B.M. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; M.M., University of Kentucky; D.M.A., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Justin Vickers received his Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011, where he is currently a candidate for the PhD in Historical Musicology, as well.
An active performer, the American lyric tenor Justin Vickers has performed frequently at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Vienna's Stephansdom, Moscow's International House of Music, and Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall. He has been lauded for his “beautiful, crystalline tone” and “a marriage of both supple voice and striking good looks.” In 2011, Vickers appeared in China, Moscow, France, England, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia—in opera, concert, recital, and in the recording studio—singing literature ranging from Michael Tippett and Benjamin Britten to Verdi’s La traviata and Joseph Summer’s operatic setting of Hamlet.
Vickers made his Carnegie Hall debut in November 1999 with Maestro Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York in the American première of Donizetti’s Adelia, returning to perform in Lucrezia Borgia alongside Renée Fleming and Marcello Giordani. For his Lucrezia Borgia performance as Rustighello, Classical Singer wrote that Vickers possessed: “A sweet, flexible voice and a lively, highly specific projection of the text that could set an excellent example for singers on this and other stages.” Vickers returned to Carnegie Hall in Meyerbeer’s masterpiece Les Huguenots, and was also a participant in Carlo Bergonzi’s Otello with Maestro Queler, covering the role of Cassio, a role he performed with Queler in Mexico. He has since appeared with The Washington National Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, the Minnesota Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Opera Boston, and the Connecticut Opera, as well as the National Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, the Russian State Symphony Capella, the Liaoning Symphony Orchestra, and the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México, to name a few. His international engagements have taken him to the concert halls and opera houses of Austria, Spain, Albania, Russia, China, and Mexico. In 2006, he assumed his first staged Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia for Opera Boston where he was celebrated in the Boston Globe as “tall and swaggering, his singing sensitive and elegant… with a ringing tone!” Based on the success of that role, he was invited by The Washington National Opera to cover the role of Gennaro at the last minute for their 2008-2009 performances of Lucrezia Borgia with Renée Fleming again singing the title role, under the baton of Maestro Plácido Domingo. Vickers has been likened to a young Nicolai Gedda and The Washington Post declared him “a pliant Mozartian tenor.” With an operatic repertoire of more than thirty leading tenor roles, Vickers has performed the title role in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Ferrando in Così fan tutte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette, Rodolfo in La bohème, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Alfredo in La traviata, Cassio in Otello, Lennie in Of Mice and Men, Gabriel von Eisenstein and Alfredo in Die Fledermaus, and the Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier.
He has created numerous roles in world première operas and symphonies, including Mario in Francis Thorne's Mario and the Magician (recorded for Albany Records); Giovanni in the revised version of Daniel Catán’s La hija de Rappaccini, in which Vickers performed the world première of a newly-composed aria for Giovanni; and the tenor in Alexander Zhurbin’s Fourth Symphony, the City of the Plague. Additional premières include Amedeo “Dedo” Modigliani in Jerold Morgulas’s Anna and Dedo for the Moscow Chamber Opera (Arbat); Leo Stein in William Banfield’s Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On (in a triple bill with Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters, in which he essayed Samuel; and Virgil Thomson’s Capital Capitals, taking on the verbose Capital II. The New York Times called Vickers’ interpretations in the Stein Trilogy “playfully operatic,” noting that his “crisp diction suddenly made whole lines of Stein’s patter start to make sense!”); Tom Cobb in Seymour Barab’s comic opera A Perfect Plan; and the American première of Zhurbin’s The Seagull, singing the role of Konstantin Treplev to Judith Blazer’s Arkadina. Vickers has performed alongside such esteemed artists as Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Mariella Devia, Marcello Giordani, Paul Plishka, and Dmitri Hvorostovski, singing under the baton of Anton Coppola, Kurt Klippstatter, John Rutter, Gianluca Marcianò, Eve Queler, Karen Keltner, Richard Buckley, Joseph Colaneri, Willie Anthony Waters, Antony Walker, Michael Barrett, Valery Polyanski, and Scott Burgess.
Vickers is especially passionate about recital repertoire, notably the cyclical literature of Benjamin Britten. He enjoys pairing less-performed or obscure works beside standard fare; he is devoted to introducing forgotten treasures from British composers to American audiences. After acclaimed performances in Boston’s Jordan Hall of Michael Tippett’s Songs for Ariel with the British keyboardist Ian Watson on The Shakespeare Concerts, Vickers is slated for a future recording of additional Shakespeare settings alongside those of Joseph Summer (Albany Records and Parma Recordings). Upcoming engagements include Britten’s Winter Words, the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, and The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Tippett’s Boyhood’s End and The Heart’s Assurance, in addition to future concerts of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, Liszt’s Tre Sonetti di Petrarca, Dvorak’s Ciganské Melodie, Schoenberg’s Vier Lieder, Op. 2, and Joaquín Turina’s Homenaje a Lope de Vega. In the 2011-2012 season, Vickers premièred Ke-Chia Chen’s Three Frost Songs with pianist R. Kent Cook. The tenor adds Schumann’s Dictherliebe to his 2011-2012 season, and Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin to his 2012-2013 season.
In 2011, Vickers was thrilled to have appeared in Philadelphia for the world première of Tony Solitro’s War Wedding, a song cycle commissioned by the tenor and based on the poetry cycle of Alun Lewis. For the dramatic cycle Vickers collaborated with pianist R. Kent Cook, presented on a series of Voice of This Generation concerts for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Other recent performances and recordings include excerpts of the title role in Joseph Summer’s Hamlet in Boston (Parma Records), as well as a disc of musical settings from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, including Michael Tippett’s Songs for Ariel (Parma Records).
Vickers has presented papers to the Music and the Moving Image VI conference at NYU-Steinhardt, “Guarded Aldeburgh: Capturing Benjamin Britten in Tony Palmer’s A Time There Was (1979)”; excerpts from his DMA dissertation to the Fourth Biennial Conference of the North American British Music Studies Association; and, “Retracing Michael Tippett’s Journey through the Creative Process of The Heart’s Assurance” for the Annalyser les Processus de Création Musicale conference in Lille, France. Research for his DMA dissertation, “‘The Ineffable Moments Will Be Harder Won’: The Genesis, Creative Process and Early Performance History of Michael Tippett’s The Heart’s Assurance,” was partially funded by The Presser Foundation. He is currently conducting research for his PhD dissertation: “A History of the English Opera Group, 1947-1980.”
Vickers is a twentieth-century British music scholar, and his research focuses primarily on the mid-century artists Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Lennox Berkeley, William Walton, Priaulx Rainier, and Michael Tippett. Vickers is especially interested in applying the principles of genetic criticism to composers’ sketches, drafts, and manuscripts, and publishing transcriptions of otherwise unpublished correspondence of both composers and performers.