From IWU Magazine, Summer 2012 edition
Powers as "Dr. Miracle" in Offebach's opera
"The Tales of Hoffman."
A Villainous Voice
Powers ’64 will bring his wicked talents
back to the Illinois Wesleyan stage.
Whether it’s Faust’s “Mephistopheles” or Otello’s “Iago,” William Powers ‘64 does not shy away from playing the convoluted roles
of villains. Instead, the IWU School of Music graduate embraces this evil side brought
to life by what has been described as “the stentorian, dark, penetrating color of
A world-famous bass-baritone, the Metropolitan Opera star has performed more than
100 operatic roles throughout the United States, Europe and South America. This autumn,
he will return “to where it all began,” giving a concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct.
4, at the University. Also at 4 p.m on Thursday, Powers will speak at the School
of Music’s annual convocation. At 10 a.m. Friday, he will offer a master class. All
three events will be held in Presser Hall’s Westbrook Auditorium and are open to the
Powers says his love of music blossomed early on. Born to parents with European ties,
he often heard the music of Mozart and Beethoven filling his childhood home. Smitten
by the recorded voices of Ezio Pinza and Nelson Eddy, the young basso auditioned for
IWU with arias by Verdi and Mussorgsky, and the subsequent scholarship prompted him
to enroll in the freshman class of ’59. In his first year with the Opera Department,
he sang the title role in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (a role which he reprieves once again in the 2013 season of the Wichita Opera), beginning
a career which he confesses he might not have found elsewhere.
“Whatever drawbacks may have been inherent in attending a small college,” he says,
”were far outweighed by the opportunities. At Juilliard or Indiana, I might have been
swallowed up or, at best, ignored. … At Wesleyan, I was a ‘star.’”
As a winner of the Metropolitan Opera auditions, Powers moved to New York City and
in 1972 made his debut at the New York City Opera in the production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
“As a student of the great Wagnerian, George London, and under the further mentoring
of the legendary Norman Treigle,” Powers says he feels he has inherited a certain
mantle of “singing-actorship,” embracing that opera is “also theatre,” not merely
standing and singing.
Powers showed a different side of his talents
the title role of "Falstaff" by Verdi.
In a recent review, Opera News calls Powers “a lively interpreter of opera characters from the entire bass-baritone
spectrum. The sheer delight he takes in portraying these vignettes is equaled only
by the care with which he details them.” Powers has released two CDs, Rogues and Villains and The Worst of William Powers, both of which showcase the villainous characters he portrays with a “deep psychological
penetration of character,” according to The American Record Guide. “All is sung with brilliance and flair, in a most immaculate, appropriate style
— a warm burr to his solid pitch-black voice.”
Despite his success, Powers remains cognizant of the ongoing challenges of his field.
“There can hardly be a profession in this entire world that demands more, with less
promise of return, than one in the arts,” he says. “You almost have to be crazy —
or have a total disregard for reality — to get involved with so unstable a profession
in the first place! But, thankfully, there are those who are willing to face the odds.”
To visit William Powers' website, click here.
To visit the School of Music website, click here.