Russell Oberlin

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Russell Keys Oberlin (born October 11, 1928 in Akron, Ohio) is a pioneering American countertenor who was a founding member of the New York Pro Musica Antiqua ensemble.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Russell Oberlin studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York from 1948 to 1951. After completing his education, he began a professional singing career as a countertenor. In 1952 he was a founding member of the New York Pro Musica Antiqua ensemble, with which he appeared as soloist in works from the medieval and Renaissance periods. Oberlin became the first countertenor in the United States to achieve general recognition; as Peter G. Davis wrote, he was "for many years the lone practitioner of any note" of "a voice type that had never flourished in America before."[2] Oberlin was engaged by Leonard Bernstein for his 1955 recording of Handel's Messiah. He sang the role of Oberon in the Covent Garden premiere of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1961.[3] Bernstein wrote a part for him in his Chichester Psalms (1965). He recorded extensively, gave recitals and appeared as soloist with leading orchestras in the US and abroad. Oberlin described himself as a countertenor whose "naturally high tenor voice" allowed him to sing the countertenor repertoire without using falsetto.[4]

At the age of 36, he retired from active engagements to become a teacher, joining the faculty at Hunter College in New York as Professor of Music, where he served from 1966 to 1994. As a senior Fulbright research scholar, he lectured extensively in the USA and England. After the reissue of his Expériences Anonymes recordings of the Lyrichord Early Music series, Oberlin appeared on radio programs including Performance Today, Millennium of Music and similar programs in interviews about his life and work in music.[5]

Oberlin can be seen in a 1962 film performing Bach's Cantata No. 54, with Glenn Gould performing the harpsichord part on a harpsipiano. He can also be seen on Classic Arts Showcase on a 1962 Camera Three segment singing an aria from Handel's opera Rodelinda, and on another 1962 segment singing an aria from Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream.


  1. ^ Short biography at Russell Oberlin at
  2. ^ Davis, Peter G. The American Opera Singer. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
  3. ^ "Royal Opera House Performance Database". Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Ravens, Simon. The Supernatural Voice: A History of High Male Singing. Boydell & Brewer Ltd., 2014, p. 209. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Russell Oberlin". Retrieved 23 December 2011. 

External links[edit]