Possessing a voice that the New York Times calls “heart-stirring” and a “charismatic and powerful” stage presence, American Baritone Kelly Markgraf has distinguished himself as a dynamic artist of commitment and gravity on the opera and concert stages.
In recent seasons, Mr. Markgraf presented the groundbreaking premiere of the world’s first transgender opera, As One, at Brooklyn Academy of Music and again at Utah State University, returned to Madison Opera for his role debut as Pizarro in Fidelio, and sang in an evening of chamber music with the Schubert Club. He also sang the leading role of Heathcliff on the world premiere recording of Carlisle Floyd’s Wuthering Heights, which was recorded live with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and will be released commercially in 2016. Upcoming performances include chamber music (works by Brahms, Ullmann, Schumann) with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, his European debut in Switzerland with Opéra de Lausanne, his role debut as Marcello in La Bohème with Hawaii Opera, his company debut with Florentine Opera (Elisir d’Amore), and creating the world-premiere recording of John Harbison’s Requiem for the Naxos label with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
Kelly Markgraf’s 2013-2014 calendar brought concert performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Donato Cabrera and the Green Bay Symphony, his role and company debut with Austin Lyric Opera as Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore, as well as Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Kent Tritle and the Oratorio Society of NY at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Markgraf debuted with the San Francisco Symphony in summer 2013, as Bernardo in performances of West Side Story, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, which was subsequently nominated for a Grammy Award. He was also the featured vocalist on a chamber music program of Barber, Schubert, and Rorem with Frank Almond’s Frankly Music series. Additionally, he returned to the San Francisco Symphony for its traditional New Year’s Eve Concert, under the baton of Michael Francis, in a program of Viennese operetta and popular showstoppers.
The Baritone’s 2012 summer season brought appearances with the New York Philharmonic for concerts with Music Director Alan Gilbert, the OK Mozart Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, and the Music@Menlo Festival with acclaimed pianist Gilbert Kalish. Highlights of his 2012-2013 season were appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for Le rossignol and L’enfant et les sortilèges under Charles Dutoit; the Los Angeles Philharmonic, for Bach’s O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel; Madison Opera, for the title role in Don Giovanni; a recital with the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, and an art song program, “Love Songs”, with the The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall. He subsequently returned to Aspen Music Festival as Ned Keene in a semi-staged performance of Peter Grimes, conducted by Robert Spano.
In the 2011-2012 season he took the stage as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Kentucky Opera, made his role debut as Malatesta in Don Pasquale at Hawaii Opera in Honolulu, and sang Papageno in Die Zauberflöte with Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra. In concert, he joined the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for Ned Rorem’s Aftermath.
His 2010-2011 season included the US Premiere of Shostakovich’s War Front Songs at Symphony Space, Escamillo in Carmen opposite mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke with Brazos Valley Symphony, the title role in Don Giovanni with Opera Omaha, Allazim in Mozart’s Zaide at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall with Maestro David Robertson, and the role of Zebul in Handel’s Jephtha with Kent Tritle for Sacred Music in a Sacred Space. He also appeared in a leading role in a workshop of Michael Torke’s opera Senna as part of the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater Opera/Theater Commissions Program, sang Mahler and Brahms at the Caramoor International Music Festival, and Schumann Lieder at the Music@Menlo Festival with internationally renowned pianist Wu Han.
In the 2009-2010 season, Mr. Markgraf made his New York City Opera debut as Masetto in Christopher Alden’s new production of Don Giovanni, followed by Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera Omaha and the Crested Butte Music Festival. He also made his role debut as Escamillo alongside Kate Aldrich as Carmen with Pittsburgh Opera. In concert, he appeared as the baritone soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and Paul Moravec’s Songs of Love and War with Princeton Pro Musica, followed by Schumann’s Dichterliebe at the La Jolla Music Festival with pianist Ken Noda. In recital, he appeared at Carnegie Hall as part of the Marilyn Horne Foundation’s The Song Continues series.
Kelly Markgraf is a distinguished graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, where his work included the roles of Mamoud in a staged concert of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer, conducted by the composer, and Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff in a production directed by Stephen Wadsworth and conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson. In fall 2008, he participated in the knockout West Side Story portion of the all-Bernstein program, which opened Carnegie Hall’s season and was nationally televised on PBS under Michael Tilson Thomas. Mr. Markgraf also made his Pittsburgh Opera debut as Ragged Man in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, a role he created at Minnesota Opera in 2007. In spring 2009, he was part of Ken Noda’s Winterreise project at The Juilliard School.
Mr. Markgraf is a former member of the Resident Artist Program at Minnesota Opera, where he sang Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Frédéric in Lakmé, Dappertutto and Coppélius in Les contes d’Hoffmann, as well as Ragged Man in the world premiere of The Grapes of Wrath. At Opera Theatre of St. Louis, he performed Dick McGann in James Robinson’s production of Street Scene, of which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote: “Kelly Markgraf was terrific as Dick McGann: dancing up a storm, singing as well as he danced, and projecting palpable, hilarious lust.” As an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, he sang the role of the Bosun in Paul Curran’s production of Billy Budd, under the baton of Edo de Waart.
The artist’s honors include a First Prize Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition (2010), the Sullivan Foundation’s Sullivan Award (2009), the Grand Prize in the Opera Index Competition (2009), awards from the Giulio Gari Foundation and the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation (2009), a Richard F. Gold Career Grant (2009), an Outstanding Apprentice Award from the Santa Fe Opera, a Richard Tucker Foundation Career Grant Nomination, the Civic Music Association Competition Grand Prize, and an Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. A native of Wisconsin, Mr. Markgraf holds degrees from Boston University, the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music, and The Juilliard School.