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Back on the Hill

By Hannah Weiner

Twenty years ago, if you told a young David Daniels that he’d be considered, according to the New York Times, the “most acclaimed countertenor of the day, perhaps the best ever,” he might not have believed you. After years of training as a tenor, Daniels kept his soaring vocal range hidden from professors until 1992 when he sheepishly approached George Shirley with his gift. (See video below) Shirley, a celebrated tenor teaching at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the time, told Daniels, “You’re crazy if you don’t sing with this voice.”

And from there, Daniels became the world’s greatest living countertenor.

His Feb. 17 performance of “Radamisto” marks his 12th UMS appearance. And this year, there is special meaning: Daniels comes back home to U-M during the centennial celebration of Hill Auditorium.

Daniels returns to Michigan frequently for performances, last time performing the title role in Handel’s “Julius Caesar” in early November with the Michigan Opera Theatre. However this time, Daniels performs a concert opera of Handel’s “Radamisto,” an opera described as “more solid, ingenious, and full of fire,” at Hill Auditorium with the English Concert under the direction of Harry Bicket.

Just as quickly as he went from tenor to countertenor, Daniels transformed from a student to a star, performing with the world’s greatest opera companies and singing all of the great, but few, countertenor roles. His career as both a recording artist and recitalist remain equally acclaimed, and he’s led the resurgence of countertenors in opera over the past two decades.

A regular performer in opera houses such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Metropolitan Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera, Daniels is known for his superlative artistry, magnetic stage presence, and a voice of singular warmth and surpassing beauty. And after working with notable conductors and stage directors of our day, winning admiration for performances of extensive concert and art song repertoire, and releasing several critically-acclaimed and best-selling solo albums, Daniels now plans to enter the pinnacle of his career, taking the title role in Oscar premiering in July 2013.

Now, at 46, Daniels embraces his countertenor voice and artistic talent more deeply and maturely. In a recent interview with Michigan Muse, Daniels affirmed, “I now have a confidence level that I didn’t have 10 years ago,” he said. “I actually prefer that to fireworks.”

For more information on David Daniels, please visit: and

For ticket information, please visit: 

Handel’s Radamisto

The English Concert, conducted by Harry Bicket
David Daniels, countertenor
Patricia Bardon, mezzo-soprano
Luca Pisaroni, bass-baritone
Joélle harvey, soprano
brenda rae, soprano
Sunday, February 17, 4:00 p.m.
Hill Auditorium (825 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor)

Hannah Weiner is an editorial intern at University Musical Society. 


Photo credit: on Montage home page

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