"...pouring pleasing panache into Escmillo's 'Toreador' song."
-St. Paul Pioneer Press
Irish-American baritone John Allen Nelson is known for his “deliciously hearty sound” with “uniformity from top to bottom” paired with his clean musicality. His “full body approach” to acting always makes him an audience favorite.
In the 2023 season, Mr. Nelson jumped into the title role of West Bay Opera's Don Giovanni. He debuts with the Pacific Symphony as Marullo in Rigoletto, he is returning to the Spoleto Festival as Nicholas in Barber's Vanessa, reprising one of his signature roles of Escamillo in The Tragedy of Carmen with Seaglass Theater Company. Last season had Mr. Nelson making his company debuts with Opera Ithaca as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, with the Spoleto Festival as Alcindoro in La Bohème and with Lubbock Symphony as Imperial Commissioner and Sharpless cover in Madama Butterfly. He returned to Boston to sing Claudius in a highlight concert of Joseph Summer’s Hamlet in partnership with Boston Lyric Opera and to the Bar Harbor Music Festival and Schaunard in La Bohème, In 2021, he appeared as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with the Bar Harbor Music Festival and made his company debut as the Ufficiale and Figaro cover in Il Barbière di Siviglia with Finger Lakes Opera.
Mr. Nelson revisited the title role in Don Giovanni in a groundbreaking pandemic-era live production via Zoom with Kor Productions. In the 2019/2020 season, Mr. Nelson debuted with Opera Santa Barbara as Di Cosimo in Il Postino and Yamadori, the Imperial Commissioner, and the cover of Sharpless in Madama Butterfly. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his appearance as Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette with Opera Santa Barbara was canceled, as was his return to Odyssey Opera as the Earl of Essex in Edward German’s comedy Merrie England. In the 2018/2019 season, Mr. Nelson made his New York City Opera debut as Giordano in the world premiere of Stonewall, and also debuted with Boston Lyric Opera in a workshop of Joseph Summer’s Hamlet. He returned to his home state of Minnesota for Opera on the Lake’s summer production of Die Fledermaus, in which he portrayed Dr. Falke.
Mr. Nelson made his Utah Opera debut as Marcello as a last-minute fill-in in their season-opening production of La Bohème. He also appeared as Escamillo in Peter Brook's The Tragedy of Carmen with Skylark Opera Theatre and as Moralès in Carmen with the Lakes Area Music Festival. He made his Odyssey Opera debut as King Edward III in Donizetti's L'assedio di Calais, as well as his Rhode Island Civic Orchestra debut as the Bass Soloist for Handel's Messiah in the fall. In seasons prior, Mr. Nelson appeared as Pa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath with Sugar Creek Opera, as Dandini in La Cenerentola with Boston’s NEMPAC Opera Project, and as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both with Boston University Opera Institute. The Boston Musical Intelligencer said of his Dandini, “Nelson brought a deliciously hearty sound: his bold, rounded singing elicits the same earthly satisfaction as a great glass of Cabernet…He’s a natural choice for this role and others of its type.” His Demetrius was described as “a pleasure to listen to…His vocal performance left nothing to be desired.”
Mr. Nelson has appeared with Minnesota Opera as Schaunard in La Bohème, Mandarin in Turandot, and Zimmerkellner in Arabella. As a Young Artist with Opera Colorado, he sang the roles of Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, the Old Gypsy in Il Trovatore, the Father in Hansel and Gretel, and Zuniga in Carmen. While with Des Moines Metro Opera as an Apprentice Artist, he covered Don Giovanni -- a role he also performed at UMKC -- and with the Brevard Music Festival he sang Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore and Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro.
An active interpreter of concert works, in 2016 Mr. Nelson sang the baritone solos in John Rutter’s Mass of the Children with Masterworks Chorale in Boston and Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs Masterworks Chorale (Boston). He has been the featured soloist in Händel’s Messiah with the Hyperion Singers and the Heartland Symphony, Fauré’s Requiem with Masterworks Chorale (Boston), and as a special guest artist at his alma mater, St. John’s University, in a program of both Bruckner’s and Koday’s Te Deum.
John Allen Nelson completed his residency at Boston University Opera Institute in spring 2016. He holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance from St. John’s University in his native Minnesota.