Will Liverman, baritone with Madeline Slettedahl, piano

The Artists

Called “a voice for this historic moment” (Washington Post), GRAMMY Award winning baritone Will Liverman is the recipient of the 2022 Beverly Sills Artist Award by The Metropolitan Opera and the co-creator of The Factotum – called “mic-drop fabulous good” (Opera News) – which premiered at the Lyric Opera Chicago in 2023. Described as “nothing short of extraordinary” (Opera News) with a “beaming, high baritone that easily asserts” (LA Times), Liverman has been hailed by critics for his versatility in dramatic and comedic roles, as well as on concert stages in North America and internationally, and his dedication and vision as a composer, artist, and advisor helping to evolve and push the performing arts industry forward.

This season sees Liverman’s return to The Metropolitan Opera in the title role of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, Anthony Davis’ groundbreaking and influential work, and the third opera by a Black composer in the company’s history, to be conducted by Kazem Abdullah in its newly revised score. Liverman was previously seen on the Met stage opening its 2021-22 season in a widely celebrated, “breakout performance” (New York Times) as Charles in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, which won the 2023 GRAMMY Award for Best Opera Recording. He later reprised the role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in a “rich leading performance” (Chicago Tribune) described as a “beautifully vocalized [...] gripping portrayal” (Opera News).

Following Summer 2023 engagements at Tanglewood, SummerStage, Brooklyn Art Song Society, and The Princeton Festival, Liverman’s 2023-24 season includes productions with Opera Philadelphia for the world premiere of Rene Orth’s 10 Days in a Madhouse as Dr. Josiah Blackwell and the Met Opera for Roméo et Juliette as Mercutio. In concert, he joins the Lexington Philharmonic for the orchestrated world premiere of Shawn E. Okpebholo’s Two Black Churches, Houston Symphony for Carmina Burana, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for Brahms’ A German Requiem, and The Washington Chorus for Elijah Reimagined, plus Dayton Opera, Caramoor, and Cincinnati Song Initiative for vocal recitals. He also serves as Artistic Advisor for Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall.

Last season, the Lyric Opera of Chicago presented the world premiere of Liverman’s new opera, The Factotum, which he starred in and composed with DJ King Rico. Inspired by Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, Liverman and Rico place the story in a present-day Black barbershop on Chicago’s South Side, and celebrate the strength of community and power of the human spirit. Blending together diverse musical styles, including hip-hop, R&B, funk, gospel, and traditional barbershop quartet to create a soul opera, The Factotum “offers a chameleonic pastiche of soul, funk, and classical elements that is incredibly effective” (Opera News). Regarding the highly successful production, “Will Liverman is the real deal” according to the Chicago Tribune, “masterfully [anchoring] this production and [providing] some of its finest vocal moments” (Chicago Sun Times). Houston Grand Opera, Portland Opera, and Washington National Opera are all slated to put on The Factotum in future seasons.

The packed 22-23 season included opening The Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, where Liverman played the Celebrant in Bernstein’s Mass; starring as the Reverend in the European premiere of Jeanine Tesori’s Blue at Dutch National Opera (house debut); and singing the title role in Pelléas et Mélisande at LA Opera and Zurga in Les pêcheurs de perles at Austin Opera (role debuts). He also appeared with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Portland Opera, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, American Pops Orchestra, Brooklyn Art Song Society, Art Bath, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, and Sparks & Wiry Cries, plus solo recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Virginia Opera, Chamber Music Northwest, Friends of Chamber Music, and Rhode Island College’s Sapinsley Hall.

Cedille Records released Liverman’s Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers with pianist Paul Sanchez in February 2021, a collection of works by Damien Sneed, Henry Burleigh, H. Leslie Adams, Robert Owens, Margaret Bonds, and Thomas Kerr, plus a world premiere recording by Shawn E. Okpebholo and Liverman’s arrangement of Richard Fariña’s Birmingham Sunday. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical chart, and The New Yorker praised its “clarity, sensitivity, and barely contained heartbreak,” while NPR declared “velvet-voiced baritone Will Liverman is out to make the classical music canon more inclusive.” Dreams of a New Day was nominated for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album at the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards. His 2020 album, Whither Must I Wander, with pianist Jonathan King, released on Odradek Records, was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s “best classical recordings of 2020” and BBC Music Magazine praised Liverman’s “firm, oaky baritone with a sharp interpretive attitude… admirable poise and clarity of intention.”

In 2019, Liverman made history as the first-ever Black Papageno in The Metropolitan Opera’s production of The Magic Flute. Some favorite highlights from previous seasons include Akhnaten (Horemhab) and Nico Muhly’s Marnie (Malcolm Fleet) at the Met Opera; La bohème with the Santa Fe and Dallas Operas, and Opera Philadelphia (Schaunard); La bohème with Portland Opera (Marcello); The Love of Three Oranges at Opera Philadelphia (Pantalone); Jonathan Dove’s Flight (Steward) at Dallas Opera; Fellow Travelers at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Tommy McIntyre) for its Lyric Unlimited initiative; Le Comte Ory at Seattle Opera (Raimbaud); The Pirates of Penzance with Atlanta Opera (Sam); the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ The Manchurian Candidate with Minnesota Opera (Andrew Hanley); Pagliacci at Opera Colorado (Silvio); The Little Prince with Tulsa Opera (The Pilot); The Magic Flute with the Florentine and Central City Operas (Papageno); Jenůfa (Foreman at the Mill) and Menotti’s The Last Savage (Protestant Minister) with Santa Fe Opera; and The Rape of Lucretia (Tarquinius) and The Ghosts of Versailles (Beaumarchais) with Wolf Trap Opera. Further, Liverman has performed the leading role of Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with the Seattle, Virginia, Kentucky, Madison, and Utah Operas. He originated the role of Dizzy Gillespie in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird with Opera Philadelphia, in addition to performing the role with English National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Madison Opera, and the Apollo Theater. Liverman has also been featured in performances with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Aspen Music Festival, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Park Avenue Armory, and Chicago Sinfonietta.

Expanding into the concert repertoire, Liverman performed the title role in a concert version of the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and was a featured soloist in Brahms’ Requiem with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Handel’s Messiah with the Seattle Symphony, Carmina Burana with Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He was also featured in concert at Carnegie Hall, in addition to appearing in Schubert’s Die Winterreise at The Barns at Wolf Trap Opera.

Accolades include receiving a 2022 Sphinx MPower Artist Grant, the 2020 Marian Anderson Vocal Award, a 2019 Richard Tucker Career Grant, and a 2019 Sphinx Medal of Excellence. In 2017, Liverman received a 3Arts Award, a George London Award, and was recognized as a classical division Luminarts Fellow by the Luminarts Cultural Foundation. In 2015, he won the Stella Maris International Vocal Competition, the Gerda Lissner Charitable Fund Award, and a top prize from Opera Index.

Will Liverman concluded his tenure at the prestigious Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2015 and was previously a Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival. He holds his Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Music degree from Wheaton College in Illinois.

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“Extraordinarily expressive” (Seen and Heard International) pianist Madeline Slettedahl is an enthusiastic collaborator, recitalist, and highly sought after operatic coach. She is a current full-time member of the Houston Grand Opera music staff, working directly under music director Patrick Summers, since 2021. Additional faculty appointments include the Aspen Music Festival and School, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Wolf Trap Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she received her training as part of the Patrick G. And Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center. An avid recitalist, she has made recent appearances with leading operatic singers of today such as Will Liverman, J’Nai Bridges, and Kayleigh Decker at a variety of venues like Carnegie Hall’s Citywide Concert Series, the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, the Collaborative Art Institute of Chicago’s Lieder Lounge, Green Lake Festival of Music, and the Cincinnati Song Initiative Recital Series. She is also a frequent collaborator of chamber music, with engagements at the Emberlight Festival, Icicle Creek Chamber Players, Bellingham Festival of Music, and Twickenham Fest. Additional educational fellowships include the Solti Accademia di Bel Canto, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program, The Song Continues with Marilyn Horne, and Renée Fleming’s SongStudio program at Carnegie Hall. She also attended Music Academy of the West, where she won First Prize in the Marilyn Horne Song Competition. She made her solo recording debut in 2022 with the highly-acclaimed Billboard-charting album, No Choice But Love, with rising star tenor, Eric Ferring, for Lexicon Records. Additional recording output includes a 2023 release for Delos Records, We Have Tomorrow, with Ferring and French string quartet, Quatuor Agate, as well as a feature on the 2019 Naxos release of Brahms’ A German Requiem (four-hand piano arrangement version) with pianist Craig Terry and Chicago’s Bella Voce under the direction of Andrew Lewis. Madeline holds degrees in Collaborative Piano, and Piano Performance, from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and Western Washington University, respectively.

The Program

I Grew a RoseFlorence Price
Quatre Poèmes de Guillaume ApollinaireFrancis Poulenc
"Machine Head"Libby Larsen
Let Us Garlands BringGerald Finzi
Life's TragedyWill Liverman
3 Balladen, op.1Carl Loewe
"The Rain"Shawn Okpebholo
GriefWilliam Grant Still
Wanderer's Night SongNikolai Medtner
Learn More...

Read about the Thaler family, the concert series they established, and see a list of past artists