MICHAEL ST. PETER, Tenor: “Paine’s Mass in D is gorgeous, lush, and cinematic”

Michael St. Peter

Michael St. Peter

When tenor Michael St. Peter began studying the score of John Knowles Paine’s Mass in D minor, from which he will be singing excerpts in The Cecilia Chorus of New York’s Walt Whitman Bicentennial concert Sing Me the Universal, he felt it painted a picture, like a movie score.

“The long, flowing lines, the beautiful legato – it was lush and cinematic. My part in the Gloria practically sings itself – the music just falls out of you. It’s a great experience to sing.”

Michael is, as it were, stepping from one high point to another. In December he sang tenor solo with the chorus in Handel’s Messiah, his Carnegie Hall debut. (See an earlier interview with Michael St. Peter in our November 2018 newsletter.) “Before the performance I was very intimidated by the legendary grandness of Carnegie Hall, which seems so much bigger when you’re standing in an empty hall than when you’re actually on the stage looking out at all the people. I was afraid my voice wouldn’t be able to fill the hall, and that I wouldn’t be able to tell if I was singing loud enough or could be heard properly. During the dress rehearsal I was so overwhelmed by emotion that I almost cried. But then I said to myself, this is not about you. It’s not about how intimidated you are. Focus on the music!”

In fact, Michael found the sound to be similar to that in a large church, with its booming acoustics. “Those high church ceilings give so much reverberation that your voice comes back to you. I was surprised that the same thing happened in Carnegie Hall. And the way the seating is designed, with the parterre wrapping around almost to the stage, you feel a very direct relationship with the audience. It’s as if they’re hugging you.”

Another reassuring factor in the concert was the work done by Conductor Mark Shapiro in rehearsals. “Mark had conveyed his ideas about the music and the text—its deeper meaning, and the nuances in it—equally to the chorus, which was magnificent, to the soloists and to the orchestra. During the performance there was a wonderful consistency to the playing and singing. We were all very much part of a whole.”

On March 2, the Whitman-themed concert will take place in a much more intimate space, the 600-seat Church of St. Francis Xavier in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. “You would think that would be easier than singing in Carnegie Hall, but mind you, playing to a smaller audience in a smaller space presents its own challenges: the audience can pick up on all the hard work I put into my performance. There’s nowhere to hide!” 

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.