NICHOLAS TAMAGNA, COUNTERTENOR: An Opera Singer Who Loves the Drama of Oratorio

Nicholas Tamagna

Nicholas Tamagna

“The alto part in Messiah isn’t one person, or character – you’re a narrator of sorts, but you definitely have a point of view. That, to me, is the genius of Handel. He brought in the drama he wrote in the first half of his career, when he was creating Italian operas for English audiences, and used it in his oratorios when opera started to fall out of favor. Look at the joy, the exuberance in the announcement of the miracle to come: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name, Emmanuel, GOD WITH US.”

As he recites the line, Nicholas Tamagna’s already animated face becomes infused with the wonder and excitement of that moment in Part I of Handel’s Messiah, which he will perform with The Cecilia Chorus of New York on December 8. The sentiment is infectious and genuine, even though he has sung Messiah countless times. “This role is a staple of my repertory. The combination of Baroque arias, a libretto written in English, and the subject—being the life of Christ—with texts drawn from the New Testament, makes it fairly unique in the canon.”

Nicholas, 36, is a countertenor, and the alto role fits perfectly into his range. Originally a baritone, he is most comfortable in the lower mezzo range, but as a countertenor he can climb the heights when he wants to add ornamentation. For more on Nicholas’s choice to sing countertenor, see his interview in our November 2016 newsletter shortly before making his Carnegie Hall debut with The Cecilia Chorus of New York in A Bach Family Christmas.

Since singing with the chorus two years ago, Nicholas has further extended his Baroque repertory as a guest artist with the Nederlandse Reisopera (Dutch Touring Opera) in the title role of the little-known Siroe re di Persia (Siroe, King of Persia) by the 18th century composer Johann Adolf Hasse, and he will return to sing with them in Germany at the Oldenburgisches Staatstheater in Monteverdi’s Orfeo. He recently signed on for his European representation with Parnassus Arts Productions, a European management and production company dedicated to bringing lesser-known operas back to life.

“In Europe, there is a real resurgence of Baroque music—they have the infrastructure and the resources for that, including government funding—while here in the United States, I find myself doing more contemporary work or self-funded projects.” He is currently working with American Opera Projects on a new opera to be recorded in November, and he is completing a song for the score of a short film, Mr. Sam, from film director John Zeus Kontoyannis and composer Rolando Gori, as well as potential projects with Beth Morrison Projects. He is also reaching out into music curation. A few days after singing Messiah on December 8th, he will perform a program he has curated for Magazzino Italiano, a contemporary Italian art museum in Garrison, NY, where he will sing 20th and 21st century Italian works for solo and piano on December 14th.

BIOGRAPHY: Nicholas Tamagna, Countertenor

Nicholas Tamagna is a leading countertenor in his generation singing on many of the world’s stages, and is proud to return to Carnegie Hall with The Cecilia Chorus of New York. Recent and upcoming performances include: Ermanno in Vinci’s Gismondo, Re di Polonia (Theater an der Wien); Silvio in Handel’s Il Pastor Fido (Halle Händelfestspiele ); Ottone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea (Florentine Opera); Tullio in Handel’s Alessandro (Markgräfliches Opernhaus Bayreuth); Siroe in Hasse's Siroe, Re di Persia (Oldenburgisches Staatstheater and the Nederlandse Reisopera); Pompeo in Vivaldi's Il Farnace (Spoleto Festival USA); The Refugee in Dove's Flight (Opera Omaha / Oldenburg); Oronte in Riccardo Primo (Händel-Festspiele Badisches Staatstheater); Polinesso in Ariodante (Theater Münster); Hassan in Cities of Salt (Royal Opera House Covent Garden); and the Spirit in Dido and Aeneas and To be or not to be (with le Poème Harmonique: at Rouen, Vichy,  l'Opéra Royal de Versailles, and la Philharmonie de Paris). For more about Nicholas Tamagna, including a list of his recordings, visit