With a father who toured as a trumpet player with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, and Frankie Valli, and a pianist mother who taught music in Chicago suburban schools for nearly four decades, is it any wonder that Michael St. Peter sang so beautifully that he made the mothers cry when he performed in elementary school? Well, yes, in a way. Michael did grow up in a musical family and learned all about music from his parents, but his vocal talent came from his birthmother Jennifer.
Jennifer was a 19-year-old student of vocal performance when she unexpectedly became pregnant and decided to bring the baby to term and place him into an open adoption. When she learned that a couple of professional musicians wanted to adopt her child, the choice was clear. Michael was adopted into a musical family, who, from the start, also included Jennifer, her own parents, and later her husband and their two daughters in their intimate circle.
“I first met my birthmother when I was eleven, but I had known about her as long as I can remember. And she knew all about me, since my parents had kept in frequent touch. After that, we spent many holidays with her and her parents, whom I consider my grandmother and grandfather. My parents’ parents have passed, so they’re the family grandparents!”
Michael St. Peter, 24, recounts this story with the look of someone who can’t quite believe his good luck. That sense of wonder and gratitude extends through his childhood, being cast in professional children’s roles in productions of the Chicago Opera Theater and then, in high school, singing with the Chicago Children’s Choir.
“The singers are extremely diverse in that choir—many of them inner-city kids—which is dedicated to racial equality and to discipline, both through the medium of music. They are extremely strict there, and that’s where I learned my work ethic. But at the same time we toured around the world, singing in a different part of the world every summer during high school. It was a wonderful experience to perform for and connect with people from so many different cultures.”
As an undergraduate at Juilliard, which he describes as “amazing, overwhelming, rewarding, and stressful,” he experienced how intensely the staff focuses on each individual student.
“There was a lot of pressure there, but it helped me develop my own particular taste in performing, the way I perform and think about my craft. At a certain point the focus was no longer about how I feel performing but about what my performance brings about in the audience. That’s what singing really is about to me.”
He followed his teacher Marlena Malas to the Manhattan School of Music for a Masters in Vocal Performance. He spent last summer in the Young Artists Program at the Opera Theater of St. Louis, and later this season he will play Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at the Tulsa Opera, alongside Lucia Lucas, the transgender baritone.
“This is the first time a known trans person will perform a principal role on the operatic stage in the United States. Opera is really opening up, catching up with the times, and that’s so exciting!”
BIOGRAPHY: Michael St. Peter, Tenor
American tenor Michael St. Peter is an emerging young artist based in New York City. He is recognized as a performer whose, “attention to detail both emotionally and musically was profound” (OperaWire). Previous credits include: Le petit vieillard (L’Enfant et les sortilèges) and Mercurio (La Calisto) with Juilliard Opera; Lurcanio (Ariodante), Monostatos (Der Zauberflöte), and Peter Quint (The Turn of the Screw) at the Chautauqua Institution School of Music; and Le Prince in Nicolo Isouard’s Cendrillon with Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre. Awards include an Encouragement from the 2017 Gerda Lissner Foundation Lieder/Song Competition and Second Prize at the 2018 McCammon Voice Competition. Michael was most recently a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. He will be making his professional debut in Tulsa Opera’s 2018-19 season as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. For more about Michael St. Peter, visit encompassarts.com/artist/michael-st-peter.