Praised as a “mature artist with a voluminous sound,” baritone and composer Joel Balzun is establishing himself as a mature new voice in the future of music. His multi-faceted career has already led him to work with some of the world’s most respected musicians and ensembles.
From Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center, Mr. Balzun has appeared successfully on both the operatic and concert stages. As a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Mr. Balzun sang alongside Stephanie Blythe in a concert of American song, and Dawn Upshaw and Sanford Sylvan in Shostakovich’s brooding Symphony No. 14. Other past appearances include the title roles in Don Giovanni and Gianni Schicchi, Ford (Falstaff), Marcello (La bohème) the Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Prince Yeletskiy and Count Tomskiy (Pikovaya Dama), Albert (Werther), Belcore (L’elisir d’amore), Dr. Malatesta (Don Pasquale), Valentin (Faust), Sid (Albert Herring), and John Brooke (Adamo’s Little Women), among others. On the concert stage, Mr. Balzun has been a featured soloist in Copland’s Old American Songs, Dvo?ák’s Te Deum, Fauré’s Requiem, Haydn’s The Creation, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, and numerous cantatas of Bach. His acclaimed performance of Bach’s Johannes-Passion with the Rochester Bach Festival was recently broadcast multiple times across the United States.
In the competition circuit, Mr. Balzun has been a prize-winner in numerous competitions. Highlights include prizes from the The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Los Angeles District and Western Region), Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition, Houston Saengerbund Vocal Competition, Gwendolyn Roberts Young Artist Auditions, Orpheus National Vocal Competition, Houston Saengerbund Vocal Competition and the Rio Hondo Symphony Young Artist Competition. He has also been a finalist for Rochester International Voice Competition and a semi-finalist in the Loren L. Zachary Society, James Toland Vocal Arts and Annapolis Opera Vocal Competitions.
An avid proponent of the music of living and contemporary composers, Mr. Balzun won critical acclaim for his portrayal of the titular Joseph de Rocher in the South Florida premiere of Jake Heggie‘s Dead Man Walking with Miami Music Festival. He worked with the composer on this work, as well as the role of Charlie in excerpts from Three Decembers. On the concert stage, he has championed rarely-performed works such as George Rochberg’s String Quartet No. 7, as well as Peter Maxwell Davies’s virtuosic Eight Songs for a Mad King, and numerous performances of Robert Denham’s Sutter Creek, among others. In 2014, Mr. Balzun was a featured soloist at the CFAMC National Conference in 2014, where he gave the world premiere performances of works by Christopher Ashbaugh, David Fuentes, Jan Mittelstaedt and Benjamin Williams. He was looking forward to presenting the New York premiere of Lembit Beecher’s Sky on Swings with Opera Saratoga in 2020 but the production was unfortunately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His professional debut in 2011 was in the world premiere of Peter Michael von der Nahmer’s award winning opera, El canguro with California International Theatre Festival.
In May 2021, Mr. Balzun launched Black Dog Commission, a new commissioning series for art song repertoire which openly discusses life with mental illness. Inspired by Mr. Balzun’s own journey with depression, he looks forward to premiering a new work written for him by Tom Cipullo with poetry by Les Murray in spring 2022, with more projects to come in the future.