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About Benton Hess

Benton HessAmerican conductor, composer, pianist, and pedagogue Benton Hess, the founder and Artistic Director of “Si parla, si canta,” began musical studies with piano and several orchestral instruments at age five, encouraged by musical parents. By his early teens, he was already performing professionally and winning piano competitions. After finishing his own studies at the New England Conservatory, Hess was named Musical Director of the Opera Department at Boston University at age twenty-one and began conducting opera professionally, mentored by impresario Boris Goldovsky, for whom he conducted several national tours of the Goldovsky Grand Opera Theatre.

Since then, he has conducted hundreds of performances encompassing a myriad of musical styles for dozens of opera companies, including Annapolis Opera, Augusta Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lake George Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Minnesota Opera, Mobile Opera, New York Lyric Opera, Opera Memphis, Opera Theatre of Rochester, Shreveport Opera, Tacoma Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Washington Summer Opera, among others. He has led several world premieres, including works by Greg Sandow, Lee Hoiby, Charles Strouse, and two operas by Libby Larsen. Mr. Hess has assisted many other noted composers in preparation for premieres of their works, Karel Husa, Daniel Pinkham, David Amram, Luciano Berio, and Robert Ward, to name but a few.

Widely acknowledged as one of America’s most respected vocal coaches and accompanists, Mr. Hess’ roster of collaborators reads like a “Who’s Who” of the opera world, with artists such as Nicolai Gedda, Eleanor Steber, Jennifer Larmore, and Renée Fleming. Mr. Hess, himself, was inducted into “Who’s Who” in 2009.

As Assistant Conductor for Opera Orchestra of New York for 27 years, Benton Hess prepared dozens of operas for presentation in New York’s Carnegie Hall with some of the finest singers of our era. Among them were Massenet’s Le Cid (Bumbry, Domingo), Smetana’s Dalibor (Gedda), Massenet’s Herodiade (Twice! Caballé, Gedda and Bumbry, Fleming), Janaĉek’s Jenůfa (Beňaĉkova, Rysanek), Von Weber’s Der Freischütz (Behrens, Voigt, Heppner, Sotin), Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans (Zajick, Hynninen), Puccini’s Edgar (Scotto, Bergonzi), Catalani’s La Wally (Millo, Manuguerra), Giordano’s Fedora (Marton, Todisco), Verdi’s I Due Foscari (Rowland, Chernov), La Battaglia di Legnano (Millo, Hines), Rossini’s Armida (Fleming, Kunde), La Cenerentola (Genaux, Fowler, G. Quilico, Owens), Bellini’s Il Pirata (Millo), La Straniera (Fleming, Kunde), I Capuleti ed I Montecchi (Devia, Larmore), La Sonnambula (Anderson, Sabbatini), Norma (Eaglen, Ganassi), Beatrice di Tenda (Anderson, Tumagian), Donizetti’s Poliuto (Rowland, Armiliato), Maria Stuarda (Swenson, Flanigan, Kunde), Caterina Cornaro (Millo, Colombaro, Bruson), Anna Bolena (Vaness, Scalchi, Plishka), Roberto Devereux (Rowland, Zampieri, Zambalis, de la Mora, Chernov), Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable (Merritt, Ramey), and many others.

Benton Hess has served on the faculties of several prestigious institutions, including Boston Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Rutgers University, Mannes College of Music, Hartt School of Music, and was the Covington Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for seven years. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Voice and Musical Director of the Opera Theatre at the Eastman School of Music.

In addition to his responsibilities at Eastman and with “Si parla, si canta,” Mr. Hess is an active master class clinician world-wide. While on sabbatical from Eastman, he spent the spring of 2013 in Scandinavia and Scotland, teaching at the Kongelige Danske Musikkonservatorium in Copenhagen, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, and the Norges Musikkhøgskole in Oslo. Mr. Hess also regularly appears for master classes at the Singers' Studio in Stockholm.

Benton Hess is also a composer; he has received several important commissions and his works are in the repertoire of some of the finest artists of our time. Benton Hess' recordings may be found on the Albany, BIS, CBS, and Crystal labels.

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