Neil Shicoff

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Neil Shicoff (born June 2, 1949) is an American opera singer and cantor and known for his lyric tenor singing and his dramatic, emotional acting.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Tenor is a male voice type in classical music whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A2 (two As below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.



Neil Shicoff was born in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at the Juilliard School of Music, with his father, the hazzan Sidney Shicoff and others, including Franco Corelli in the early 1980s. He sang in small theatres in New York before music school, including a Don Jose in Bizet's Carmen at Amato Opera and small roles at Juilliard, and was an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera in the summer of 1973. His professional debut as a tenor lead in a major opera house was in the title role in Verdi's Ernani , conducted by James Levine in Cincinnati in 1975.

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects it with Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

Juilliard School American performing arts conservatory in New York City

The Juilliard School is a performing arts conservatory located in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1905, the school trains about 850 undergraduate and graduate students in dance, drama, and music. It is widely regarded as one of the world's leading drama, music and dance schools, with some of the most prestigious arts programs.

<i>Hazzan</i> Jewish cantor

A hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish musician or precentor trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer. In English, this prayer leader is often referred to as cantor, a term also used in Christianity.

In 1976, Shicoff made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi conducted by Levine. Shicoff was then engaged by the Met where he appeared in Rigoletto , La Bohème , Der Rosenkavalier , and Werther , which was to become one of his signature roles. He soon sang in the major opera houses in the U.S. and Europe, winning great notices and recording some of his roles. Shicoff experienced severe stage fright well into his career, which caused him to cancel a number of performances. He was known to be a perfectionist, carefully researching and preparing each role, both dramatically and vocally.

Metropolitan Opera opera company in Manhattan, New York City

The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

<i>Gianni Schicchi</i> comic opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini

Gianni Schicchi is a comic opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano, composed in 1917–18. The libretto is based on an incident mentioned in Dante's Divine Comedy. The work is the third and final part of Puccini's Il trittico —three one-act operas with contrasting themes, originally written to be presented together. Although it continues to be performed with one or both of the other trittico operas, Gianni Schicchi is now more frequently staged either alone or with short operas by other composers. The aria "O mio babbino caro" is one of Puccini's best known, and one of the most popular arias in opera.

<i>Rigoletto</i> opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Rigoletto is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. Despite serious initial problems with the Austrian censors who had control over northern Italian theatres at the time, the opera had a triumphant premiere at La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851.

In 1978, Shicoff married fellow Juilliard graduate, lyric soprano Judith Haddon. After the death of his mother in 1984, Shicoff suffered emotional problems, technical vocal difficulties and increasing performance anxiety. He cancelled numerous performances, and by the end of the 1980s he had developed a reputation for unreliability.

A soprano[soˈpraːno] is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) =880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) =1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which often encompasses the melody. The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.

Rebuilding his career

Shicoff continued singing at the Met for two years, but in 1991, he left America, fleeing the stresses and headlines engendered by his ongoing divorce proceeding and custody battle concerning his daughter, into a self-described European exile. He lived for three years in Berlin, then Zürich, performing throughout Europe (with a handful appearances in Buenos Aires), and he slowly rebuilt his reputation for reliability. He appeared at Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera, Covent Garden, Berlin's Deutsche Oper, Bavarian State Opera, Zurich Opera House and numerous other opera houses and concert halls throughout Europe.

Vienna State Opera Opera house in Vienna, Austria

The Vienna State Opera is an Austrian opera house and opera company based in Vienna, Austria. It was originally called the Vienna Court Opera. In 1920, with the replacement of the Habsburg Monarchy by the First Austrian Republic, it was renamed the Vienna State Opera. The members of the Vienna Philharmonic are recruited from its orchestra.

La Scala Opera house in Milan, Italy

La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

Royal Opera House opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London

The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, Handel's first season of operas began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.

By 1997, Shicoff and Haddon finally reached a divorce settlement. Their final decree left Shicoff free to marry soprano Dawn Kotoski, with whom he had lived since 1990, and to renew his relationship with his daughter, Aliza. Shicoff also returned to the Met, as Lensky in Eugene Onegin , to good notices. He has now been heard in nearly 200 performances of 20 roles at the Met.

Dawn Kotoski is an American operatic soprano who has a substantial international opera career. She began her career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City during the late 1980s singing lighter lyric soprano and soubrette roles. She joined the Vienna State Opera for the 1993–1994 season and since then her career has been centered mostly in Europe. She is the wife of tenor Neil Shicoff.

<i>Eugene Onegin</i> (opera) opera by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto, organised by the composer himself, very closely follows certain passages in Alexander Pushkin's novel in verse, retaining much of his poetry. Tchaikovsky's friend Konstantin Shilovsky contributed M. Triquet's verses in Act 2, Scene 1, while Tchaikovsky himself arranged the text for Lensky's arioso in Act 1, Scene 1, and almost all of Prince Gremin's aria in Act 3, Scene 1.

Due to his personal friendship with the Austrian Federal Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, Shicoff was widely expected to follow Ioan Holender as director of the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) in 2010. In a surprise decision and in defiance of Gusenbauer's publicly stated wish, Austrian Culture Minister Claudia Schmidt, however, appointed Dominique Meyer as director and Franz Welser-Möst as musical director on June 6, 2007.

Shicoff's most famous roles (besides Werther), include the title roles in Tales of Hoffman and Peter Grimes and Lensky in Eugene Onegin and Eleazar in La Juive, as well as for a number of the Romantic French and Italian lyric and spinto tenor roles. In addition to his opera performances, he has also sung concerts with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein, the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado, the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Edo de Waart, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa, among others, and at many festivals.

Shicoff was head of Opera at the Mikhailovsky Theatre of St. Petersburg, Russia in 2015 – 2016. [1]

Recent performances

In recent seasons, Shicoff sang the roles of Cavaradossi in Tosca and Hoffmann at La Scala and Paris’ Opéra Bastille; Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut ; Don José in Carmen at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Zurich Opera House and Eleazar in Halévy's La Juive at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, with Wiener Staatsoper and the Zurich Opera House, Peter Grimes at the Teatro Regio di Torino. He has sung also Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor , the title role in Idomeneo , and Rodolfo in La bohème at the Wiener Staatsoper; Luisa Miller (Rodolfo) at the Met; Gabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra at Covent Garden and in Paris; Hermann in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 'Pique Dame'; and Manrico, Cavaradossi and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at the Zurich Opera House, among others. A regular at Wiener Staatsoper (where he attained the rank of Kammersänger and the rarely awarded honorary lifetime membership in the company) he continues to triumph mostly in the verismo repertoire, but in February 2011 he repeated his huge success in the role of Captain Vere in Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd which he sang in the company premiere of the opera in 2001.



Decorations and awards

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  1. "Neil Shicoff to head Mikhailovsky Theatre Opera Company". The Mikhailovsky Theatre. The Mikhailovsky Theatre. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  2. "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 1582. Retrieved 3 January 2013.