John Harger Stewart

born 31 March 1940 Cleveland

Stewart was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He began studying the piano, violin, and viola as a child. He attended Western Reserve Academy where he developed a strong interest in music theory and composition. He entered Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in music composition. At Yale he studied composition with Mel Powell and voice with Blake Stern. He also was a leading member of the Whiffenpoofs, served as assistant director of the Yale Glee Club, and played string bass in both the Yale Concert Band and in a jazz octet.

Following his graduation from Yale, Stewart pursued graduate studies in music at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. While a student at Brown, he made his professional concert debut on May 18th, 1964 as the tenor soloist in Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Nashua Symphony in Nashua, New Hampshire.

After earning a Master of Music degree from Brown in 1964, he spent a year doing post graduate work at the New England Conservatory. He then moved to New York City to pursue further vocal studies with Cornelius Reid HT comments: Orrore and Frederick Jagel HT comments: Good.

For the next few years he supported himself in New York mainly by working as a music teacher and church choral conductor while only performing occasionally. By the late 1960s he was performing full time.

Stewart made his professional opera debut in 1964 in the small role of the Manservant in Alban Berg's Lulu at the Santa Fe Opera (SFO). He returned to the SFO frequently over the next decade, appearing first in supporting parts like Jarizhkin in the United States premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich's The nose (1965), the Cavalier in the United States premiere of Paul Hindemith's Cardillac (1967), the Landlord in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier (1968), and Gastone in La traviata (1968). His first role at the SFO of any considerable size was that of Narraboth in Strauss' Salome in 1967; which he later repeated with the company in 1969, 1972, and 1978. Other leading roles he sang in Santa Fe during his early career were Pinkerton (1968, 1972), 'One of the Called' in the United States premiere of Arnold Schönberg's Die Jakobsleiter (1968), Ferrando (1969), and de Laubardemont in the American premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's The devils of Loudun (1969). He later returned to Santa Fe as Filotero in the United States premiere of Francesco Cavalli's L'Orione (1983), Baron Lummer in Strauss' Intermezzo (1983), Count Elemer in Strauss' Arabella (1983), Guido Bardi in Alexander von Zemlinsky's Eine florentinische Tragödie (1984), Matteo in Erich Korngold's Violanta (1984), and Sebastian in the world premiere of John Eaton's The tempest (1985).

On October 9th, 1968, Stewart made his debut at the New York City Opera as Andrew, the Highlander, in the world premiere of Hugo Weisgall's Nine rivers from Jordan.

His first major role with the company came the following year (February 27th) as Vladimir Igorevich with Julian Patrick as Prince Igor and Julius Rudel conducting. He was committed to the NYCO up through 1974, performing in such parts as Tamino (1969, 1970, 1973), Belmonte (1969, 1970), Edgardo (1969), Almaviva (1971), the title role in Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring (1971), Alfredo (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974), Ottavio (1972) and Sali in Frederick Delius' A village Romeo and Juliet (1973). He later returned to the NYCO on numerous occasions in the 1980s, performing the parts of Tito in La clemenza di Tito (1981), Pinkerton (1983), Nanki-Poo in The mikado (1984), Prince Karl Franz in The student prince (1987) and Alfredo to Marilyn Mims' Violetta in La traviata in July 1987. His final performance with the NYCO was as Sid El Kar in Sigmund Romberg's The desert song in August 1987.

In addition to the NYCO and SFO, Stewart made guest appearances with several other America opera companies. In 1971, he made his debut with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company as Cassio with Jon Vickers. On April 27th, 1972, he made his debut at the Washington National Opera as Sali in the United States premiere of Frederick Delius' A village Romeo and Juliet.

On March 21st, 1973, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Ottavio with John Reardon, Margaret Kalil, Helen Vanni, Paul Plishka, Betsy Norden, Russell Christopher, Edmond Karlsrud and Ignace Strasfogel conducting. He sang a total of six times with the Met company. He also sang Alfred in Die Fledermaus, besides Ottavio. His last perfomance was as Alfred at the Cunningham Park, Queens on July 7th, 1973.

With the Händel Society of New York, he sang the role of Oronte in the New York premiere of Händel's Alcina, which had been performed only once before in the United States, on March 25th, 1974 under the baton of Brian Priestman. The performance in Carnegie Hall, with Cristina Deutekom in the title role, was recorded.

Other companies he has sung with include the Cincinnati Opera, the Florentine Opera, the Fort Worth Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Pittsburgh Opera, the San Antonio Opera, and the San Diego Opera among others.

Some of the other roles in his repertoire include Cavaradossi, Ernesto, Nadir, Nemorino, Roberto in Maria Stuarda, Rodolfo, and Roméo.

In 1974, Stewart joined the roster of artists at the Frankfurt Opera in Germany. He remained a member of that company up until his retirement from the stage in 1990.

During his career he also sang the concert repertoire with major orchestras like the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Cleveland Symphony, among others.

In 1990, he moved with his wife, stage director Jolly Stewart, to St. Louis where he worked as the Director of Vocal Activities at Washington University in St. Louis.

John Harger Stewart sings Manon: En fermant les yeux

John Harger Stewart sings Le roi d'Ys: Vainement, ma bien-aimée

John Harger Stewart sings Tosca: Qual occhio al mondo, with Maralin Niska

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