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

 

“Benjamin P. Wenzelberg… goes from strength to strength in his significant commitment to opera at Harvard.”

––Boston Musical Intelligencer (2020)

 

            Benjamin P. Wenzelberg is a conductor, countertenor, composer, pianist, and US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. An alumnus of Juilliard Pre-College and a former child soloist and chorister with the Metropolitan Opera, he is currently completing his undergraduate studies at Harvard University. Wenzelberg made his debut with the Boston Pops, conducting Bernstein’s Overture to Candide at Boston’s Symphony Hall as the Winner of their Bernstein Centenary Conducting Competition, attended the Tanglewood Music Center Conducting Seminar, and was selected to study in masterclasses with Marin Alsop at the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program in Orchestral Conducting (Snape Maltings, UK). As a countertenor, he was named a 2021 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions District Winner of the Boston District and Encouragement Award Winner of the New England Region, and participated in the 2021 Houston Grand Opera Young Artists Vocal Academy. He looks forward to attending the Gstaad Menuhin Festival Conducting Academy with Jaap van Zweden and Johannes Schlaefli in August 2021, and to conducting works of Copland, Dittersdorf, and Haydn in November 2021 as a Guest Conductor with the Tonkünstler-Orchester, with whom he made his European conducting and composition debut at the INK STILL WET Composer-Conductor Workshop of the Grafenegg Festival (Austria). He was the program’s winning composer/conductor in 2016 and 2018, and one of his orchestral works, Heroic Dreamscape Fantasy—inspired by a theme of L. van Beethoven, was then performed by the Tonkünstler and their Music Director, Yutaka Sado, at the Vienna Musikverein Golden Hall and the Festspielhaus St. Pölten. In February 2020, the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra and Maestro Sado presented the Japan premiere of the piece as part of celebration concerts for Beethoven’s 250th birthday. He received an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award for his libretto and music of The Sleeping Beauty, a new opera for family audiences, which he has Music Directed and conducted from the piano in professional self-produced performances in New York City and New Jersey with professional singers, including several from the Metropolitan Opera.

 

            Wenzelberg is the Music Director and Vice President of Arts on the Board of Harvard College Opera, with whom he conducted a critically acclaimed production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (2020) and Massenet’s Cendrillon (2019) after performing the role of Prince Orlofsky as a countertenor in Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus (2018); he additionally spearheaded the curation, dramaturgy, direction, and audio/video editing while playing collaborative piano and conducting as the Music Director of the company’s original, virtual, and interdisciplinary pastiche inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Of Wink and Trance (2021). He is the Assistant Music Director of Lowell House Opera, New England’s oldest opera company, with whom he was slated to conduct performances of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (2020; covid) after serving as Chorus Master/Répétiteur on Mozart’s Così fan tutte (2019) and Rossini’s Le Comte Ory (2018), and for whom he is currently composing the libretto and music of a new commissioned opera, NIGHTTOWN: an operatic reimagining of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which will be premiered by the company with him at the podium in Spring 2022. He also Music Directs the Mozart Society Orchestra and sings with the Harvard University Choir, with whom he has performed as a soloist in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel, Gluck’s Alceste, and Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. He has also performed as a soloist in Harvard’s Dunster House Messiah, including singing “Rejoice greatly.” Additional campus performances include: performing as a collaborative pianist for Chancellor Angela Merkel during the 2019 Honorary Degrees Dinner; performing as the countertenor soloist in Chichester Psalms at Harvard’s Bernstein Centenary Celebration concert with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, Harvard Choruses, and host Jamie Bernstein (as well as with the National Chorale during their 50th Anniversary Season at David Geffen Hall in NYC); and conducting the world premiere of his composition for baroque instruments—Mutability, dedicated to the memory of composer and mentor Glen Roven—with the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra, who commissioned the work and with whom he will also be performing as a vocal soloist in a concert of Händel and Porpora arias in November 2021.

            Wenzelberg previously performed as a countertenor soloist both at the American Bach Soloists Academy (San Francisco) and in the world premiere of a commissioned composition of his, Ultrathing, with Orchestra 2001 (Philadelphia). Vocal performance highlights include the role of Mustardseed in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Metropolitan Opera, Miles in Britten’s Turn of the Screw at New York City Opera, Charlie Bucket in Ash’s The Golden Ticket at Atlanta Opera (live recording produced in collaboration with American Lyric Theater), soloist and actor in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure with Shakespeare in the Park (music by John Gromada), Amahl in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors at David Geffen Hall (Lincoln Center, NY), boy soloist in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the New York Philharmonic (recording released commercially), and a featured member of the US Presidential Scholars in the Arts Performance at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He has additionally appeared as a vocal soloist with/at American Bach Soloists, Portland Symphony Orchestra, New World Center, Alice Tully Hall, and his eight-season tenure at the Metropolitan Opera also included covering solo roles and singing in choruses under the batons of Sir Simon Rattle, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Fabio Luisi, Vladimir Jurowski, Semyon Bychkov, and Marco Armiliato. He sang with Dawn Upshaw and Gil Kalish as the boy soloist in George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), in which 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 in New York Magazine’s approval matrix; the NY Times said he “almost steals the show as the troubled boy Miles.” Vocal awards include from the National YoungArts Foundation and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (the first vocalist among the winners of the Young Musician’s Competition in its history), and he has sung, played piano, and had his compositions performed at Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall (New York), as well as in Philadelphia and Boston.

            Wenzelberg has been featured as a countertenor on NPR’s From the Top, both in a duo with classical guitarist Kang Min Shin and in a holiday video performance on radio station WGBH with fellow FTT alum, harpist Anna Kirby; his playing and singing a brand-new solo arrangement of his composition setting Emily Dickinson fragments, An Hour of Forever, was featured on FTT’s pandemic web series, Daily Joy. He was the classical singing voice of the lead character “Stet,” as well as the soloist in Händel’s “Alleluia” from Messiah and Fauré’s “Pie Jesu” from Requiem, in the film Boychoir (now Hear My Song), starring Dustin Hoffman. Further recordings include singing as a featured soloist in “Silent Night” on opera singing group FORTE’s debut album, and appearing on several episodes of Sesame Street, including with his grandma as part of a special Grandparents episode in which he got to sing with Elmo.

            Wenzelberg studied for eight years at Juilliard Pre-College, where he majored in composition and also studied conducting, classical piano, classical and jazz improvisation, and chamber music as a pianist and a vocalist. In addition to receiving an ASCAP Award for his libretto and music of The Sleeping Beauty, a new opera for family audiences, he also earned a BMI Student Composer Award in two consecutive years, for a chamber music and orchestral composition, respectively. Further composition commissions and performances include: a commission from the Juventas New Music Ensemble in collaboration with Puppet Showplace Theater, From the Cave; an art song commission from soprano Melody Moore—marking their joint debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; a performance by Face the Music at Merkin Hall, where he joined the ensemble to play viola in his composition for string orchestra and harp, An Air to Air; a commission by soprano Jessica Niles—setting excerpts by the late poet Marina Keegan for soprano and string quartet, The Opposite of Loneliness: a Chamber Piece; and the world premiere of his percussion ensemble piece, The Storm, by the New York University Percussion Ensemble at the Loewe Theater in NYC. He was recently commissioned to compose a piano work for Steinway Artist Amir Siraj’s national parks advocacy video project in collaboration with the US National Park Foundation and NPR’s From the Top, and has previously played and sang his art song compositions in outreach concerts, including Celebrity Series’ Concert for One community engagement initiative (Boston). One of his orchestral compositions was premiered by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Ward Stare, live on NPR’s From the Top. He is currently composing two commissioned works, including his second opera, NIGHTTOWN: an operatic reimagining of James Joyce’s Ulysses, for which he is writing both music and libretto and which will be premiered by Lowell House Opera with him at the podium in Spring 2022.

            Wenzelberg 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. He is a proud AGMA, SAG/AFTRA, and ASCAP member. He is deeply grateful to wonderful mentors, friends, and family for all their guidance and support. Beyond his artistic activities, Wenzelberg loves learning languages, traveling, cooking, swimming, the music of Taylor Swift, and any meal in bowl form.

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