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

Sound Bites: Ben Bliss

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

Sound Bites Ben Bliss hdl 615
Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Suit: J. Crew / Grooming by Affan Malik
© Dario Acosta 2015
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Rising tenor Ben Bliss
© Dario Acosta 2015

Ben Bliss has the clean, clear, unaffected delivery that’s ideal for Mozart and for American music — and he will be singing plenty of both this month. The twenty-nine-year-old tenor from Prairie Village, Kansas, takes on Tony in the West Side Story Concert Suite No. 1 in June parks concerts with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, then heads to Des Moines Metro Opera for Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which opens on June 26. When Entführung ends its run in July, Bliss rejoins the NYPO for more West Side Story concerts in Vail and Santa Barbara.

Bliss calls Mozart “the supreme puzzle master. Everything he writes, no matter how sensual the melody, is underpinned and supported by this incredible musical structure that the singer has to observe. That structure is in everything he gives you to sing, which is one of the reasons I love Mozart so much.”

Bliss was raised in a family of music-lovers — his mother sings in the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus — and sang in high school and as an undergraduate at Chapman University in Orange, California, where he did his first Tamino. After graduating with a degree in film, Bliss worked in production for two and a half years on the syndicated talk show Dr. Phil, where he says he “learned a lot about production and people and politics — and how to work eighteen-hour days.” In 2011, Bliss decided to try a singing career: “I called my college voice teacher, Patrick Goeser, and said, ‘Guess what? I’m a singer.’” Bliss did a series of auditions for Los Angeles Opera that culminated in an appointment to sing for Plácido Domingo. “Plácido brought the most warm, encouraging sort of energy into the room. It was great. I sang, and a few days later I got an e-mail inviting me to join the L.A. Young Artist program. I don’t quite remember if I knew that was on the table when I auditioned — or if I even knew what that was.” Bliss’s LAO assignments in his two years as a Young Artist included Barbarigo in I Due Foscari, “which meant that I had a couple of little scenes with just me and Domingo onstage and James Conlon in the pit. Amazing!” 

In the spring of 2013, Bliss was accepted into the Lindemann Program at the Met, where he made his debut as Vogelgesang in Die Meistersinger in December 2014. This coming autumn, Bliss will revisit Belmonte for the Glyndebourne Festival Tour; in February 2016, he’ll return to Los Angeles Opera for a run as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte,and in April he will sing his first Met Belmonte, an opportunity he calls “stupendous.” “It’s been a wild, exciting four years, and I’ve worked really hard. I couldn’t be happier — I’ve gotten incredibly lucky. But I have to keep reminding myself that luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” spacer 

F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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