Stanford Olsen



Competition Winner

Born: 1960 (Utah)

Since his professional operatic debut in 1986 at The Met, opposite Dame Joan Sutherland in Bellini’s I Puritani, Stanford Olsen, tenor, has performed more than 160 times with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He is acclaimed for his performances of the leading tenor roles in the operas of Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini.  Highly regarded for his interpretations of the bel canto roles of Nemorino, Almaviva, and Arturo, Olsen has been heard in this repertoire throughout the world at venues: San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Miami Opera, La Scala di Milano, Landestheater Stuttgart, Theatre du Chatelet, Teatro Bellini di Catania, Theatre La Monnaie, Australian Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Nederlandse Oper, Tokyo Opera City, and most other significant opera companies in the USA and Europe.

His recording of the fiendishly difficult role of Argirio in Rossini’s Tancredi (Naxos/Alberto Zedda) netted a GRAMMY nomination. He counts among his credits more than 100 performances each of Beethoven’s 9th, Handel’s Messiah, and Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Since his professional concert debut as tenor soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in 1983, Stanford Olsen has performed with most of the world’s great orchestras, in repertoire from Bach to Bartok.  Olsen has performed and recorded with many of  the leading conductors of our time: Pierre Boulez, Sir Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, John-Eliot Gardner, Alan Gilbert, Carlos Kleiber, James Levine, Kurt Masur, Sir Neville Marriner, Seiji Ozawa, Robert Shaw, and Michael Tilson-Thomas, among others.

Olsen was declared First Prize Winner of the 1989 Walter W. Naumburg Award for recitalists. His New York recital debut was in Alice Tully Hall in 1989, singing Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, a piece he repeated in 1997 in the concluding season of the 92nd Street Y’s 10-year “Schubertiade” project, this time accompanied by Maestro James Levine. His European recital debut at Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet in 1993 was quickly followed by engagements at Brussels’ La Monnaie and Italy’s Maggio Musicale di Firenze.

Olsen graduated with the bachelor of music degree in vocal performance from the University of Utah, where he studied voice with Naomi Farr. He was an opera fellow at the Aspen Music Festival where he studied voice with Thomas Paul and Lieder with Brookes Smith. He received the artist diploma in opera from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, studying opera with Italo Tajo and John Alexander, as well as Lieder with Kenneth Griffiths.

In addition to the Naumburg Award, Olsen won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1986, was a Richard Tucker Foundation Career Grant winner in 1989, and also has received awards from Opera America and Opera Index. He is a four-time GRAMMY nominee, and winner of an Emmy for the PBS broadcast of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic, featuring George Hearn and Patti Lupone. Winner of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music’s “Alumnus of the Year” award in 1989, Olsen also received the first ever “Alumnus of the Year” award from the University of Utah College of Fine Arts in 2010.

A sought-after clinician and adjudicator, Stanford Olsen has been a frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. He has given masterclasses to students at most of the country’s significant universities and conservatories. He has also worked with the apprentices at the Tanglewood Festival, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Ravinia Festival, Cleveland Art Song Institute, the Aspen Music Festival, the Utah Opera, and the Metropolitan’s Lindemann Young Artist Program.

Olsen is on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance as professor of voice. For 15 years he was artist-in-residence and holder of the Shelfer Eminent Scholar in Music chair at Florida State University. In 2015, he was appointed Director of the Castleton Festival's Artist Training Seminar. He continues to perform on the concert platform in addition to his teaching and coaching.

Excerpt, The New York Times review, December 6, 1989 (Stanford Olsen's Naumburg Concert)

Review/Music; A Prize-Winning Tenor in Songs of Thwarted Love

"Stanford Olsen, a 29-year-old tenor who won this year's Naumburg Vocal Award in Concert Repertory, brought Schubert's setting of Wilhelm Muller's 20 poems to Alice Tully Hall on Sunday night. His partner at the piano was Phillip Farris.

Mr. Olsen's youth, indeed, comes into question here. Music so subtle, it might be argued, needs the years of experience and considered reflection that he simply does not have. What, on the other hand, could be more appropriate than choosing an impetuous spirit, pure of heart and refined in manner, to represent Schubert's young Miller?

Mr. Olsen's touching performance on Sunday took both its strength and weaknesses from the character about whom he was singing...Mr. Olsen's singing was beautiful... This did not sound like a big voice, or even a perfectly managed one; but while many singers begin with sound that is subsequently made musical, Mr. Olsen's singing - the clear timbre and splendid diction - seem a function of his ear and mind. It is they that create his extremely pleasing, though hardly imposing, tenor voice. They work from the inside out rather than the other way around." Bernard Holland


1989 Vocal Competition

First Prize

Commissioned Works

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Naumburg Performances

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Recording Awards

1989 Philip Naumburg Solo Recording Prize (Stanford Olson)

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