Isaiah Bell




Isaiah Bell


American/Canadian Citizenship

Hailed in The New York Times for “a performance of haunting beauty, ideally depicting emotional distraction with ultimate economy and glowing vocal skill,” Canadian-American tenor Isaiah Bell looks forward to a season highlighted by the works of Handel, Britten and Kurt Weill.

His current season includes MESSIAH with the Toronto Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic (both conducted by Nicholas McGegan), Bernstein’s MASS with Bethlehem Bach, Britten’s CURLEW RIVER at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the Mark Morris Dance Group, and Weill’s intriguing SIEBEN TODSÜNDEN for the Toronto Symphony’s Decades series, conducted by Peter Oundjian. Isaiah looks forward to Haydn’s DIE SCHÖPFUNG with the Nashville Symphony, MESSIAH with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Vancouver Bach Choir and Beethoven’s SYMPHONY NO. 9 with the Seattle Symphony.

In 2018,he will appear as Urimeco/Sailor in Opera Atelier’s production of Monteverdi’s THE RETURN OF ULYSSES as well as a return to Opéra Théâtre de Metz Métropole singing the male lead in the premiere of Pierre Bartholomée’s NOUS SOMMES ETERNELS.

His 2015-2016 season began with Almaviva in Rossini’s IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA for Opera Lyra Ottawa with further stage outings in Metz (Lysander in Brittens’ A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM) and Opéra de Montréal (Junger Dienerin ELEKTRA). He debuted with San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque in Handel’s ODE TO STE CECILIA followed by MESSIAH, under Nicholas McGegan. MESSIAH also took him to New York’s St. Thomas Church. Patrons of the Bethlehem Bach Festival heard him in Bach’s WEIHNACHTSORATORIUM and JOHANNES PASSION, while Mendelssohn’s LOBGESANGand ELIJAH took him to Regina and Ottawa respectively.

In 2014 -2015, he wasin New York at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, playing Damon in Mark Morris’s new production of ACIS AND GALATEA. Other season highlights included Britten’s OWEN WINGRAVE at the Edinburgh and Aldeburgh Festivals under Mark Wigglesworth, George Benjamin’s WRITTEN ON SKIN conducted by the composer with

the Toronto Symphony, Berlioz ROMÉO ET JULIETTE with Kent Nagano and l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Bach’s MATTHÄUS PASSION for the Grand Philharmonic Choir of Kitchener Waterloo, DIE SCHÖPFUNG for the Okanagan Symphony and performances and a recording of the Honegger/Ibert opera L’AIGLON, also with Nagano and the OSM.

He also appearedin the role of Marlowin Tarik O’Regan’s HEART OF DARKNESS with Opera Parallèle San Francisco, and as tenor soloist in concert performances with Vancouver Symphony (Bramwell Tovey),Bethlehem Bach Festival(Greg Funfgeld), Colorado Symphony (Pinchas Zukerman), and New Jersey Symphony (Jacques Lacombe), among others. Recent recordings include a song recital for CBC Radio’s “In Concert” and a new disc of German Baroque cantatas with the Theatre of Early Music. Bell’s

2013 -2014 season included the MATTHÄUS PASSION with Yannick Nézét -Séguin in Montreal, Britten’s CURLEW RIVER directed by Mark Morris at Tanglewood, a staged MESSIAH with Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre, Bach’s MASS IN B MINOR with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and performances of Britten’s SERENADE FOR TENOR, HORN, AND STRINGS, the Schütz MUSIKALISCHE EXEQUIEN, and Benjamin’s WRITTEN ON SKIN.

On the opera and concert stage Isaiah continues to be recognized for his “beautiful tenor, command of the style, and natural stage presence,” his “willingness to invest himself wholly into the character,” the “fervency and clarity” and “overwhelming emotional force” of his performances and his “uncommonly warm light tenor, smooth musical line and sound artistic choices.”

The British Columbian is also an active performer of song literature. His upcoming solo recital at Wigmore Hall follows recent performances of Schubert’s WINTERREISE with Stephen Ralls, Walton’s FAÇADE and Satie’s TROIS MÉLODIES DE 1916 as part of l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s chamber series, Vaughan Williams’ WENLOCK EDGE and a group of SHROPSHIRE LAD settings orchestrated by Kevin Mallon for the Thirteen Strings, and the Canadian premiere of Alec Roth’s and Vikram Seth’s SEVEN ELEMENTS cycle at Music and Beyond, Ottawa. Previously he premiered a song cycle of his own poetry and music, ON THIS DAY, as part of Montreal’s Journées d’Arts Sacrés du Plateau, and gave a recital of Satie songs in St. John’s, Newfoundland, for broadcast on CBC Radio II.

Isaiah Bell received his formal training at the University of Victoria, from which he holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance. Subsequently he was an ensemble member in the Young Artist Program of Pacific

Opera Victoria, Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program, and l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, with supplementary training gained at the Tanglewood Music Centre, Salzburg’s Universität Mozarteum, Edmonton’s Opera NUOVA, and the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s Baroque Oratorio Academy. He is also the composer of four operas and a number of song cycles.

December 2017




Adamo, Mark Laurie LITTLE WOMEN
Benjamin, George Angel 3/John WRITTEN ON SKIN
Britten Albert
Spirit of the Masque
Burry, Dean Prof. Hornsby ISIS and THE SEVEN SCORPIONS
Copland Prof. Hornsby THE TENDER LAND
Donizetti Ernesto DON PASQUALE
Mozart Ferrando
Rolfe, James Elijah ELIJAH’S KITE
Smetana Principal Comedian PRODANÁ NEVĔSTA
Strauss, R. Erster Jude SALOME
Stravinsky Tom Rakewell THE RAKE’S PROGRESS
Sullivan Nanki-Poo THE MIKADO
Weill Sam/Buchanan STREET SCENE


Bach BWV 4, 55, 60, 78, 95, 96, 125, 134, 181
Johannes Passion (Evangelist, tenor soloist)
Matthäus Passion (Evangelist, tenor soloist)
Messe in h-Moll
Weihnachts Oratorium
Beethoven Messe in C-dur
Choral Fantasy
Berlioz L’enfance du Christ (Centurion)
Britten Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac
St. Nicolas
Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings
Bruhns Ich liege und schlafe
Buxtehude Jesu, meine Freude
Jesu meines lebens leben
Handel Dettingen Te Deum
Judas Maccabaeus
Let God Arise
Messiah (arr. Mozart)
Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day
Haydn Harmoniemesse
Kuhnau Gott sei mir gnädig
Mendelssohn Elijah
Mozart Requiem in D minor
Mozart/Levin Requiem in D minor
Schubert Messe Es-Dur
Stainer Crucifixion
Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music
Vivaldi  Gloria, RV 588

Selected Recital Repertoire

Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, op. 52
Janáček Řikadla
Liszt Tre Sonetti di Petrarca
Roth, Alec Seven Element
The Hermit on the Ice
Satie Socrate
Trois Mélodies de 1886
Trois Mélodies de 1916
Schubert Wintereisse
Schumann Liederkreis, op. 39
Liederkreis, op. 24
Vaughan Williams Along the Field

“Capped by a charming pas de deux danced by vocalists Isaiah Bell and Carla Huhtanen, the moment, like innumerable other instances of singer actor multi-tasking, utterly delights… The pair’s Act I assignation, musically embodied in Monteverdi’s luscious, sensuous duet, ‘Dolce mia vita sei’ (You are my sweet life) is inexpressibly gorgeous. As wicked and treacherous as their characters may be, Huhtanen and Bell sing like angels.” [Opera Atelier, The Return of Ulysses] Opera Going Toronto, Ian Ritchie

“…[It’s] certainly about time that Canadian tenor Isaiah Bell sang for Opera Atelier. He makes his like-a-glove company debut in Ulysses, and his smooth sound is the first we hear.” [Opera Atelier, The Return of Ulysses] The Globe and Mail, Jenna Simeonov

“Singing the central role of the celebrant with effortlessly clear diction and a ringing purity of tone was tenor Bell. Bell has the warm, graceful voice of a classic lyric tenor, yet with an upper register approaching countertenor territory, especially notable in the exquisite a cappella ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ His delivery of the Sanctus was equally moving, with a prayer-like quality that at least for me evoked Tony singing ‘Maria’ in Bernstein’s music for ‘West Side Story.’” [Bethlehem Bach, Bernstein’s Mass] The Morning Call, Steve Siegel

“And amid an excellent cast, the tenor Isaiah Bell as the Madwoman gives a performance of exquisite poignancy. The scooping of his voice, up and down, could provoke laughter, but Mr. Bell makes you hear the grief in it, the text’s “wandering mind.” His hesitations pierce the heart, and his physical performance is no less delicate and affecting.”
[Madwoman, Curlew River, Mark Morris Dance Group] The New York Times, Brian Seibert

“I loved Isaiah Bell’s ‘Comfort ye.’ He was suave and debonair, but most of all, comforting.” 
[Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Messiah] Schmopera, Jenna Douglas/Greg Finney

“Returning after his TSO debut in 2015 was tenor Isaiah Bell, who was a compliment to the role.” 
[Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Messiah] Musical Toronto, Michael Vincent

“Each of the soloists delivered stunning performances. They sang directly to every member of the audience. Tenor Isaiah Bell opened with a reassuring ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…’ He was at his best in the series of recitatives and airs in Part Two in which he depicted the deep sorrow and grief around the crucifixion.”
[Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Messiah] Toronto Concert Reviews, David Richards

“His voice projected effortlessly and is nicely focused. The top notes that plague many singers caused him no concern whatsoever — the high As taken as ‘but of course.’ …In the world of singing, the voice itself counts for a great deal — and that Bell most certainly has.” 
[Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Messiah] Calgary Herald, Kenneth Delong

“The adult vocal soloists — Elizabeth Weisberg, soprano; Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano; Isaiah Bell, tenor; and David Grogan, bass — were excellent. Ms. Bragle and Mr. Bell were especially strong, pliant and communicative.”
[St. Thomas Church Choir, New York, Messiah] New York Times, James Oestreich

“As Damon, ginger-haired Isaiah Bell looked perfectly pastoral, sang his runs and divisions with neat brio, and runs and divisions with neat brio, and seemed happily unfazed by Morris’s hyperactive stage world.”
[Mostly Mozart Festival, Mark Morris Dance Group, Acis and Galatea] Opera Canada, Patrick Dillon

“Marlow, sung with exquisite lyricism and an air of heroism by tenor Isaiah Bell, is perhaps the most traditional conception, a sympathetic protagonist who gets the most straightforward and alluring melodies.”
[World premiere of Heart of Darkness with Opera Parallel] San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman

“In the demanding role of Marlow, tenor Isaiah Bell was excellent.”
[World premiere of Heart of Darkness with Opera Parallel] Berkeley Daily Planet, James Roy MacBean

“Isaiah Bell stood out as a singer to watch, with an uncommonly warm light tenor, smooth musical line and sound artistic choices. Beginning the work by announcing the coming of the Lord, he evinced gentleness and excitement in Ev’ry valley shall be exalted and poignancy singing, Thy rebuke hath broken his heart.’” [New Jersey Symphony, Messiah] New Jersey Star-Ledger, Ronni Reich

“Isaiah Bell was quite stunning in his vocal subtlety and strength. Bell’s voice is so pure and full, with such a lovely ring and evenness in his tone production. His renderings of both Saget es, die ihr erlöst seid… and ‘Stricke des Todes’ were events in themselves, and added noticeably to the electricity of the proceedings.” [Vancouver Symphony, Lobesgesang] Vancouver Classical Music, Geoffrey Newman

“Rising star Isaiah Bell, the Canadian-American tenor, enthralled as the evangelist who narrates the story. He maintained clear focus throughout, his effortless voice rising and falling as the dramatic events unfolded. He shaded all his recitatives with the subtle nuances of a fine Shakespearean actor, ultimately declaiming Jesus’s death to harrowing effect.” Winnipeg Free Press, Holly Harris

“I especially liked the final tenor solo ‘Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini,’ sung by Victoria, BC native Isaiah Bell. His vocal tone was something to behold.” [Bach Mass in B minor] Musical Toronto, Michael Vincent

“Tenor Isaiah Bell gives a performance of haunting beauty, ideally depicting emotional distraction with ultimate economy and glowing vocal skill…. His singing is finer yet, with firmly sculptured phrasing and effortless clear diction. You hang on his face, his words, and on the gleaming current of his vocal tone.” The New York Times

“The young tenor Isaiah Bell has a perfect voice for the oratorio. He can sing high notes without straining the voice, allowing it to maintain impeccable diction. He does not try to impress. He recited the text with beautiful phrasing with accentuated meaning.”
La Liberté, Pierre Meunier

“Young tenor Isaiah Bell… sang with passion and a powerfully resonant voice.” Cleveland Classical, James Flood

“I was intrigued by BC tenor Isaiah Bell…his is a light sweet sound, with very good agility and a well supported upper range, making him ideal in Rossini. He sang Ramiro’s aria from La Cenerentola – a fiendishly difficult piece not the faint of heart. He sang fearlessly and quite well, with all the money notes.” La Scene Musicale, Joseph So

“Special mention goes to…Isaiah Bell as the first Jew, whose doctrinal proclamations were chilling in their fervor and clarity.”
Opera Magazine, Robert Markow

“Isaiah Bell is an exceptional new young Canadian tenor who’s set to emerge on the world market.”
Noel Edison quoted in Halifax Chronicle-Herald

“Bell’s tenor voice is both light and sweet, but with more than a hint of darkness in it. He sang the sequence of recitatives and arias, narrating how the crowd’s rebuke broke Christ’s hear, with admirable power. His tone colour and conviction conveyed the mix of sorrow and compassion to be found in Handel’s treatment of this part of the crucifixion drama.” Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Stephen Pedersen

“Tenor Isaiah Bell as the madwoman was breathtaking. He sustained an intensity of emotion which never toppled into hysteria. His restrained gestures, like the Madwoman’s simple, haunting curlew motif in the music, slowly built suppressed tension and let Britten’s music work its magic.” Review Vancouver

“Tenor Isaiah Bell as the Madwoman, sang fervently with a palette and much eloquence (particularly memorable was the duet of oscillating semitones with the flute).” Globe and Mail, Elissa Poole

“The madwoman was sung with depth and inspiration by tenor Isaiah Bell, who communicated the solemnity and abject sorrow of the women seen in medieval altar paintings at the feet of the crucified Christ.” Opera Canada, Hilary Clark

“Isaiah Bell, who provides Lionel’s singing voice off-stage, is blessed with a beautiful, pure tenor.”
Victoria Times Colonist, Adrian Chamberlain


Tenor, Isaiah Bell is featured in the February edition of Opera Canada Magazine (Vol. LVIII, No. 3). In ‘Artists On Stage’  author Joseph So does an in-depth review of this ‘multitalented Renaissance Man’ prior to his return to the Canadian Opera Company to join in Rufus Wainwright’s new production, Hadrian. Clink the link to read the article: Isaiah Bell

ISAIAH BELL sings the role of Eurimanco in Montiverdi’s great work, Return of Ulysses with Opera Aterlier. April 19 – 28, 2018 at the Eligin Theatre, Toronto.

ISAIAH BELL performs as the Tenor Soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. December 14 – 17, 2017 at Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul’s.