One of America's finest countertenors, Steven Rickards sang in the world premiere of John Adams's opera-oratorio El Niño at the Châtelet Opera in Paris (December 2000). The work was staged by Peter Sellars and conducted by Kent Nagano. There have been subsequent performances of the work with the Adelaide Symphony, the BBC Philharmonic, the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester,the London Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the Sait Louis Symphony, the Tokyo Symphony, and the Malmö Opera (Sweden). Future performances of the work are schedule for the Spoleto Festival in a newly staged version in May 2014.
Other recent appearances include the world premiere of Bruno Moretti's Vespro with the New York City Ballet in Lincoln Center; the American premiere performance of Michael Nyman's Self-Laudatory Hymn of Inanna and Her Omnipotence with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall; Handel's Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Pergolesi's Stabat Mater with the New York City Ballet; J.S. Bach's St. Mark Passion with the Miami Bach Society; and performances in Israel, Germany, and the USA with Paul Hillier's Theatre of Voices.
A longtime associate of eminent Bach interpreter Joshua Rifkin, Rickards has performed virtually all the master's monumental vocal works with the Bach Ensemble at locations as diverse as Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, Festival of Perth, Tage Alte Musik and the Royal Albert Hall. Other performances of Bach's works include the Magnificat at Grant Park in Chicago and the Mass in A with Vocalisten Frankfurt in Germany. He has sung the Mass in B Minor worldwide with organizations such as the American Bach Soloists, the Barum Bach Choir (Oslo, Norway), the Washington Bach Consort, and the Festival Singers under the direction of Robert Shaw throughout France. He has also been heard in performances of theChristmas Oratorio with the Winchester Cathedral Choir in Brazil as well as in a live broadcast of the work for National Public Radio with the Smithsonian Chamber Players. In 1997 he performed the St. John Passion with the Regensburger Domspatzen in Berlin and Munich, Germany.
The works of G.F. Handel are another area of expertise. Rickards appeared in the Boston Early Music Festival's production of Teseo in 1985. He also participated in several Handelian productions with Concert Royal including Alessandro at Alice Tully Hall and Terpsichore in the role of Apollo with performances in New York, Dallas, and Puerto Rico. He performed Balshazzar with Cleveland's Apollo's Fire, Samson with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Solomon with the Miami Bach Society, and Theodora with Chicagos Music of the Baroque. He also sang in productions of Partenope with Opera Omaha and Siroe at Merkin Hall in New York. Rickards has become well known for his creative interpretation of Handel's Messiah which he has performed with leading baroque orchestras including the, Boston's Handel and Haydn Society, Cleveland's Apollo's Fire, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and Toronto's Tafelmusik. Other performances include appearances with modern orchestras in many major American cities, including performances with the Oratorio Society of New York (Carnegie Hall), the St. Louis Symphony, and the Pittsburgh Symphony. He has also appeared as soloist in Messiah at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
Highlights of past seasons include several twentieth-century premiere performances of Baroque works, including Matthew Locke's Psyche in London with the English Opera Society, conducted by Philip Pickett; J.A. Hasse's L'Olimpiade in Dresden with the Stuttgart Kammerchor; and the American premiere of Mondonville's De Profundis at Harvard University. He celebrated his Australian debut in the Brisbane Biennial Festival with New York's Ensemble for Early Music, performing the medieval Daniel and the Lions to sell-out crowds and rave reviews. Rickards has also appeared with other leading early music ensembles such as Capriole, Chanticleer, the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Echoing Air, Ensemble Voltaire, the Gabrieli Consort, the Kings Noyse, and the New London Consort.
Rickards also enjoys performing music by contemporary composers. He has premiered works by John Adams, Allyson Applebaum, Alan Ridout, and Ray Shattenkirk. Other noteworthy performances of contemporary works include the role of Apollo in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and the role of Isaac in Samuel Alder's oratorio The Binding with the Indianapolis Symphony. A number of contemporary composers have written new works for Steven. He created the role of Trinculo in the premiere of John Eaton's opera The Tempest at the Santa Fe Opera in 1985. In October 1993 Rickards performed the world premiere of Ladislav Kubik's award-winning Der Weg, an homage to Franz Kafka, at the Academy of Music in Prague.
With lutenist Dorothy Linell, Steven has toured extensively throughout the United States and Central America giving concerts and master classes on Elizabethan song. The Rickards Linell Duo has been ensemble-in-residence at the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of Costa Rica. In the summer of 1989 they performed at the National Association of Teachers of Singing's national convention in Los Angeles. In September 1991 they made their debut in the Wratislawia Cantans Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, and have also performed in festivals in Denmark and England.
Steven is featured on the following recordings: John Adams's oratorio El Niño for Nonesuch, Bach Cantatas (conducted by Joshua Rifkin) BWV 106 and BWV 131 for Decca Records, Three Weimar Cantatas for Dorian Recordings, Bach's St. John Passion for the Smithsonian Institution, Handel's opera Siroe for Newport Classic, Handel's Messiah with Apollo's Fire for Onda, Bach's Cantatas 8 and 156 and the Mass in B Minor with the American Bach Soloists for Koch, The Buxtehude Project Vol.1 Sacred Cantatas for PGM, a recording of music by Henry Purcell and Benjamin Britten with the Indianapolis Children's Choir for VAI, The Berlin Mass of Arvo Pärt with Theatre of Voices directed by Paul Hillier for Harmonia Mundi. Recordings with lutenist Dorothy Linell on the Naxos label include an album of John Dowland songs entitled "Flow My Tears and Other Lute Songs," and "Thomas Campion: Lute Songs."
Rickards attended Indiana University where he earned a Bachelor of Music Education and is the first countertenor to complete a Master of Music degree in vocal performance. In 1981 Rickards received a Fulbright-Hayes Scholarship and a Rotary International Grant for continued studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. While in England, he also studied in Aldeburgh with Sir Peter Pears and Robert Spencer. He received a fellowship to Florida State University to pursue doctoral studies; a degree that was completed in 2001.
Steven is also a published author and composer. His book Twentieth Century Countertenor Reperoire (Scarecrow Press) is the only published reference on this topic. His anthems other musical compositions are published by Alfred, Colla Voce, and Hal Leonard.
As the Founder of Echoing Air in 2009, Rickards has devoted time to the development of this Indianapolis based ensemble. In its residencies at Second Presbyterian Church and Marian University, Echoing Air is developing an active local following through performance and educational outreach. The ensemble is also active in performance regionally and nationally on church and university concert series.
Steven resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he where he regularly sings with the Choir at Christ Church Cathedral. He is on the faculty the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University where he teaches singing in the Institute of Historical Performance. At Butler University, where he teaches voice classes and serves as the vocal consultant to the Indianapolis Children's Choir. He also teaches singing at Marian University. At the University of Indianapolis, he teaches singing and directs the Vocal Arts Institute, an ongoing vocal training program for high school students, which includes a two-week vocal workshop at the University of Indianapolis during the summer. He also teaches on the faculty of the AIMS Music School at Eastbourne College in England.
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