Lawrence Wiliford made his debut with Pacific Opera Victoria in April 2008, playing the role of Leo in the Canadian première of Marc Blitzstein's Regina. He returns in February 2012 for the title role in Britten's Albert Herring.
Lauded for his luminous projection, lyrical sensitivity, and brilliant coloratura, American-born Canadian tenor Lawrence Wiliford is in high demand in concert, opera, and recital repertoire ranging from works by Monteverdi to contemporary composers. Critics have acclaimed him as an “amazing tenor” (Vancouver Sun) having “exceptional power throughout his range” (Boston Globe) and as a “phenomenal” and “matchless artist” (Globe & Mail).
Mr. Wiliford has collaborated with conductors such as Richard Bradshaw, Jane Glover, Nicholas Kraemer, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Trevor Pinnock, Helmuth Rilling, and Pinchas Zukerman. He has been recognized in particular for his interpretation of Bach and other composers of the Baroque period and is a champion of English and North American art song, a passion that has led to engagements across North America and at the Aldeburgh Festival in England. Mr. Wiliford has been involved in a number of world première performances that include works by Benjamin Britten, Derek Holman, James Rolfe, John Greer and others. His recorded projects appear on the ATMA Classique & NAXOS labels and include J.S. Bach's Johannes-Passion under the direction of Alex Weimann, and his debut solo recording Divine Musick: the late works for tenor and harp by Benjamin Britten, which has been nominated by the International Classical Music Awards for Best Vocal Recital CD, 2012.
Highlights from Mr. Wiliford's 2012-2013 season include return engagements with Tafelmusik and the National Arts Centre Orchestra for Mozart's Requiem, Calgary Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia in performances of Handel's Messiah, Vancouver Chamber Choir for Bach's Mass in B Minor and Colorado Symphony for Mendelssohn's Elijah. He also returns to Pacific Opera Victoria in the title role of Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring. Debuts this season include appearances with Louisiana Philharmonic, in Handel's Messiah, with North Carolina Master Choral in Bach's Johannes Passion, and with the National Symphony of Mexico in Bach's Mass in B Minor.
Recent orchestral highlights include Bach's Mass in B Minor with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Oregon Bach Festival and Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Helmuth Rilling, Bach's Weihnachtsoratorium under the direction of Trevor Pinnock, and Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass under the direction of Pinchas Zukerman both with The National Arts Centre Orchestra, Handel's Messiah with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Nicholas Kraemer, Handel's Messiah, Israel in Egypt and Rameau's grand motet In convertendo with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Bach's Matthäus Passion with the Toronto Bach Consort under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Bach's Johannes Passion and Mass in B Minor conducted by Jane Glover, Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bernard Labadie, Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings with I Musici de Montréal conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni, Handel's Solomon with The Elora Festival and Haydn's Die Schöpfung and Mendelssohn's Lobgesang with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and several performances and recordings with Les Voix Baroques.
Opera highlights from recent seasons include Ferrando in Mozart's Così fan tutte, Francis Flute in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Roy in James Rolfe's Swoon at the Canadian Opera Company; with Toronto's Opera Atelier as Pedrillo in Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, Damon in Handel's Acis & Galatea and Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni; with Opera Lyra Ottawa as Count Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia; with Aldeburgh Music as Quint in Britten's The Turn of the Screw; with Edmonton Opera as Frederic in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance and Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio; with Pacific Opera Victoria as Leo in the Canadian première of Mark Blitzstein's Regina and with MusicFest Vancouver and Boston Baroque he debuted in the title role of Rameau's Pygmalion.
Mr. Wiliford holds a Bachelor of Music in Church Music from St. Olaf College and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Toronto. He has studied at Tanglewood, the Internationale Bachakademie of Stuttgart, the Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival, and the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program. Mr. Wiliford is a recent graduate of the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio and is a recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. In addition to his performing schedule, Mr. Wiliford is co-artistic director of the Canadian Art Song Project.
Born in Muskegon, Michigan, Mr. Wiliford grew up in many towns throughout Michigan, Wisconsin and New York. At the age of 10, he became a member of the American Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey, under the leadership of James Litton. While a student at St. Olaf College, he sang with the St. Olaf Choir, became a published choral arranger, and was one of the founding members of the male vocal chamber ensemble Cantus, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Audio Excerpts from Lawrence Wiliford's CDs.
Interview on Minnesota Public Radio (2010) about Lawrence Wiliford's debut solo recording Divine Musick: the late works for tenor and harp by Benjamin Britten
The musicianship on this disc is extraordinary ... [Wiliford has] become a sensitive and expressive singer, with a supple and beautiful instrument that seems always to do his bidding.
Erick Lichte, Stereophile Magazine, Review of CD Divine Musick: the late works for tenor and harp by Benjamin Britten
Lawrence Wiliford … brought a clear, nicely projected voice to Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31. Already a specialist on Britten with his recent ATMA release on the composer's songs accompanied by harpist Jennifer Swartz, the Serenade suited Wiliford's voice, evoking memories of Peter Pears, for whom the work was originally composed.
Wah Keung Chan, Montreal Gazette