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

Benjamin P. Wenzelberg – Conductor, Composer, Singer (countertenor)/Performer, Pianist (classical, continuo, 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 their Leonard Bernstein Memorial Conducting Competition, and to have attended the Tanglewood Music Center Conducting Seminar, performed as a vocal soloist at the American Bach Soloists Academy in San Francisco, and performed as the vocal soloist in the world premiere of a commissioned composition of his with Orchestra 2001 this past summer (2019). In February 2020, the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra presented the Japanese premiere of his orchestral composition, Heroic Dreamscape Fantasy – inspired by a theme of L. van Beethoven, in their Beethoven 250th Birthday Celebration concerts. In Winter and Spring of 2020, Benjy will be conducting Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte as the Music Director of Harvard College Opera, select performances of Sweeney Todd as the Assistant Music Director of Lowell House Opera, New England’s oldest opera company, and he will Music Direct and conduct singers and instrumentalists from the piano for HCO’s performance of his own opera for family audiences, The Sleeping Beauty, in a featured performance for the Harvard and greater Boston communities as part of the Office for the Arts’ annual ARTS FIRST Festival, in the Smith Campus Center Commons on May 3, 2020. He is passionate about connecting with and bringing music to audiences in and outside of performance spaces, including as part of Celebrity Series Boston’s Concert for One community engagement initiative.

 

Benjy was selected to work with Marin Alsop at the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program in Orchestral Conducting in Summer 2018, and made his European composition and conducting debut as part of the Ink Still Wet Composer/Conductor workshop at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria. 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 Festspielhaus St. Pölten in Winter 2018.

 

He is honored to have received the 2019 and 2018 ASCAP Foundation Michael Masser Scholarship in the Arts. Last winter, he conducted the premiere of his composition dedicated to the memory of composer and mentor Glen Roven, Mutability, with the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra, who commissioned the piece and with whom he has also sung and looks forward to performing as a soloist this Spring (2020). He also sang and played the premiere of the art song version of Mutability in a solo vocal recital, and in one with Harvard College Opera.

 

Benjy was featured singing in a From the Top holiday video performance, recorded at radio station WGBH with fellow FTT alum, harpist Anna Kirby. He is a proud member of the Harvard University Choir, and has been a soloist in their performances of 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 the Dunster House Messiah at Harvard for the past three years, including singing “Rejoice greatly.”

 

In celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, Benjy was the countertenor soloist in Chichester Psalms in a 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).

 

Prior to Die Zauberflöte (2020), Benjy conducted Massenet’s Cendrillon (2019) and performed the role of Prince Orlofsky in Strauss II's Die Fledermaus (2018) with Harvard College Opera, in addition to singing in recitals, masterclasses, opera scenes concerts, and special events with the company. He has additionally organized and liaised with the Office for the Arts to facilitate bringing professional artists in the opera world to Harvard to enrich musical and artistic preparations for the company’s events: in these residencies, he has also served as a collaborative pianist. Before becoming the Assistant Music Director of Lowell House Opera, he served as Chorus Master/Répétiteur on Mozart’s Così fan tutte (2019) and Rossini’s Le Comte Ory (2018) with them. He conducts Harvard’s Mozart Society Orchestra, and has performed as a vocal soloist and collaborative pianist, as well as having compositions of his performed, on campus. Recent campus performances include being invited to perform as a vocal soloist and collaborative pianist in lectures by professors in the Harvard Music Department, the opportunity to perform as a collaborative pianist for Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of the 2019 Harvard Honorary Degrees Dinner, as well as the Faculty Reception for newly inaugurated Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, and playing and singing a one-hour solo set (including original compositions) as part of the Harvard Smith Campus Center’s “Tunes at Noon” series. He was also invited to play piano and sing in a masterclass at New York City’s Steinway Hall.

 

He was named a 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Winner in Voice, and performed at the New World Center in Miami in January, 2017. Subsequently, he was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and was honored to sing and perform at The John F. 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 a 2017 National Merit Scholarship Winner. He has garnered international and national awards as a singer, composer, conductor, and pianist.

 

Benjy was an eight-season soloist and chorister 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 conducting, classical piano, classical and jazz improvisation, and chamber music, both as a pianist and a vocalist (including in a voice/classical guitar duo 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 NPR’s From the Top: 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 Dancing Tree – a Fantasia for Flute and Piano in May, 2017. He has received numerous composition commissions and 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 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. 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 piano parts in his award-wining two-piano composition, Lace Avenue, at Merkin Hall, as well as performing his own piano reduction of his orchestral piece, Heroic Dreamscape Fantasy – inspired by a theme of Beethoven, and singing/playing his song cycle, Dreamland Imaginations, at the Liederkranz Foundation. He has received Tribeca New Music and Next Notes Honorable Mention recognition.

 

Other composition performances include a commission from the Juventas New Music Ensemble in collaboration with Puppet Showplace Theater (From the Cave), 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 in NYC. 

 

Additional vocal opportunities include having sung at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall after having won first place in both the American Protégé and Rondo International Vocal Competitions, and with the voice-guitar duo at Alice Tully Hall in 2016 and 2017, after winning the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Young Musicians Competition in two consecutive years. At the 2016 concert, Benjy was honored to be the first vocalist to be included among the winners of this competition. He also had the opportunity to play piano with another Juilliard chamber group as part of Juilliard’s “Wednesdays at One” series at Alice Tully Hall in 2016. Benjy is 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 and critical acclaim, including inclusion in New York Magazine’s approval matrix; the NY Times said he “almost steals the show as the troubled boy Miles.” He was the classical singing voice of the lead character “Stet,” as well as the soloist in Fauré’s “Pie Jesu” from Requiem, 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’s Stern Auditorium (Wright and Forrest’s Song of Norway), Central Park’s Summer Stage, the US Open, and in concerts in Israel for which he was invited to sing in Hebrew. Other favorite roles include: Hansel in Humperdinck’s 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 Jaffe’s Mary Shelley, Colin in Simon's The Secret Garden, performing at Live at Lincoln Center with Ronan Tynan, singing the title role in an original opera composed by Glen Roven, Anderson’s Solo, and performing Roven’s Goodnight Moon with Lauren Flanigan, as well as as 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 felt lucky to appear on Sesame Street a few times, including with his grandma as part of a special Grandparents episode in which he got to sing with Elmo. Recordings include: “Alleluia” soloist with the American Boy Choir from 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.

 

Benjy made his conducting debut at age eleven as part of the Crested Butte Music Festival (Colorado), and 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 junior at Harvard University, where he is a 2018-2019 John Harvard Scholar. 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 of 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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