatrical. This was also true of the extracts from Hugo Wolf‘s Mörike-Liedern, where the typical parlando style of his ‘Liederbüchern’ meets extreme expression.”
„Genauso wie der verfügt Chest [...] über einen substanzreichen, kernigen Bariton, dem nahezu alle sängerischen Nuancen zugänglich sind.
[...] die ganz großen Momente hatte Chest dann doch mit Robert Schumann und seinem Liederkreis op. 24. Den beginnt er mit einer erzählenden Beiläufigkeit und öffnet dann einen Ausdrucksradius, der nur weniges hinter den großen Zyklen von Schumanns Reifezeit zurücksteht. Besonders überzeugend, geradezu anrührend gelang ‚Ich wandelte unter den Blumen‘ mit der typischen Prise Ironie im Heine-Text und trotzdem packender Gefühlstiefe.
Wunderbar gelang Chest das Legato von ‚Schöne Wiege meiner Lieder‘, die attackierende Emphase von ‚Warte, warte‘. Das war Romantik ohne jeden geschmäcklerischen Zuckerrand, balsamischer Wohlklang, deklamatorischer Ernst mit der Möglichkeit auch des Komödiantischen. Gleiches galt auch für die wenigen Beispiele von Hugo Wolfs Mörike-Liedern, wo sich ein typischer Parlandostil wie in seinen ‚Liederbüchern‘ mit extremen Ausdrucksbereichen begegnet“.
Uwe Mitsching, nordbayern.de, November 2012
Recital with Ensemble del Arte
“John Chest sang with a beautiful timbre; soft and full in the deeper range, powerful and focussed in the higher range, and with outstanding diction. His voice shone out right to the very back of the sold-out hall, emphasising his vivid phrasing and noteworthy musicality (…). It was refreshing to hear the supreme ease, musical competence and refined tone with which the Ensemble together with the excellent baritone soloist John Chest performed the very demanding Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.
“The impressive baritone John Chest gave the conflicting feelings of this love-sick and inconsolable soul space, form and an authentic presence. Chest has an expressive voice with a warm timbre, powerful stamina and considerable volume. Pure intonation, natural phrasing and excellent diction were the cornerstones of this dramatically commanding performance of great intensity. The thunderous applause was well-earned!”
Bruno Turchet, Donaukurier, May 2012
Lieder Recital / Landsberg
“Barely had pianist Marcelo Amaral played the opening bars and American baritone John Chest begun to sing ‘Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust’, that it became apparent to the audience of fifty music-lovers that this would be a very special concert.
John Chest’s voice was youthful and fresh, yet also powerful and imbued with astounding lyrical qualities. He performed the cycle of 20 songs in his own personal way, and showed an artistic maturity beyond his years.
John Chest gave proof of a markedly clean enunciation, singing the romantic lyrics without a trace of an American accent, never stumbling over an umlaut or a typically German vowel, and underlying it all with a beautiful, soft vibrato.
The young baritone visibly put himself into the relevant emotional state before beginning each song, and so his performance gained additional credibility. His performance was always engaged and fresh, and he never resorted to cheap showmanship.
The hour-and-a-half of recital flew by, and the audience showed their enthusiasm with heart-felt applause. The musicians thanked their audience with an encore of Brahms’ ‘Meine Liebe ist grün’, where John Chest once again demonstrated the power of his voice.”
Augsburger Allgemeine, April 2011
Schaunard in Puccini La Bohème / Bavarian State Opera, Munich
“John Chest used his virile baritone to telling effect as Schaunard – his realisation that Mimi had expired in the last act was truly gut-wrenching.”
What’s On Stage, December 2010
Winner of Stella Maris Competition
“…he triumphed with some challenging repertoire… In the song/oratorio segment he chilled the blood with ‘Auf dem Fluss’ from Winterreise, and in the final round… his ‘Look, through the port’ from Billy Budd ran subtle and deep…
The poised intensity of Chest’s presence and delivery complements the dark, rich colours in his voice, but the quicksilver wit of Rossini’s Figaro is also in his armoury, as he proved in both ‘Largo al factotum’ and in the duet ‘Dunque io son’…”
Yehuda Shapiro, Opera Now, November 2010