Tenor Isaiah Bell performed with the Pacific Opera Victoria chorus for several seasons and participated in the company’s Young Artist Program, performing the title role in the 2007/8 Opera in Schools production of Elijah’s Kite.
Isaiah was scheduled to perform his one-man show The Book of My Shames, at Pacific Opera’s Baumann Centre in April 2020. Co-created by Isaiah with director Sean Guist, the one-man hybrid music-theatre piece has been finding its voice for four years, starting as a short piece at Intrepid Theatre’s OUTstages Queer Theatre Festival. Isaiah and Sean worked with Pacific Opera to develop it further in advance of its 2019 première as a co-presentation between Tapestry Opera and Pride Toronto. They have subsequently refined the work further, with studio space and technical support provided by Pacific Opera, in preparation for live performances at the Baumann Centre, co-presented by Intrepid Theatre and Pacific Opera Victoria as part of UNO Fest. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project, scheduled for the end of April, moved online.
In 2018 Isaiah created the role of Antinous, lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, in the world première of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian at the Canadian Opera Company. He appeared alongside Thomas Hampson as Hadrian and Karita Mattila as Plotina. He also recently returned to Mark Morris’ acclaimed double-bill production of Curlew River/Dido & Aeneas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, giving “a performance of exquisite poignancy” (The New York Times) as the Madwoman in Britten’s Curlew River, opposite Stephanie Blythe as Dido.
In February 2020, Isaiah makes his debut at Vancouver Opera as Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. The season also sees his return to Carnegie Hall for Paul Moravec’s new Ellis Island oratorio, A Nation of Others. He also appears with Opera Atelier (Handel’s The Resurrection), the Toronto Symphony (Messiah), and the Bethlehem Bach Festival.
Further recent engagements include George Benjamin’s Written on Skin with the Toronto Symphony conducted by the composer; Britten’s War Requiem with the National Arts Centre Orchestra under Alexander Shelley; Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at l’Opéra-Théâtre de Metz in France; Strauss’s Elektra at l’Opéra de Montréal under Yannick Nézét-Séguin; and Handel’s Atalanta, Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, and Messiah with Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco.
Isaiah previously appeared in Britten’s Owen Wingrave, under Mark Wigglesworth at the Aldeburgh and Edinburgh Festivals, Acis and Galatea at Lincoln Center with the Mark Morris Dance Group, Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang with Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony, and, with Kent Nagano and l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette and a Decca recording of the Honegger/Ibert opera L’Aiglon.
In 2015 Isaiah played the central role of Marlow in the American première of Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at Opera Parallèle. He also has sung Bach’s Matthew Passion with Yannick Nézét-Séguin and l’Orchestre Métropolitain, a recital of German and English song for CBC Radio’s “In Concert,” a staged Messiah with Against the Grain Theatre, two discs of German Baroque cantatas with the Theatre of Early Music, and William Walton’s Façade with members of l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.
Isaiah has written four operas – including the music and libretti for two operas for young audiences commissioned and widely toured by Opera NUOVA – and a number of song cycles and arrangements. He is also just beginning to stage direct, having recently created a stripped-down Acis and Galatea designed specifically to retold by a large cast. That production was created for the voice ensemble at the University of Victoria, and was restaged in the fall of 2019 with the University of Toronto’s Collegium ensemble.