Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Brandon Cedel

The South Carolina-born bass-baritone sings in Boston, Geneva, Munich and New York this season.
by F. Paul Driscoll. 

Sound Bites Brandon Cedel hdl 216
Photograph by DARIO ACOSTA
Sound Bites Brandon Cedel sm 216
Bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, set to return to the Met as the Sergeant in Manon Lescaut
© Dario Acosta

BRANDON CEDEL, who is in his third and final season as a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, is the Sergeant in the company’s new production of Manon Lescaut this month. Cedel started at the Met in 2013, fresh from seven years at the Curtis Institute and a win in the company’s National Council Auditions. “The Met is like Disneyland for a young opera singer—literally everything you could possibly want is there. You see how to act onstage, how to act offstage. And you are surrounded by the best of the best every minute.” 

Cedel has an eager, honest performing style and a lean, dark-edged bass-baritone that can deliver a knockout charge in the right role. As the sex-crazed tyrant Isacio, Cedel tore up the stage with gleeful villainy in Handel’s Richard the Lionheart at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2015, looking like a Hollywood swashbuckler. “I’m lucky. I loved singing that—I love singing Handel. But anything I’m working on I kind of fall in love with. I do my best work when I’m having fun and I’m comfortable and enjoying the process. That is something I learned from my teacher, Marlena Malas—I’m ambitious, and I want things to happen fast, but Marlena taught me to learn to love the process. Take time to live what is happening now.

“When I first got to Curtis, I would open up opera news, and I wouldn’t know anyone. I’d say, ‘Huh? Who are these people?’ Then, after a few years, it was, ‘Hey! I know that person.’ And then, ‘Whoa! I lived with that person.’ It’s awesome.”

This season, Cedel has already sung Colline in Boston and Britten’s Theseus in Geneva; coming up next summer are engagements at the Castleton Festival, as Mozart’s Figaro, and the Munich Festival, where he will make his company debut as Masetto, a role he last sang at Glyndebourne in 2014. Asked what music he favors in his time off, Cedel chuckles. “I totally listen to a ton of Broadway stuff,” he says. “It’s music I’ve tried very hard to sing, and it is not right for me. But I love it. I will often go down to TKTS on a Sunday and see what’s on there, see what Jason Robert Brown show is playing. That’s the kind of stuff that I can listen to and not think about what the singer’s doing technically. I just forget about everything and simply enjoy the music for the music.” spacer 

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