Regarded as one of the foremost vocal artists of our day, Derek Lee Ragin has achieved special renown for his pioneering efforts in establishing countertenor singing as an art form in his native United States and abroad. The subtlety of style, purity of tone, and emotional impact of his singing has brought new dimensions of expression to the countertenor’s art.
In great demand as a master of Baroque vocal style, he is also an inspired interpreter of contemporary music. His performances of such diverse repertoire are characterized by an unusual warmth and expressivity, and he has received unanimous accolades from critics and audiences throughout the world.
Selected highlights of Mr. Ragin’s career include: Handel’s Giulio Cesare at the Metropolitan Opera; recitals at Wigmore Hall; Gluck’s Orfeo in the Salzburg Festival with the Monteverdi Choir conducted by John Eliot Gardiner; the debut of Der Name der Rose by Munich composer Enjott Schneider (a composition for countertenor and organ written especially for him); performances in Sydney and Melbourne with the Brandenburg Orchestra; the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’ Angels in America at the Châtelet in Paris; the world premiere of Jonathan Dawe’s Prometheus at the Guggenheim; the New York Philharmonic world premiere of Kancheli’s And Farewell Goes Out Sighing; Kancheli’s Diplipito with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra at the Lucerne Festival and again in Stuttgart when the work was recorded for ECM; Bach cantatas with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra in Milan and London, recorded for Deutsche Grammophon; Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms at Tanglewood with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony; Gyorgi Ligeti’s re-written opera Le Grand Macabre in Salzburg and Paris; and a return engagement at the Metropolitan Opera singing Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In addition, Ragin has performed extensively as a recitalist with pianists Julius Drake and Mark Markham, and with lutenist/guitarist Peter Croton.
Mr. Ragin’s discography includes Italian lute songs with Peter Croton, Handel cantatas, and a disc of spirituals entitled ‘Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit’, all for Channel Classics. He recorded the role of Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice for Philips Classical, the title roles in Handel’s Tamerlano and Teseo for Erato, and the role of Poro in the world premiere recording of Johan Adolf Hasse’s Cleofide on the Capriccio label. With the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Shaw, Mr. Ragin performed and recorded Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and the world premiere of the composer’s Missa Brevis. The recording subsequently won a 1995 Grammy Award, and his recording of Giulio Cesare with Concerto Köln received a Gramophone Award in 1992. Mr. Ragin’s newest CD, Remembrance of Things Past, with Theresia Bothe and Peter Croton, will be released in January 2010 by Guild.
The beauty of Ragin’s voice came to the attention of a wider international audience when he was heard on the soundtrack to Farinelli, the acclaimed Sony Pictures Classics feature film based on the life of the great 18th-century castrato, which won the ‘Golden Globe’ for Best Foreign Film in 1995 and the ‘Golden Record’ award the following year in Cannes.
Derek Lee Ragin received a Bachelor of Music in piano performance and a Master of Music Teaching from The Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He continued studies as a singer at the University of Maryland and at the Sweelink Conservatorium in Amsterdam. He was the winner of the 1983 Purcell-Britten Prize for Concert Singers in England, as well as at the 1986 International Music Competition in Munich.
“Ragin’s voice is an attractive instrument: the tonal quality is gentle and velvety, never harshly forced... the voice is flexible, with an agility that lends itself well to bravura passages.”