Boston Globe: "For ‘Candide,’ the Boston Pops passes the baton to Harvard student"

Benjamin P. Wenzelberg – Singer (countertenor)/Performer, Composer, Conductor, Pianist (classical, jazz, improvisation), U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts

 

Benjamin is very proud and grateful to have made his conducting debut with the Boston Pops in June 2018, conducting the Overture to Candide after winning the inaugural Leonard Bernstein Memorial Conducting Competition.   

 

Benjy was selected to work summer 2018 with Marin Alsop for the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program in Orchestral Conducting.  He made his European composition and conducting debut as part of the 2016 Ink Still Wet Composer/Conductor workshop at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria and returned to the program summer 2018.  He was the winning composer/conductor for his pieces for full orchestra in both 2016 and 2018, with one performed by the Tonkünstler Orchestra in subscription concerts at the Vienna Musikverein’s Golden Hall and the Festpielhaus St. Pölten in Winter 2018.      

 

This December, Benjy was honored to have just received composer Michael Masser’s 2018 ASCAP Foundation Scholarship in the arts. He conducted the premiere of his commissioned work this winter dedicated to composer Glen Roven with the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra and he sang the premiere of the piano/vocal version of the same piece in recital as well as both playing and singing it in recital with Harvard College Opera. 

 

This holiday season Benjy was featured singing in a From the Top holiday video performance recorded at radio station WGBH with harpist Anna Kirby.  Benjy sings with the Harvard University Choir and has been a soloist in their performances of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel, Alceste, as well as in the Dunster House Messiahs.

 

In celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary last season, Benjamin was the vocal soloist in Chichester Psalms in the Bernstein Memorial Concert with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and Harvard Choruses at Sanders Theatre (Cambridge, MA), as well as with The National Chorale, as part of its 50th Anniversary Season, at David Geffen Hall (NYC).

 

He performed the role of Prince Orlofsky in Harvard College Opera’s production of Die Fledermaus, and is very proud to have been named this season’s Music Director working with the singers from the piano as a répétiteur and conducting their performances of Massenet’s Cendrillon in February 2019.

 

He is a Co-Music Director of Harvard’s Mozart Society Orchestra and enjoyed playing rehearsals and coaching as Chorus Master and Music Staff of Lowell House Opera, New England’s oldest opera company, in their production of Le Comte Ory last Spring – he was also excited to play some triangle in the pit!

 

He has premiered and played additional compositions he wrote as part of concerts with the Harvard Composer’s Association, and has been invited to both play and play and sing them, along with playing classical, musical theater, jazz, and pop selections, and accompanying singers at Harvard College faculty, student, and Cambridge events including master classes. He was also invited to play as well as sing and play in a masterclass at New York City’s Steinway Hall.

 

Benjy was named a 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Winner in Voice and performed at the New World Center in Miami January, 2017. Subsequently he was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and was honored to sing and perform at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in a performance honoring the Scholars in Washington, D.C. Benjy is also a 2017, 2016, and 2015 National YoungArts Foundation Merit winner in Composition, and is a 2017 National Merit Scholarship Winner.  He has garnered international and national awards as a singer, composer, conductor, and pianist.

 

Benjamin was an eight-season chorister and soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus, as well as an eight-year composition student of Dr. Eric Ewazen at Juilliard Pre-College, where he also studied classical piano and improvisation, and sang in a chamber group coached by Tali Roth.  He also plays jazz piano, and studies conducting privately.

 

At the Metropolitan Opera, he was a soloist (Mustardseed) in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (conducted by James Conlon). He has covered many roles at the Met, including Yniold in Pelléas and Mélisande (conducted by Sir Simon Rattle) and First and Second Spirit in Die Zauberflöte/The Magic Flute, and performed in many operas including Tosca (HD/DVD 2009/2010 season and HD 2013/2014 season), Die Frau ohne Schatten (conducted by Vladimir Jurowski), Carmen (conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin; HD/DVD 2011), Hansel and Gretel (conducted by Fabio Luisi), Billy Budd (conducted by James Conlon), Boris Godunov (conducted by Valery Gergiev; HD 2012), The Queen of Spades, Otello (conducted by Semyon Bychkov; HD 2013), La Bohème (conducted by Marco Armiliato; HD 2014), Cavalleria Rusticana (conducted by Fabio Luisi; HD 2015), and Turandot (HD 2016).

 

He is honored to have appeared twice on the NPR show From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley: as a composer, The Rochester Philharmonic, conducted by Ward Stare, premiered one of his compositions for full orchestra in a live performance at Kodak Hall in January 2016, and in Spring 2017, he appeared on the show as a vocalist in a voice-classical guitar duo with friend and colleague Kang Min Shin. 

 

Benjy has sung, played piano, and had compositions performed at Carnegie Hall, including having his composition debut there in Spring, 2016 with an art song commissioned and premiered by world-renowned soprano Melody Moore, and the opportunity to play piano in a performance of his Fantasia for Flute and Piano, Dancing Tree, May 2017. He has received numerous composition commissions and has received awards, including an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award for his new opera for family audiences, The Sleeping Beauty for which he composed the music and wrote the libretto, as well as Music Directed and conducted from the piano in professional performances of the opera he produced in NYC and NJ with professional singers, including several from the Metropolitan Opera. He is proud to have received two consecutive BMI Student Composer Awards. His compositions have also received ASCAP finalist recognition in 2013, and every year from 2015 forward. He is a First Place Winner in Composition for both 2016 and 2017 in the New York Music Competition, for which he played one of the pianos in his award-wining two-piano composition at Merkin Hall, as well as performing his Heroic Dreamscape Fantasy piano reduction of the orchestral piece and singing/playing his song cycle, Dreamland Imaginations, at the Liederkranz Foundation. He has also received Tribeca New Music and Next Notes Honorable Mention recognition.

 

Benjy has conducted, played piano, sung and had many compositions performed in the Juilliard School’s Paul Hall and recital halls, and has been invited to play, sing and perform his compositions throughout the tri-state area.

 

Other composition performances include with Face the Music at Merkin Hall, where he joined to play viola as part of his composition for string orchestra and harp, An Air to Air. Benjamin’s percussion ensemble piece, “The Storm,” had its world premiere by the New York University Percussion Ensemble in Fall, 2013 at the Loewe Theater. 

 

As a singer, he is grateful to have sung a couple of times at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, after having won first place in both the American Protégé and Rondo International Vocal Competitions, and was fortunate to sing as a member of the voice-guitar duo in Alice Tully Hall in 2016 and 2017, after the duo won the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Young Musicians Competition two consecutive years. At the 2016 concert, Benjy was honored to be the first singer to be included among the winners of this competition. He also had the opportunity to play piano with another chamber group as part of Juilliard’s “Wednesdays at One” series at Alice Tully Hall in 2016. Benjy is also the 2016 and 2014 First Place Winner in his respective age categories in the Hal Leonard National Vocal Competition.

 

In Fall, 2014 he sang and performed with Dawn Upshaw and Gil Kalish in George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). The New York Times called him “the rich voiced boy soprano.” BAM is also where he performed the role of Miles in New York City Opera’s production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, receiving rave reviews including inclusion on New York Magazine’s approval matrix; the NY Times said, “almost steals the show as the troubled boy Miles.” As a vocal student of Amelia DeMayo, he was the classical singing voice of the lead character “Stet” in the film “Boychoir” (now “Hear My Song”), starring Dustin Hoffman.  

 

Benjy has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, The Atlanta Opera (Charlie Bucket in Ash’s The Golden Ticket), Portland Symphony Orchestra (soloist in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms), Shakespeare in the Park (soloist and performer in Measure for Measure), Avery Fisher Hall (Amahl in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors), Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium (Wright and Forrest’s Song of Norway), Central Park’s Summer Stage, the US Open, and in concerts in Israel in which he was invited to sing in Hebrew. Other favorite roles include: Hansel in Hansel and Gretel (Dicapo Opera), Isaac in Britten’s Canticle II: “Abraham and Isaac” (Chelsea Opera), Miles in The Turn of the Screw (Opera Moderne), covering the role of Arthur in Stephen Schwartz’s first opera, Séance on a Wet Afternoon (NY City Opera), performing as a soloist in NY City Opera’s VOX performance of Mary Shelley, Colin in The Secret Garden, performing at Live at Lincoln Center with Ronan Tynan, singing the title role in an original opera composed by friend Glen Roven, Anderson’s Solo, and performing Glen’s Goodnight Moon with Lauren Flanigan, as well as a part of a CD with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. He has also performed in Mozart’s Requiem, Roven’s Goodnight Moon, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the National Chorale at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall.

 

Benjy has appeared on Sesame Street a few times, including with his Grandma as part of a special Grandparents episode where he got to sing with Elmo. Recordings include: “Alleluia” soloist with the American Boy Choir from the “Boychoir” (now “Hear my Song”), music from the Motion Picture and other selections; Charlie Bucket in Ash’s The Golden Ticket opera, CD from a live performance with Atlanta Opera; featured soloist in “Silent Night” as part of opera singing group Forte’s CD.  

 

Benjamin made his conducting debut at age eleven as part of the Crested Butte Music Festival (Colorado). He made his professional orchestral conducting debut in 2016 with the Central Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJ). He has participated in several conducting workshops and programs with various orchestras, including as an apprentice with the New York Youth Symphony, as a Fellow at the Bard Conductor’s Institute, and at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s Opera Bootcamp, where he conducted a 15-minute portion of La Traviata in a public performance in which he also sang and performed.

 

He was awarded a Royal Conservatory Gold National Medal and Tri-State, NY State and Manhattan Borough Certificates of Excellence for classical piano. For earning these awards, he made his Carnegie Hall piano debut in 2015.

 

Benjy is a sophomore at Harvard University. He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in German, with working knowledge of French and Italian. He has working knowledge of viola and harpsichord, including continuo.

 

Benjamin is a proud AGMA, SAG/AFTRA, and ASCAP member. He thanks all his wonderful teachers, friends and family for all their guidance and support.

Click here to read article in BC The Magazine    Click here to see Benjy in the NYCO Turn of the Screw Video

Conductor,  Composer,  Singer/Performer,  Pianist

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