William Lewis (tenor)

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William L. Lewis (born November 23, 1931, Tulsa, Oklahoma)[1] is an American operatic tenor and academic.


William Lewis was educated at the University of Colorado, Texas Christian University and New York University. He began his career as a writer and an athlete before deciding to pursue a career in opera. He began his voice training under Karl Kritz and Arthur Faguy Coté in Fort Worth, followed by studies with Susan Seton and Hulda and Luigi Rossini in New York. He made his professional opera debut in 1953 with Fort Worth Opera as Rinuccio in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. Two years later he won the Metropolitan Opera's Audition of the Air competition (precursor to the National Council Auditions). Lewis made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Narraboth in Salome on March 1, 1958 and subsequently sang in 234 performances in his 35 years with the company. In 1975 he made his debut at San Francisco Opera as Steuermann and Erik in The Flying Dutchman and has sung in sixteen different productions with the company in subsequent seasons.[2] In 1981 he made his debut at the Salzburg Festival in the title role of Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, returning there for the following four years in such roles as Arbace in Idomeneo and the First Geharnischter in The Magic Flute. In 1990 he made his debut at the Teatro Lirico in the world premiere of Azio Corghi's Blimunda.

Although he sang a wide operatic repertory ranging from Mozart to Wagner, Lewis often sang in 20th century works. At the Met he was Andres and Drum Major in Wozzeck (1959, 1974) Aegisth in Elektra (1970), Steva in Jenůfa (1974), Alwa in Lulu (1977), Oedipus in Oedipus Rex (1983), and Red Whiskers in Billy Budd (1989). At San Francisco Opera he was Steva in Jenůfa, Albert Gregor in The Makropulos Affair, Boris in Katya Kabanova, Frank Sargeant in Angle of Repose, and Sergei in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. He also sang Pollux in Richard Stauss' rarely performed 1940 opera Die Liebe der Danae in a concert performance at Lincoln Center in January 2000.[3] Amongst the roles he has created are Bill in Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge (Spoleto, June 7, 1959),[4] Riccardo III in Flavio Testi's Riccardo III (La Scala, January 27, 1987),[5] and Frank Sargeant in Andrew Imbrie's Angle of Repose (San Francisco Opera, November 6, 1976).[6] William Lewis wrote the libretto for Earl Wild's Easter oratorio Revelations as well as singing the role of St. John in its world premiere, conducted by the composer. Broadcast on ABC on April 22, 1962, Revelations was the first oratorio commissioned by a television company.[7]

Lewis holds the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Professorship in Opera at the University of Texas, Austin where he is also the director of the Studio Ensemble of the Butler Opera Center. He also teaches at the Austrian-American Mozart Academy in Salzburg, which he founded in 1995,[8] and at the Franco-American Vocal Academy in Périgord, France.

Lewis can be seen on DVD in the Metropolitan's 1984 production of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, opposite Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil.


  • Music of Samuel Barber - A Hand of Bridge, Op. 35 (William Lewis (Tenor), Philip Maero (Baritone), Patricia Neway (Soprano), Eunice Alberts (Alto) ; Conductor: Vladimir Golschmann; Symphony of the Air; Robert DeCormier Singers). Recorded New York City, 1960. Label: Vanguard Classics- 125(CD)
  • Hector Berlioz: Les troyens (Chester Watson (Bass), Regina Resnik (Soprano), Martial Singher (Baritone), Frances Wyatt (Mezzo Soprano), William Lewis (Tenor), John Dennison (Baritone), Kenneth Smith (Bass), Regina Sarfaty (Mezzo Soprano), Glade Peterson (Tenor), Eleanor Steber (Soprano), Richard Cassilly (Tenor); Conductor: Robert Lawrence.) Recorded at Carnegie Hall, New York City, December 29, 1959 and January 12, 1960. Label: Vai Audio
  • Leoš Janáček: Jenůfa (Soňa Červená (Mezzo Soprano), Sena Jurinac (Soprano), Willard White (Bass), Elisabeth Söderström (Soprano), John del Carlo (Baritone), Gwendolyn Jones (Mezzo Soprano), Sara Ganz (Soprano), Susan Quittmeyer (Mezzo Soprano), Pamela South (Soprano), William Lewis (Tenor); San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.) Recorded at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, October 1, 1980. Label: Gala
  • Richard Strauss: Die Liebe der Danae, Op. 83 (Hugh Smith (Tenor), William Lewis (Tenor), Lisa Saffer (Soprano), Michael Hendrick (Tenor), Lauren Flanigan (Soprano), Tamara Mesic (Soprano), Jane Jennings (Soprano), Mary Phillips (Mezzo Soprano), Peter Coleman-Wright (Bass), Elisabeth Canis (Mezzo Soprano); Conductor: Leon Botstein; American Symphony Orchestra.) Recorded: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, January 16, 2000. Label: Telarc.
  • Virgil Thomson: The Mother of Us All (Karen Beck, Sondra Stowe, Jimmie Lu Null, William Lewis, Steven Loewengart, Thomas Parker, Marla McDaniels, D'Artagnan Petty, Stephen Bryant, Ashley Putnam, et al.; Conductor: Raymond Leppard; Santa Fe Opera Orchestra and Chorus.) Recorded in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1977. Label: New World Records


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