Bejun Mehta

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Bejun Mehta in 2010
(photograph: Marco Borggreve)

Bejun Mehta (born June 29, 1968) is an American countertenor. He has been awarded the ECHO Klassik,[1] the Gramophone Award,[2] Le Diamant d’Opera Magazine,[citation needed] the Choc de Classica,[citation needed] and been nominated for the Grammy Award,[3] the Laurence Olivier Award,[4] and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik.[5] Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Michael Stallknecht called him "arguably the best counter tenor in the world today."[6]

Early life and family[edit]

Mehta was born June 29, 1968 in Laurinburg, North Carolina, and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan.[7] His father, Dady Mehta, a pianist born in Shanghai, China of Indian parents, is a cousin of conductor Zubin Mehta. His father was professor of piano at Eastern Michigan University. His mother, Martha Ritchey Mehta of Altoona, Pennsylvania, was a soprano and journalist who worked in the development office of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and she was Mehta's first voice teacher.[8][9] His brother, Navroj Mehta, is a violinist, and the artistic director of the Ventura Music Festival.

Early musical career[edit]

From the ages of nine through fifteen, Mehta was a solo boy soprano in concerts and recordings. Of his CD for the Delos label in 1983 (Bejun DE 3019), Leonard Bernstein commented, "It is hard to believe the richness and maturity of musical understanding in this adolescent boy."[8][9] He was named by the magazine Stereo Review as the Debut Recording Artist of the Year.[8]

After his voice changed, Mehta studied the cello, both as a soloist and orchestral player, studying with Aldo Parisot at Yale University. Mehta graduated from Yale University with a degree in German literature.[7] Concurrently he completed an internship at Delos, where he had recorded as a boy. This led to his working with many artists as an independent recording producer for labels such as Sony/CBS, BMG/RCA, Deutsche Grammophon, and Delos. His production of Janos Starker’s final recording of Bach’s Cello Suites (BMG/RCA 61436) won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra).[8][10]

Mehta had attempted for several years to sing as a baritone, without much success. "I was average, just average," he says.[11] He became intrigued with idea that he might actually be a countertenor, after reading a 1997 New Yorker profile of the countertenor David Daniels, whose early experiences seemed to mirror his own. He began to experiment with singing in this range.[12]

In 1998, Marilyn Horne, who had known of his boy soprano work, offered him sponsorship through the Marilyn Horne Foundation, an organization which works to develop new talent and preserve the art of song recital. He made his operatic debut as a countertenor that same year, cast as Armindo in a New York City Opera production of Partenope by Handel. Two months later he substituted for David Daniels when the latter fell ill on an international concert tour.[13]

Countertenor career[edit]

Mehta regularly performs the great roles of his repertoire with leading opera houses such as Covent Garden, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opéra National de Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet, La Scala, Theater an der Wien, Berliner Staatsoper, Théatre de la Monnaie, Netherlands Opera, Barcelona Liceu, Teatro Real in Madrid, Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Los Angeles Opera, San Francisco Opera, and New York City Opera. He has performed at the festivals of Salzburg, Glyndebourne, Edinburgh, Aix-en-Provence, and Verbier, and at the London BBC Proms.[14]

Mehta performs programmes with repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary music. He has performed at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Konzerthaus, Vienna and the Wiener Musikverein, Carnegie Hall and Zankel Hall, New York, the 92nd Street Y, Brussels’ Palais des Beaux-Arts, Palau des Arts Valencia, Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela, Cité de la Musique, Paris, the Prinzregententheater Munich, and the festivals of Edinburgh, San Sebastian, Verbier, Schleswig-Holstein, and the BBC Proms in London.[15] Mehta has also conducted the Belgian Baroque Orchestra B'Rock in concerts of Haydn and Mozart symphonies.[16]

Mehta's operatic roles include, among many others: Orlando in Orlando, Tamerlano in Tamerlano, Giulio Cesare in Giulio Cesare, Bertarido in Rodelinda, Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, Telemaco in Telemaco, Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Farnace in Mitridate, Didymus in Theodora, Hamor in Jephtha, Cyrus in Belshazzar, Arsamenes in Xerxes, Andronico in Tamerlano, Radamisto in Radamisto, Riccardo Primo in Riccardo Primo, Arsace in Partenope, Masha in Eötvös's Three Sisters, Ottone in Agrippina, and Emone in Antigone.

Bejun Mehta has been profiled by CBS (60 Minutes II), A&E (Breakfast with the Arts), ORF 2 (Austria), Arte (France), and ARD (Germany). He was nominated for the Olivier Award for his portrayal of Orlando at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His main voice teachers have been Phyllis Curtin of Boston University (baritone) and Joan Patenaude-Yarnell of the Manhattan School of Music and Curtis Institute (countertenor).

The British composer George Benjamin wrote a lead role for him in his opera Written on Skin, which premiered in 2012 at Aix-en-Provence. In 2013 he gave a "visceral and beautifully-sung performance" in the world premiere recording of that opera.[17] In 2014, Benjamin was at work on a new concert piece for Mehta that receives its world premiere in September 2015 at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.[18]

Mehta's CD Down by the Salley Gardens, a collection of English art song, was released in 2011 (with Julius Drake /Harmonia Mundi). Ombra Cara, Mehta’s recording of Händel arias (Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/René Jacobs/Harmonia Mundi), was awarded the 2011 Echo Klassik as Opera Recording of the Year.[1] Mehta's CDs and DVDs also include Agrippina (BBC Music Magazine's 2012 Opera Award[19] and nominated for a Grammy as Best Opera Recording of the Year[20]) and Belshazzar, both on Harmonia Mundi, Theodora (C-Major Entertainment/Unitel, shortlisted for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik[21]), Mitridate (Decca), Messiah (Unitel Classics), and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Glyndebourne Label), George Benjamin’s Written on Skin (Nimbus CD, BBC Magazine 2014 Premiere Recording of the Year[22]), Benjamin’s Written on Skin (Opus Arte DVD, 2013 Royal Opera House, 2014 Gramophone Award-Contemporary[23]). Mehta's 2013 solo CD Che Puro Ciel (Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/René Jacobs/Harmonia Mundi), a collection of classical arias and was awarded Le Diamant d’Opera Magazine,[citation needed] the Choc de Classica,[citation needed] and was shortlisted for the 2014 Gramophone Award in the Recital category.[24] In 2014, Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv released a new complete studio recording of Orlando (opera) with Mehta in the title role (B’Rock/Jacobs), which was shortlisted for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik.[25] Also in 2014, ArtHaus released a theatrical film version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice shot entirely on location at the Cesky Krumlov Theater in which Mehta both starred as Orfeo and was the artistic advisor. Mehta also appears on El Maestro Farinelli, Pablo Heras-Casado’s debut recording on Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv (2014), singing two of Farinelli's most notable arias.

Discography[edit]

  • Down by the Sally Gardens. (Solo album). English songs. With Julius Drake. Harmonia Mundi HMC902093

References[edit]

  • Kenneson, Claude, (1998), Musical prodigies: perilous journeys, remarkable lives, Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 1-57467-046-8

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "ECHO Klassik Prizewinners 2011". ECHO. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  2. ^ [1] Gramophone Awards 2014 Contemporary
  3. ^ [2] Billboard Magazine 2013 Grammy Awards: Full List of Nominees, December 21, 2012
  4. ^ London Theatre Guide (2008). "The Laurence Olivier Awards: Full List of Winners, 1976-2008" (.PDF). 1976-2008. The Society of London Theatre. p. 20. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  5. ^ [3] "Händels "Orlando" in die Quartalsbestenliste der deutschen Schallplattenkritik aufgenommen", 15.08.2014
  6. ^ Michael Stallknecht, "Ein Glücksfall," Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11 August 2012.
  7. ^ a b New York Times, March 4, 2001
  8. ^ a b c d Kenneson, Claude, (1998), p.333
  9. ^ a b New York Magazine, February 15, 1999
  10. ^ Listing on Grammy.com
  11. ^ Kohn, David (February 11, 2009). "The Countertenor". CBS News. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  12. ^ CBS News, January 29, 2001
  13. ^ On a High Note: Bejun Mehta, Countertenor, on Top New York Times, March 24, 2001
  14. ^ IMG Artists
  15. ^ Walton, Kenneth, (August 20, 2009) International Festival Review: Bejun Mehta/ Julius Drake The Scotsman
  16. ^ Centre Stage Artist Management
  17. ^ "George Benjamin Releases Recording of New Opera WRITTEN ON SKIN Today Read more about George Benjamin Releases Recording of New Opera "Written on Skin" Today". Broadway World. July 9, 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  18. ^ Centre Stage Artist Management
  19. ^ [4] BBC Music Magazine Awards 2012
  20. ^ [5] Billboard Magazine 2013 Grammy Awards: Full List of Nominees, December 21, 2012
  21. ^ http://www.schallplattenkritik.de/component/content/article/48-bestenlisten-2011/483-bestenliste-3-2011
  22. ^ http://www.classical-music.com/news/bbc-music-magazine-awards-2014-winners-announced BBC Music Magazine Awards 2014 winners announced
  23. ^ [6] Gramophone Awards 2014 Contemporary
  24. ^ [7] Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2014
  25. ^ [8] "Händels "Orlando" in die Quartalsbestenliste der deutschen Schallplattenkritik aufgenommen", 15.08.2014

External links[edit]