Peter Volpe

Peter Volpe
Praised for his “stentorian” and “robust bass” by The New York Times, venerable American bass Peter Volpe continually receives critical and popular acclaim across four continents for his powerful command and the rich texture of his timbre. Possessing a vast and ever-expanding repertoire of over 90 roles in six languages in a career encompassing more than 35 years, his captivating style and interpretive skill embraces the depth of every historical and fictional character he embodies. Of his recent portrayal of Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin for the Spoleto Festival USA, Opera News applauded his ability “to create in his single aria and scene an impressive dignity. His full-bodied bass and great candor of tone, together with his intelligent interpretation, won him a well-deserved ovation.”  Volpe will perform Zaccaria in the Washington Concert Opera’s production of Nabucco this season.

Recently, Volpe performed the roles of Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalilah, Commendatore in Don Giovanni and Don Carlos with Washington National Opera, Sparafucile in Rigoletto and Daland in Der fliegende Holländer with Austin Opera, Judge Turpin in Christopher Alden’s production of Sweeney Todd at the Glimmerglass Festival, a role he also performed with New Orleans Opera, and Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Florentine Opera.

In wide-ranging repertoire that spans from Mozart to Verdi and Rossini to Britten, he has graced the stages of many of the great opera houses throughout the U.S. and abroad, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Oper Stuttgart, Vancouver Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Philadelphia, New York City Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Central City Opera, Florentine Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Arizona Opera, Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Sarasota Opera, Nashville Opera, Kentucky Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Spoleto Festival USA, Palm Beach Opera, Portland Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Saratoga, Mobile Opera, Opera Omaha, Virginia Opera, New Orleans Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, New Jersey State Opera, and the Bard Festival as well as the opera houses of Manitoba, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Tokyo, Kyoto, Shanghai, Beijing, Prague, Colmar, Mulhouse, Imola, Riccione, Strasbourg, Karlsruhe, Bremen, Dusseldorf, and Saarbrucken.

Volpe has performed with some of the most celebrated conductors of his time: James Levine, Seiji Ozawa, Valery Gergiev, Sir John Pritchard, Maurizio Arena, Marco Armilliato, Marcello Viotti, Jacques Lacombe, Jonathan Darlington, Semyon Bychkov, Joseph Rescigno, Vincent La Selva, Richard Buckley, Leon Botstein, and Richard Hickox among others.
Volpe made his memorable Metropolitan Opera debut in the company’s new production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace, and subsequently returned for 13 seasons with the company for new productions of Berlioz’ Les Troyens, Strauss’ Salome, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, as well as Falstaff, Gianni Schicchi, Roméo et Juliette, Aïda, I vespri siciliani, Cyrano de Bergerac, Andrea Chenier, and Carmen, and most recently as Idraote in Armida, Angelotti in Tosca, and Dr. Grenvil in La Traviata.    

Recent highlights of Volpe’s career include three broadcasts for the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series: Puccini’s Il trittico, Rossini’s Armida, and Verdi’s La Traviata as well as the Verdi Requiem at the Chichester Festival in Chichester, England, and Marcel in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots with Leon Botstein at Bard SummerScape for which Opera News hailed “Peter Volpe gave a terrific performance as the querulous old soldier Marcel, incisive and endearing; the decibels he produced were impressive” and The New York Times declared “the bass Peter Volpe brought a robust voice and charismatic presence to Marcel, the count’s stalwart protector.” In 2007, Volpe created the role of Antoine Deguiche in the world premiere of David DiChiera and Bernard Uzan’s Cyrano for Michigan Opera Theatre. Recordings of the Bard SummerScape Les Huguenots and Michigan Opera Theatre’s Cyrano, as well as a DVD of the MET’s Armida, were subsequently released and well-received.

Volpe first made a foray into the Wagnerian repertoire as Hunding in Die Walküre with the American Symphony Orchestra at Bard College under Leon Botstein.  He subsequently performed an All-Wagner concert with North Carolina Opera, and Daland in Der fliegende Holländer at the Glimmerglass Festival in a new production by Francesca Zambello for which Opera News extolled “Peter Volpe, in firm, resonant voice, played Daland not as an old buffoon but as a virile commander in early middle-age.” In addition, has performed Daland to great acclaim with Virginia Opera, Florentine Opera, and Washington National Opera.

Notable performances for Volpe include the title role in Don Giovanni with New York City Opera and Florentine Opera for which Opera News praised “Peter Volpe's handsome figure and aristocratic bearing made for good casting as Giovanni. His virile bass caressed “Deh vieni alla finestra” sensuously…”, King Philip II in Don Carlo with Vancouver Opera and Austin Lyric Opera to which the Austin Post hailed “The standout performer of the evening was Peter Volpe as King Phillip. His stage presence and deep bass were captivating”, Méphistophélès in Faust with Vancouver Opera and Palm Beach Opera to which Opera Canada stated, “Peter Volpe's Mephistopheles was debonair, comic and sinister in the right proportions, while his rich voice poured forth like molten brimstone” and the Globe and Mail said “bass Peter Volpe, proved to be an excellent Mephistopheles, both vocally and dramatically, shining from his first big moment - Le veau d'or est toujours debout - onward. Volpe balanced the demonic and comic elements of his character, and the audience responded to his sardonic wit with outbursts of laughter”, and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Atlanta Opera, Austin Opera, and Portland Opera about which Opera News noted “The best solo singing, strong and beautiful, came from bass Peter Volpe as a compassionate Raimondo”. Additionally, this venerable bass has received much acclaim for his interpretation of the evil assassin Sparafucile in Rigoletto which he has performed prolifically in houses such as New York City Opera, Opera Manitoba, Edmonton Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Arizona Opera, Austin Opera, and Kentucky Opera and for which he garnered handsome reviews from the Tucson Citizen: “Making his AOC debut, the production's Sparafucile, Peter Volpe, was likewise the real thing. Now this is a bass! Big, solid and earth-shaking, the handsome assassin's voice had the ominous aura one always wishes for but too seldom finds”, The Financial Times: “The best performances came from...Peter Volpe as a dark-toned Sparafucile...”, and The Oregonian: “As the assassin Sparafucile, Peter Volpe commanded the stage with his splendid bad-guy bass, all darkness and low notes.”

Other notable roles in Mr. Volpe’s expansive repertoire include Ramfis in Aïda (Palm Beach Opera, Austin Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Arizona Opera), Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni (Arizona Opera), Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (Vancouver Opera, Austin Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre), Gremin in Eugene Onegin (Vancouver Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Lyric Opera of Kansas City), König Ludwig in Euryanthe (Bard SummerScape), Marquis of Calatrava and the cover of Guardiano in La forza del destino (Washington National Opera), Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Opera Omaha, Edmonton Opera, Vancouver Opera), Zuniga in Carmen (Seiji Ozawa Opera Project in Japan, Arizona Opera), Banquo in Macbeth (Portland Opera, Arizona Opera), Timur in Turandot (Opera Lyra Ottawa, Portland Opera, Manitoba Opera, Florentine Opera, New Orleans), and Ferrando in Il trovatore (Arizona Opera, New Jersey State Opera, Augusta Opera) as well as productions of Britten’s Billy Budd and Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans (Washington National Opera), Salome, Nabucco, and Roméo et Juliette (San Francisco Opera), and covers of Pistola in Falstaff, Silva in Ernani, and Méphistophélès in Faust (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Pimen in Boris Godunov with Jerome Hines as Boris (New Jersey State Opera).

A consummate concert artist, Volpe has performed Verdi’s Requiem with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London at The Chichester Festival, the Manhattan Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, The Chattanooga Symphony, L’Orchestra di Imola in Italy, Oberlin Conservatory, Arizona State University, Indianapolis Symphony, Queens Symphony, the Augusta Choral Society, and the New Jersey Symphony which was recorded and subsequently released on CD. In addition, he has performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Chattanooga Symphony, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the New York Metropolitan Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony, and Augusta Choral Society, Händel’s Messiah with the Edmonton and Louisville Symphonies, Mozart’s Requiem with the Choral Society of Philadelphia, and an all-Verdi concert with the The Washington Chorus at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. 

While consistently in demand, Volpe remains a focused performer, concert soloist, and talented educator who feels an affinity for mentoring developing singers. In this vein, he frequently gives master classes and voice lessons in conjunction with his engagements. A few such venues include Arizona State University, Opera Omaha, Arizona Opera, Portland Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, Austin Opera, and Florida Grand Opera. Additionally, he maintains a voice studio in New York City and has frequently been called upon to judge competitions and serve in an advisory capacity for opera companies and opera agencies.

Volpe was born and raised in Long Island, NY. A second-generation Italian-American, he was exposed to opera early in life and quickly developed a passion for the art form. He completed his studies at Indiana University under the tutelage of the great Italian basso, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni who took Volpe on as his protegèe and to whom Volpe attributes his technique and knowledge of the bass repertoire. Shortly after the completion of his studies, Volpe was accepted into the prestigious Merola Program at San Francisco Opera and subsequently made his San Francisco Opera main stage debut at 26 years of age. He has received awards and mentions from the MacAllister Vocal Awards Competition, the Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition, and the Sylvia Getzky Competition.