Zachary Nelson, a native of Annapolis, Maryland, studied vocal performance at The Catholic University of America, and later the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
The baritone made a major role debut during the summer of 2021, as the title role in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd with Des Moines Metro Opera, which was praised as “incomparable” by Opera Today. During the 2021-2022 season, he is engaged with Lyric Opera of Chicago for its production of L’elisir d’Amore, returns to Palm Beach Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, sings Marcello in La bohème with both New Orleans Opera and the Jacksonville Symphony, joins the Santa Fe Symphony for “A Night at the Opera”, and appears as a soloist with the St. Barts Music Festival.
During the COVID-19 impacted 2020-2021 season, Mr. Nelson’s engagements included Conte Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Omaha (cancelled), Marcello in La bohème with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (postponed), and the Lyric Opera of Chicago for its production of Le nozze di Figaro (cancelled).
Original engagements during Mr. Nelson’s COVID-19 shortened 2019-2020 season included debuts with New Orleans Operaas Escamillo in Carmen (performed) and Chicago Opera Theater as Doug in Everest (performed). He was scheduled to return to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Donner in Das Rheingold as part of performances of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (cancelled), and also to return to Palm Beach Opera, singing Ping in Turandot (performed). He sang Christmas Concerts with Voices of Ascension in New York City (performed), and during the summer of 2020, was scheduled to make his role debut as Sweeney Todd with Des Moines Metro Opera (postponed).
The baritone’s 2018-2019 season began with a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago as a soloist in their widely attended annual Millennium Park concert, followed by performances of Marcello in La bohème. He joined Arizona Operaas the Count in Le nozze di Figaro and returned to Santa Fe Opera as Marcello in La bohème.
Mr. Nelson’s 2017-2018 included performances of Ping in Turandot with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Semperoper Dresden as the title role in Le nozze di Figaro. He made his Pittsburgh Opera debut as Belcore in L’elsiir d’amore, appeared in recital with Leah Crocetto at New York City’s Morgan Library under the auspices of the George London Foundation, and essayed Bloch’s Sacred Service with Voices of Ascension in New York City.
The 2016-2017 season brought debuts at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Donner in Das Rheingold and Enrico Ashton (cover) in Lucia di Lammermoor, Escamillo in Carmen with Den Norske Opera, and a fourth season with the Santa Fe Opera as Enrico Ashton in Lucia di Lammermoor.
2015-2016 began with a return to the Dresden Semperoper as Figaro in both Le nozze di Figaro and Il barbiere di Siviglia. He performed the role of Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus with the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nagoya. He made debuts at the Salzburg Landestheater, Palm Beach, and San Francisco Opera in Carmen as Escamillo, and returned to the Canadian Opera Compnay as Escamillo.
His 2014-15 season included the title role of Le nozze di Figaro with the Aix-en-Provence Festival on tour in Manama, Bahrain. Additionally, he made his debut with Canadian Opera Company as Masetto in Dmitri Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni. He debuted the roles of Paolo in Simon Boccanegra, Escamillo in Carmen, and reprised the roles of Gugliemo in Cosi fan tutte, Belcore in L’Elisir D’Amore, Marcello in La bohéme, and Figaro in both Il barbiere di Siviglia and a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro, all with the Dresden Semperoper.
In the 2013-2014 season, Mr. Nelson joined the ensemble of the Dresden Semperoper, where he performed the roles of Il Conte in Le nozze di Figaro, Marcello in La bohème, Der Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Guglielmo in a new production of Così fan tutte. He also returned toSanta Fe Opera as Malatesta in Laurent Pelly’s Don Pasquale.
Other notable performances include: Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro with Santa Fe Opera, Germont in La traviata with Lyric Opera of Virginia, Angelotti in Tosca and Mandryka (cover) in Arabella with Santa Fe Opera, Quinault in Adriana Lecouvreur with Opera Orchestra of New York, Sciarrone in Tosca with The Glimmerglass Festival, and he was a soloist in Steven Blier’s “Killer B’s” with the New York Festival of Song.
A graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, PA, Mr. Nelson performed many roles including: Belcore in L’elisir D’Amore, Renato in Un ballo in Maschera, the title role in Falstaff, Michele in Il Tabarro, Sancho Panza in Don Quichotte, Mandryka in Arabella, Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande, and Masetto in Don Giovanni. Mr. Nelson is also a graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Awards Mr. Nelson has garnered are: The George London Award from the 2012 George London Foundation, 1st prize prize from the 2012 Opera Index Competition, The 2012 Liederkranz Foundation Competition (General Opera Division), and the 2012 Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation. Also, 2nd prize from the 2011 Gerda Lissner Competition, the 2011 Giulio Gari Foundation, and the 2011 Loren Zachary Competition.
Lyric Opera of Chicago – Das Rheingold
Baritone Zachary Nelson (Donner) looks the part of Head God, moves with agile authority and sports a lightning-bolt voice enveloped in a silvery sheath. Is he the next generation’s Wotan?”
–Aaron Hunt, New City Stage
“American baritone Zachary Nelson, in his Lyric debut as Donner, god of thunder, makes what he can of an underwritten role whose only real purpose is to create a thunderstorm late in the production to literally clear the air. Nelson makes a striking figure with long wavy hair silhouetted against a stark background wielding his mighty hammer, and his voice makes us wish we could hear more from him.”
Judith Singer, LA Splash Magazine
San Francisco Opera – Carmen
Zachary Nelson’s Escamillo was more of an urbane character than bullfighter and gave a powerful performance both with voice and strutting stage presence.”
John Daly-Peoples, National Business Review
“Zachary Nelson was a bold and charismatic toreador who enchanted the ladies with his song.”
Maria Nockin, Bach Tracker
Palm Beach Opera – Carmen
The American baritone Zachary Nelson was an excellent Escamillo, all swagger and pride, and with a big, confident voice that commanded attention for his ‘Votre toast’ in Act II.”
Grep Stepanich, Palm Beach Arts Paper
“By contrast, Zachary Nelson’s strong baritone and commanding presence were on the mark in the Toreador Song, arguably the most immediately recognizable tune in all opera.”
Robert Croan, Palm Beach Daily News
Santa Fe Opera – Don Pasquale
Malatesta is not usually played as such a nice guy on what seems like an innocent charade turned wrong, but Nelson makes it work. He has a creamy baritone voice that has deeper bass-like overtones. He sings with great ease and naturalness and is an able actor.”
Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones
“Management of the SFO seems, rightfully, quite high on baritone Zachary Nelson, two years ago an apprentice and last year’s Figaro in “The Marriage of Figaro.” A talented comic actor with a smooth yet arresting baritone, Nelson returns again this summer to sing a delightfully textured and hilariously funny puppet-master as Dr. Malatesta. Artfully he instructs Norina how to play the part of an innocent maiden to entrap Pasquale into his plot.”
D.S. Crafts, Albuquerque Journal
Washington Concert Opera – Guntram
Golden-throated baritone Zachary Nelson sang the duplicitous Herzog Robert with the kind of vehemence clad in vocal velvet that makes an operatic villain such a wondrous beast. Snarling threateningly in Act One, his singing of ‘Verdammtes Volk, hab ich euch gefasst?’ was thrilling, and his robust voice rocketed through the colossal textures of ensembles. An indefatigable fount of nastiness in Act Two, Mr. Nelson’s Robert was an ideal foil for the self-righteously devout Guntram. Strauss gave the character no redeeming qualities: his death in Act Two could hardly be mourned, but, depriving the audience of the pleasure of hearing a fantastic voice, Mr. Nelson’s absence in Act Three was lamentable.”
Joseph Newsome, Voix de Arts
Santa Fe Opera – Le nozze di Figaro
No, her heart belongs to Figaro; and who can blame her, since Zachary Nelson infused that endearing character with a similar measure of charm and allure, not to mention a warmly enveloping baritone. A year ago, he was an apprentice here, singing just a few lines as the prisoner Angelotti in Tosca; and now here he is proving himself a polished pro in one of opera’s leading roles. Oropesa is already undertaking important lyric parts at the Metropolitan Opera, and Nelson seems poised to follow her along the operatic fast track.”
James M. Keller, Santa Fe New Mexican
“Baritone Zachary Nelson was an apprentice just last year but as this year’s Figaro he is already emerging as an accomplished Mozartean, gifted in drama as well as in music.”
Paul du Quenoy, Concerto Net
Academy of Vocal Arts – Un ballo in maschera
Zachary Nelson, was the embodiment of empathy and pathos as Sancho in Don Q last winter, just seethes as the jealous husband, standing over Amelia with his sword there is no doubt that there is consumed with revenge. The key dramatic arias, that continue to get into his heart of darkness is full-throated and baritone vibrancy without over singing. It is no surprise that this young baritone is racking up competition prizes and is this year’s recipient of the Sarah Tucker Award.”
Lew Whittington, Huffington Post
“During his time studying at AVA, fourth-year baritone Zachary Nelson has delivered more than a few stellar performances, most recently in Don Quichotte. He has admirable range as a performer and was just as effective as the spurned Renato, whose disfiguring need for revenge transforms him into an assassin, as he was playing the comically quirky Sancho two months prior. His third act aria “Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima”, when he decries the treachery of his own wife and a man he considered his best friend, was simply masterful. Bravo, Signore Nelson.”
Gale Martin, Bach Tracker
“His nemesis was sung by Zachary Nelson, who may be a true Verdi baritone, equally capable of tenderness and rage.”
David Patrick Stern, Philadelphia Inquirer
Academy of Vocal Arts – Don Quichotte
Nelson, with lots of padding and a shaved head is just towering as Sancho. Massenet writes him the longest soliloquies Nelson ‘s baritone is just transcendent in this role. Punch drunk or bouncing woman off his big stomach like a stooge would, Nelson is just full of pathos equal to a completely electrifying vocal performance.”
Lew Whittington, Huffington Post
“Good singing was often in evidence: Zachary Nelson’s seamless baritone and solid theatricality made the role of Sancho sparkle.”
David Patrick Stern, Philadelphia Inquirer
Academy of Vocal Arts – Arabella
Mandrykas do not grow on trees in any arena, and Zachary Nelson’s tireless, fresh vocalism over three hours of hard singing proved pretty astonishing: he commands a powerful, attractive baritone that is solid from bottom to top: the part’s rigors seemed to cost him little effort. This is definitely a singer to watch attentively. Dramatically he was plausible and impassioned…”
David Shengold, Opera News
George London Competition
Zachary Nelson, 25, raged through “Nemico della patria” from Giordano’s “Andrea Chénier” with a rich, steady baritone that had more depth than most of the others in the competition. (It is easy to sound loud in the dry acoustic of the Morgan’s intimate Gilder Lehrman Hall and harder to sound deep.) Most important, Mr. Nelson captured the crucial element of verismo style: the emotion that is undoubtedly excessive but feels, in the moment, entirely right.”
Zachary Woolfe, New York Times
Lyric Opera of Virginia – La traviata
Baritone Zachary Nelson brought a huge voice and good acting skills to the role of Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s rich, bourgeois father, liming his character’s concern with appearances and initial contempt for the woman who has snared his son. Nelson’s duet with Strauss Evrard was both dramatic and tender; and he made the most of that outstanding baritone aria, Di Provenza.”
M.D. Ridge, Artsongupdate.org