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Ryan McKinny

Headshot of Ryan McKinny standing with his arms crossed and leaning against a colorful wall


Recognized by Opera News as “one of the finest singers of his generation,” American bass-baritone Ryan McKinny has earned his reputation as an artist with something to say. His relentless curiosity informs riveting character portrayals and beautifully crafted performances, reminding audiences of their shared humanity with characters on stage and screen.

This season, McKinny brings his agile stage presence and comedic skill to performances of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro on both U.S. coasts. He first appears as the titular Figaro in a Richard Eyre production at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, with an all-star cast that includes Golda Schultz, Lucy Crowe, Isabel Leonard, and Adam Plachetka. He then makes his Seattle Opera debut reprising the role in a Peter Kazaras production, under the baton of Alevtina Ioffe. In between productions – and coasts – McKinny joins collaborative pianist Kathleen Kelly for a recital at the Lied Center of Kansas, featuring works by Schumann, Debussy, Mahler, and Kurt Weill.

Offstage, McKinny continues to adapt the beauty of his art form to the film screen, collaborating on a documentary with Jamie Barton and Stephanie Blythe. Through his work with Helio Arts, he commissions artists to write, direct, and film original stories, leveraging his personal power to help elevate new voices and visions in the classical performing arts world. During the pandemic, he has partnered with artists like J’Nai Bridges, Russell Thomas, John Holiday, and Julia Bullock to create stunning and innovative performances for streaming audiences at Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, On Site Opera, and the Glimmerglass Festival.

McKinny’s recent debut as Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking at Lyric Opera of Chicago was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as an “an indelible acting tour de force buttressed by a warmly inviting voice.” He has also appeared as the title character in Don Giovanni (Washington National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera), Escamillo in Carmen (Semperoper Dresden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Staatsoper Hamburg, Houston Grand Opera), and Mozart’s Figaro (Washington National Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Houston Grand Opera).

McKinny made a critically acclaimed Bayreuth Festival debut as Amfortas in Parsifal, a role he has performed around the world, including appearances at Argentina’s Teatro Cólon, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and Dutch National Opera. Other Wagnerian roles include Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde (Deutsche Oper Berlin, Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company), Biterolf in Tannhäuser and Kothner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, both at the Metropolitan Opera, Wotan in Opéra de Montréal’s Das Rheingold, Donner/Gunther in Wagner’s Ring cycle (Washington National Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera), and the titular Dutchman in Der fliegende Holländer (Staatsoper Hamburg, Milwaukee Symphony, Glimmerglass Festival, Hawaii Opera Theater).

McKinny is a frequent guest artist at Los Angeles Opera, where he has sung Count Alamaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Stanley Kowalski in Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, opposite Renée Fleming as Blanche DuBois, and at Santa Fe Opera, where he has appeared as Jochanaan in Salome and Oppenheimer in Doctor Atomic. An alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Mr. McKinny has made a number of important role debuts on the HGO mainstage, including the iconic title roles of Don Giovanni and Rigoletto.

McKinny is a long-time artistic collaborator of composer John Adams and director Peter Sellars, having appeared in Sellars productions of Adams’ Girls of the Golden West (San Francisco Opera, Dutch National Opera) and Doctor Atomic (Santa Fe Opera), in addition to Adams’ Nixon in China with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has also performed under Sellars’ direction in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex (Sydney Festival), Tristan und Isolde (Canadian Opera Company), and Shostakovich’s Orango with the London Philharmonia and Los Angeles Philharmonic, the latter comprising Esa-Pekka Salonen’s final concerts as music director.

Other recent orchestral engagements include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and a double bill of Michael Tilson Thomas’ Rilke Songs and Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with San Francisco Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and Bernstein’s Mass with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Cleveland Orchestra and National Symphony, Rossini’s Stabat Mater at Grant Park Music Festival, Britten’s War Requiem with Marin Alsop and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Oedipus Rex with Chicago Symphony.

McKinny benefited from early educational opportunities at the Aspen Music Festival, where he sang his first performance of Winterreise accompanied on the piano by Richard Bado, and at the Wolf Trap Opera Company, where he sang Barone di Kelbar in Verdi’s Un giorno di regno, Le Gouverneur in Rossini’s Le comte Ory and Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro. McKinny made his Carnegie Hall debut in Handel’s Messiah with the Musica Sacra Orchestra while still a student at the Juilliard School.

The first recipient of Operalia’s Birgit Nilsson Prize for singing Wagner, McKinny has also received the prestigious George London-Kirsten Flagstad Award, presented by the George London Foundation to a singer undertaking a significant Wagnerian career. McKinny represented the United States in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, where he was a finalist in the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize, and he was a Grand Finalist in the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, captured in the film The Audition.

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