Countertenor John Holiday, winner of the 2017 Marian Anderson Vocal Award, one of Broadway World’s “New York Opera 2015 Gifts that Keep on Giving” and nominee for “Newcomer of the Year” by the German magazine Opernwelt, has quickly established himself as a fast-rising singer to watch. His voice has been praised as “a thing of astonishing beauty” (New Yorker),“arrestingly powerful, secure and dramatically high” (Wall Street Journal), “exceptional [and] strong…even in its highest range” (The New York Times)and “timeless” (Washington Post).
Original engagements for Holiday’s COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 season begin with a collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group at the La Jolla Music Festival as a part of their Synergy Initiative, which strives to bring different art forms together. He then reprises the role of First Male Voice in Huang Ruo’s Paradise Interrupted for the Art Macau Festival in Shanghai, followed by his return to the Metropolitan Opera roster to cover the title role in Orfeo ed Euridice. He makes his debut with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra as the Alto Soloist in Handel’s Messiah before returning to Los Angeles Opera as Orpheus’s Double in the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice. He appears with Dayton Opera for their Going for Baroque concert, before finishing his season presenting a recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, curated as a part of the Jacob Lawrence Struggle series, and in concert at The Glimmerglass Festival.
Holiday’s 2018-19 season came off the heels of being chosen as one of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 100 honorees for 2018, in the company of individuals such as Madeleine Albright, Glenn Close, and Janelle Monáe among others, and was a featured performer at the YBCA 100 Summit in November. Holiday then brought his Baroque expertise to a role debut as Nero in Agrippina with Ars Lyrica, Handel’s Israel in Egypt with MasterVoices at Carnegie Hall, and made his debut with the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor as the Alto Soloist in Handel’s Messiah. His season continued with his debut at the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts in Taiwan, singing the role of the First Male Voice in Huang Ruo’s engrossing chamber opera Paradise Interrupted, a role he created at the Spoleto Festival in 2016 for the world premiere.
Mr. Holiday’s 2017-2018 season was both busy and exciting, having begun with his Opera Philadelphia house debut singing the role of John Blue in the world premiere of Daniel Roumain’s We Shall Not Be Moved. The production, directed by the award-winning Bill T. Jones, premiered in Philadelphia before going to New York City’s famed Apollo Theater in October 2017. As the winner of the 2017 Marian Anderson Award, Holiday gave a recital at the Kennedy Center in February 2018, marking his Kennedy Center debut. Holiday’s season continued with his European debut in March 2018 for another performance of We Shall Not Be Moved with the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, and a tour with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil, singing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in Los Angeles, New York’s Lincoln Center, London’s Barbican, and the Philharmonie de Paris. He closed out his season performing the role of the Refugee in Jonathan Dove’s Flight at Des Moines Metro Opera to critical acclaim.
Past highlights have included singing the title role in Xerxes at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2017, a debut with Boston Baroque in the role of Tolomeo in Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto in 2016, Holiday’s 2016 Spoleto Festival debut in the world premiere of Paradise Interrupted, his 2014 debuts with Los Angeles Operaas the Sorceress in Barrie Kosky’s acclaimed production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and with Wolf Trap Opera as Caesar in Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, as well as engagements with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Chorus of Westerlyin Rhode Island, the Nashville Symphony, and programs with Ars Lyrica and Mercury Baroque in Houston, Texas. Holiday joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera in 2013 to cover the role of Nireno in David McVicar’s acclaimed production of Giulio Cesare in Egitto, and his operatic stage debut was with Portland Opera in Galileo Galilei.
In addition to the Marian Anderson and YBCA 100 Awards, numerous other major competitions and award programs have recognized Holiday’s accomplishments. He is a 2014 recipient of the Catherine Filene Shouse Career Development Grant from the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and is also a recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation, first prize from the Richard Tucker Foundation Sara Tucker award, and third place winner of OPERALIA. He was awarded first place at both the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition for 2013 and the Sullivan Foundation for 2012. Holiday also received a first place win at the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition. In 2007, he was the first place winner in his district of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Alongside his classical repertoire, Holiday excels in jazz and gospel music having opened for Grammy award winner Jason Mraz in concert. Holiday recently released his debut jazz album entitled The Holiday Guide.
He received a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Master of Music in vocal performance from the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music and the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies from The Juilliard School in New York City. Holiday grew up in Rosenberg, Texas, located near Houston, and attended the town’s public schools.
Cincinnati Orchestra May Festival – Chichester Psalms
Somehow, the festival found the superb countertenor John Holiday, whose plane reportedly touched down at 6 p.m. and he performed the famous solo in “Chichester Psalms” about two hours later without a rehearsal.”
Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Business Courier
Los Angeles Philharmonic – Chichester Psalms
The soloists were absorbed into the main body of the choir, apart from countertenor John Holiday as leading soloist in the gloriously sung Psalm 23 The Lord Is My Shepherd.”
Clare Colvin, Sunday Express
“Bernstein meant this for a boy soprano, partly in his love for the wholesomeness of the sound as well as a nod to British choral tradition. He put in the score that a countertenor could be used, but that was meant as a second-best alternative. In inviting John Holiday, a true male soprano with a voice of soaring purity and none of the nasal virility more common of countertenors, the L.A. Phil had the best of both worlds.”
Mark Swed, LA Times
“The percussion-led second movement featured countertenor John Holiday intoning the beauteous phrases of the 23rd Psalm. The composer intertwined the singer’s music with the war-like verses of Psalm 2. Although seated at the back of the orchestra, Holiday’s lyric voice carried well and its sound was as luscious as aged sherry wine in Disney Hall’s excellent acoustics. “
Maria Nockin, BroadwayWorld
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra – Messiah
Holiday suffused “He was despised” with sorrow.”
Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Apollo Theater – We Shall Not Be Moved
One of the particularly inventive crossover concepts was the repeated use of countertenor John Holiday as the kind of soulful falsetto often heard singing backup vocals on a rap ballad, harmonizing with the beat before breaking out into some kind of a solo that adds flourishes of color to a track. Having made his name as a god of the Baroque countertenor/castrato repertory, Holiday has a voice that is clean and pure. He had some of the most striking musical numbers of the evening, lending his angelic instrument to Michael Jackson-style soulful falsetto lines that were less operatic than R&B.”
Allegri con Fuoco
Performances by the cast in We Shall Not Be Moved also include a standout from John Holiday, the counter tenor who drew rapturous reactions.
Susan Hall, Berkshire Fine Arts
Opera Philadelphia – We Shall Not Be Moved
With his unusually well integrated registers and gorgeous tone, countertenor John Holiday has caused major splashes in the Baroque repertory; his work here was luminous, moving and spectacular. If any classical or music theater composer has contemplated a theater piece centered around the fantastic disco divo Sylvester, its star is at hand.”
David Shengold, Opera News
“John Holiday, the brilliant young countertenor who is also a superb actor, is remarkable.”
Susan Hall, Berkshire Fine Arts
“Standouts include… and especially countertenor John Holiday, whose velvety mezzo timbre adds an ethereal element to his character, a trans boy who implores God to “heal my body.”
Cameron Kelsall, Broad Street Review
“But the standout for me was John Holiday, whose supple, beautiful countertenor and poignant acting really carried the night.”
David Fox, Philadelphia Magazine
“John Holiday was very notable as the transgender teen; his edgy countertenor displayed all the angst of his tormented persona.”
Hilary Stroh, Bachtrack
Dutch National Opera – We Shall Not Be Moved
That has everything to do with the fantastic singing performance of countertenor John Holiday (brother John Blue), whose soulful sound forms the grain of the opera.”
Joep Christenhusz, NRC Handelsblad
East Carolina University – Guest Recital
Holiday is first and foremost a brilliant countertenor; he also radiates charismatic love and goodwill from the stage. These two qualities were in equal prominence in this performance.”
Richard Parsons, CVNC