Boasting a career which includes performances with major opera companies and orchestras throughout the world, bass-baritone Jake Gardner remains one of opera’s most sought-after singing actors. Recently making forays into opera’s greatest buffo roles, Gardner has performed, to critical acclaim, roles such as Benoit/Alcindoro in La bohème with Virginia Opera, Baron Zeta in The Merry Widow with Los Angeles Opera, and Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia with San Antonio Opera and Mill City Opera, among others. Of his Benoit/Alcindoro, critics hailed “Bass-baritone Jake Gardner also stands out when he brings his acting chops to bear on creating distinctive characters in the garret’s morally questionable landlord in Act 1 and Musetta’s sugar daddy in Act 2.” This season’s engagements include reprisals of Benoit/Alcindoro in La bohème with Opera San Antonio, Scarpia in Tosca with Opera Coeur d’Alene, and Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Eugene Opera; a return to Virginia Opera as Ashby in La fanciulla del West; the Narrator in a Wagner Concert with Virginia Symphony Orchestra; and the role of Sulpice in La fille du régiment with Hawaii Opera Theatre.
Recent North American engagements include the role of Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd with Houston Grand Opera, Virginia Opera, Mill City Summer Opera, and Eugene Opera; the title role in Der fliegende Holländer with Piedmont Opera; Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore with Virginia Opera, where he later returned as Samuel/The Hermint in Der Freischütz; Scarpia in Tosca with Mill City Summer Opera and Piedmont Opera; productions of Manon Lescaut as Geronte de Ravoir with Washington National Opera and as Monsieur de Brétigny with Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he also performed in their production of Manon; Harold Ryan in Happy Birthday Wanda June with Indianapolis Opera; Betto in Gianni Schicchi and Hortensio in La fille du régiment with San Francisco Opera; Giorgio Germont in La traviata with Opera Grand Rapids and Opera Omaha; Alfonso in Così fan tutte with North Carolina Opera; and Doc in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place with New York City Opera. He also directed La tragédie de Carmen with Eugene Opera. Additionally, Garner has performed one of his signature roles, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, to critical acclaim with a vast array of opera houses, including New York City Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Arizona Opera, Opera Cleveland, New Orleans Opera, and Palm Beach Opera in Renata Scotto’s production of the opera.
Gardner has fostered strong relationships with esteemed opera houses throughout the country. A favorite with Boston Lyric Opera, he performed there as Musiklehrer in Ariadne auf Naxos, The Mayor in Musto’s The Inspector, and Scarpia in a concert version of Tosca. With Hawaii Opera Theatre, he performed Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Fredrik in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Germont in La traviata, Scarpia in Tosca, Michele and Gianni Schicchi in Il trittico, and his role début as Wotan in Die Walküre. He also made several appearances with Glimmerglass Opera including leading roles in The Music Man, Lost in the Stars, Buffalo Bill Cody in Annie Get Your Gun, Ronaldo Cabral in Later That Evening, Ashby in La fanciulla del West, Marquis de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites, and Jupiter in Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers.
Internationally, Mr. Gardner’s career brought him throughout Europe beginning as the principal baritone at Oper Köln in Germany, where he appeared in a vast number of operas including the title roles in Don Giovanni and Gianni Schicchi, Lescaut in Manon Lescaut, Germont in La traviata, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, and Shostakovich’s The Nose in a new production directed by Harry Kupfer. He performed Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte with Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and in a new production of the same opera directed by Trevor Nunn at the Glyndebourne Festival under the baton of Simon Rattle. Other international opera credits include a tour to Japan as Gideon in Little Women with New York City Opera and appearances with the Wexford Festival, Budapest Festival, Théâtre du Châtelet, Komische Oper Berlin, and with opera companies in Bonn, Dresden, Vienna, and the Netherlands.
Earlier in his career, engagements included Jules Goddard in the world première of Bolcom’s A Wedding at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Albert in the world première of Hans-Jürgen von Bose’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers with Santa Fe Opera, and gala performances of Die Fledermaus with the San Diego Opera with Dame Joan Sutherland.
Mr. Gardner also enjoys a successful career on concert stages. Highlights include Mahler’s Das klagende Lied with the New York Philharmonic under James Conlon; Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic; a much-acclaimed Lincoln Center performance of Händel’s Saul, which he later performed at the San Antonio Festival; and a performance of Mozart’s Thamos, King of Egypt with the Mostly Mozart Festival where he later returned for performances of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. He also sang the role of Wotan in Jonathan Dove’s arrangement of Das Rheingold directed by Christopher Alden with the Eos Orchestra. Recent performances include Verdi’s Requiem with Bel Canto Chorus, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and Highland Park United Methodist Church; as a soloist with the Proms to perform an evening of music by Kurt Weill; Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra; Bach’s B-minor Mass with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra; a Holiday Pops concert with Binghamton Philharmonic; and Händel’s Messiah with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
His Lincoln Center début was in a nationally televised “Live from Lincoln Center” concert with Dame Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, and Luciano Pavarotti. He appeared twice in the same season at Carnegie Hall in concert performances of Massenet’s Le Cid with Plácido Domingo and Grace Bumbry, which were recorded live by CBS/SONY. Additionally, Mr. Gardner can be heard on a BMG recording of Thea Musgrave’s Mary, Queen of Scots, which he also performed at the San Francisco Opera, Scottish Opera, Edinburgh Festival, Stuttgart Opera, and Virginia Opera. Another Musgrave work, the première of Incident at Owl Creek, was broadcast on BBC and subsequently aired throughout the United States on National Public Radio. He may also be seen in the original 1983 released film version of Peter Brook’s La tragédie de Carmen and on the CD entitled Afrika Songs composed by Wilhelm Gross with the Matrix Ensemble conducted by Robert Ziegler.