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Rising Star Ray Chenez lg 1015
Chenez’s crystalline diction gets every word across.
© Kevin Steele

RAY CHENEZ ’s countertenor is bold and assertive but also warm-toned and luxurious. He has a naturally electric presence, and his diction is precise no matter how high he sings. When he began his undergraduate years, he admits, he was “only vaguely familiar with what a countertenor was. It was a big adjustment just to feel everything in a different register, and to learn how to harness and control it.” Born in Lockport, New York, Chenez, thirty-one, currently studies with Andrea DelGiudice.

“I’m just starting to see now what I’m going to be singing,” he says. “A lot of the countertenor repertoire is quite low and doesn’t really show off the voice that I have, which is much higher. The low repertoire is still sort of the standard countertenor repertoire.” In competitions, Chenez has excelled with the refugee’s aria from Jonathan Dove’s Flight. His European debut came last season in the Parnassus Arts production of Leonardo Vinci’s Catone in Utica, which toured to several places, including the Bergen International Festival. Chenez has engagements coming up with Opéra Royal de Versailles and Opéra National de Lorraine à Nancy this season, but he’s not on a fest contract anywhere; such an opportunity remains rare for any countertenor.

The future of American opera companies, in particular, seems at times to be leaning toward smaller and more specialized, a shift Chenez does not necessarily see as healthy. “I see positive press for these small companies,” he says, “but a lot of people aren’t getting paid much, so I don’t see how that can survive long-term. If nobody is getting paid, how can we keep producing?”

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