Andrea Velis (7 June 1932 – 4 October 1994) was an American operatic tenor who had a lengthy association with the Metropolitan Opera that spanned 33 seasons. Considered a highly skilled character actor, he excelled in supporting roles, often to great comedic effect. His voice is preserved on several recordings made for Live from the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts.
Early life and career
Born on 7 June 1932 in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, A Fulbright Scholarship for three years enabled him to pursue studies in opera at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy. He made his professional opera debut in 1954 as Goro in Puccini's Madama Butterfly with the Pittsburgh Opera.
In 1957 Velis joined the roster of artists at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, making his debut with the company as the Music Master and the Lamplighter in Puccini's Manon Lescaut with Renata Tebaldi in the title role. He sang several other roles in Chicago, including Abate in Giordano's Andrea Chénier, Don Curzio in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, the Royal Herald in Verdi's Don Carlo, and Poisson in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur. In 1961 he portrayed Mime in Wagner's Das Rheingold at the Cincinnati Opera.
Work in Philadelphia
In 1958 Velis made his debut with the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company (PGOC) at the Academy of Music as Gastone di Letorières in Verdi's La traviata with Leyla Gencer as Violetta and Giuseppe Bamboschek conducting. Other roles he sang with the PGOC during his career included Dancaïre in Carmen and Goro. In 1960 he made his debut with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company (PLOC) as Spoletta in Tosca. Other roles he sang for the PLOC through 1969 included Beppe in Pagliacci, Edmondo in Manon Lescaut, Gastone di Letorières, Goro, and Lord Arturo Buclaw in Lucia di Lammermoor.
In 1973 Velis sang the role of Baron Kolomán Zsupán in a concert version of Emmerich Kálmán's Countess Maritza with Maralin Niska portraying the title role, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and conductor Franz Allers. He later performed the role of Dr. Blind for a concert version of Die Fledermaus with the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Zubin Mehta at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in 1979. In 1988 he made his debut with the Opera Company of Philadelphia as Wagner and Nerèo in Boito's Mefistofele.
Work at the Met and notable premieres
On October 23, 1961 Velis made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Joe in Puccini's La fanciulla del West with Leontyne Price as Minnie, Richard Tucker as Dick Johnson, and Fausto Cleva conducting. He went on to sing more than 60 other roles at the Met over the next thirty three years, including Alcindoro in Puccini's La Boheme, Altoum in Puccini's Turandot, Don Basilio and Don Curzio in the Judge in Un ballo in maschera, Nathanael in The Tales of Hoffmann, Monostatos in The Magic Flute, Squeak in Billy Budd, Trabuco in La forza del destino, and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel among many others. His final and 1,693rd performance at the Met was as Don Curzio on February 24, 1994 with Julius Rudel conducting.
Velis performed in the United States premieres of several operas at the Met, including the Scholar in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Last Savage (1964) and Apollo in Britten's Death in Venice (1974). He also appeared in the U.S. premieres of several operas by Benjamin Britten at the Caramoor Summer Music Festival, including the Madwoman in Curlew River (1966), Nebuchadnezzar in The Burning Fiery Furnace (1967), and Abbott-Tempter in The Prodigal Son (1969). In 1970 he portrayed Squeek in the U.S. premiere of Britten's Billy Budd at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He also appeared in two world premieres at the Met: Mardian in the world premiere of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra for the grand opening of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966; and the Bailiff in John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles in 1991.
Velis died on 4 October 1994 in North Conway, New Hampshire.
- "Velis, Andrea (born 1932), tenor : Grove Music Online - oi". doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.o003540.
- "Andrea Velis, 67, Met Opera Tenor". The New York Times. October 7, 1994.
- Lyric Opera of Chicago Performance Archives: 1954 — 1959 Seasons. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
- Eric Salzman (June 24, 1961). "Summer Opera Season Opens In Cincinnati With 'Rheingold'". The New York Times.
- Free Library of Philadelphia: Bound: Philadelphia Grand Opera Company 1955–1974
- Free Library of Philadelphia: Box: Phila. Lyric Opera Company: 782.1 P5326p Bal Two [1968–1975]
- John Rockwell (January 20, 1988). "Opera: 'Mefistofele,' By Boito, in Philadelphia". The New York Times.
- Velis, Andrea [Tenor]. Metropolitan Opera Archives. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
- Harold C. Schonberg (January 24, 1964). "Opera: 'The Last Savage'". The New York Times.
- Harold C. Schonberg (October 19, 1974). "Opera: 'Death in Venice'; U.S. Premiere at Met Is a Genuine Event". The New York Times. p. 37.
- Allen Hughes (June 27, 1966). "'Curlew River' Presented at Caramoor Festival; Britten's 'Parable' Is Based on Japanese Noh Play Andrea Velis, as Madwoman, Heads Excellent Cast". The New York Times. p. 40.
- Allen Hughes (June 26, 1967). "Britten Parable Makes U.S. Debut; 'Fiery Furnace,' 2d Church Work, Given at Caramoor". p. 39.
- Donal Henahan (October 14, 1966). "Britten Parable Makes U.S. Debut; ' Prodigal Son' Is Conducted by Rudel at Caramoor". The New York Times. p. 34.
- Harold C. Schonberg (November 11, 1970). "'Billy Budd,' 1951 Written Opera, Staged in Chicago". The New York Times.
- Edward Rothstein (December 21, 1991). "Review/Opera; For the Met's Centennial, A Gathering of Ghosts". The New York Times.