B i o g r a p h y
The New York Times called Katherine Ciesinski "a singer of rare communicative presence, and a musician of discrimination and intelligence." An accomplished American mezzo-soprano who pursues a fully integrated career, Ciesinski explores the world of today's composers as well as the established classics of the lyric stage. Major operatic credits include three Metropolitan Opera productions: Judith (Bluebeard's Castle) and Nicklausse (Les Contes d'Hoffmann) and most recently Comtesse de Coigny (Andrea Chenier); Cassandre (Les Troyens) at Covent Garden and Adalgisa (Norma) with Scottish Opera; Laura (La Gioconda), Waltraute (Ring cycle), and Dulcinée (Don Quichotte) with San Francisco Opera; Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier) and Hansel (Hansel und Gretel) with Dallas Opera; Kabanicha (Katya Kabanova), Mère Marie (Dialogues des carmélites), Adelaide (Arabella), Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro), and Cornelia (Giulio Cesare) with Houston Grand Opera; Xerxes (title role), Diana (La Calisto), Herodias (Salome), Ottavia (L'Incoronazione di Poppea), and Countess Geschwitz in the American premiere of the completed three act version of Lulu with Santa Fe Opera. World premieres of Mark Adamo’s Little Women (Houston), Dominick Argento's The Aspern Papers (Dallas), Maurice Ohana's La Celestine (title role, Paris Opera), Girolamo Arrigo's Il Ritorno di Casanova (Geneva), Param Vir's Snatched by the Gods (Amsterdam and Munich) have been critically acclaimed, as have her Giulietta in Brussels, Brangäne in Toronto, Judith in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, Eboli in Madrid and La Favorite in Paris. In recent seasons she has performed the world premiere of The End of the Affair by Jake Heggie with Houston Grand Opera, which was broadcast nationally on NPR’s World of Opera. She has also appeared as Herodias in Salome (Fort Worth), Aunt Cecilia March in her sixth production of Mark Adamo's delightful Little Women (Mexico City), as Effie Belle Tate in Carlisle Floyd's masterpiece Cold Sassy Tree (Opera Omaha), as the Principessa in Puccini's Suor Angelica (Opera Theater of Saint Louis and Hawaii Opera Theater) and as Mère Marie in Dialogues des carmélites for Hawai'i Opera Theater. She sang song cycles of Prokofiev and Shostakovich for the multi-media production entitled The St. Petersburg Legacy for Da Camera of Houston at the Bard Music Festival in New York and again in New Haven.
One of the few master performers to also become a master teacher, Ms. Ciesinski is a frequent clinician at the annual International Symposium on Care of the Professional Voice in Philadelphia, created the Vocal Workshop for the annual International Composition Seminar at the Royaumont Foundation in France, and lectured in and served on the steering committee for the University of Texas School of Public Health’s Healthcare and the Arts Series. In addition, she is one of the thirty-four elected members of the American Academy of Teachers of Singing.
Ms. Ciesinski has also performed with many of the world's leading orchestras, including the Cleveland, Minnesota, and Philadelphia Orchestras, the Symphonies of Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Houston and Toronto; and in Europe, with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, L'Orchestre de Paris, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle, and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. She has been heard in recital across the United States and in Paris, Cologne, Zurich, Milan and at the Aix-en-Provence, Geneva, Spoleto and Salzburg Festivals. Her contemporary chamber music activities have included performances at the Caramoor Festival, New York; Musica Festival, Strasbourg; Ars Musica Festival, Brussels; Festival d'Automne, Paris; Voix Nouvelles, Fondation Royaumont; Schlern International Festival in Italy, and with the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. Katherine Ciesinski’s opera recordings include the title roles in Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, conducted by Armin Jordan (Erato), Regina, under John Mauceri (London/Decca), Sapho, conducted by Sylvain Cambreling (Radio France), the role of Siegrune in Cleveland Orchestra's Die Walküre, conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi (London/Decca), and the role of Sonia in War and Peace, conducted by Msitislav Rostropovich (Erato). She received a Grammy nomination for her Paulina in The Queen of Spades with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony (BMG) and won the Grammy for her performance in Alban Berg's Lulu with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hans Graf. Recent releases include Aunt Cecilia March in Mark Adamo’s Little Women (Ondine), Sofia Ivanova in Tod Machover’s Resurrection (Albany) and Alt Solistin in Kurt Weill’s Die Bürgschaft (EMI). Les Noces with Robert Craft and Pribaoutki with the Orchestra of St. Luke's (Music Masters), Carter's Syringa (Bridge), along with world premiere recordings of Brian Ferneyhough's On Stellar Magnitudes and Antoine Bonnet’s Nachtstrahl in Paris, number among her choral and chamber music releases. Lieder recordings include Rorem's Women's Voices (CRI), Ravel's Chansons Madécasses (Columbia), and songs of Dvorak, Alma Mahler and Clara Schumann (Leonarda).
She made her opera directing debut in 2007 with Handel’s Flavio for the Moores Opera Center, following with Britten's Turn of the Screw in 2008.
Her current and former students are now found in every facet of the professional vocal music world, including regular guests and members of major and regional opera companies in Europe, the United States, and South America; as well as the apprentice programs of the Santa Fe, Chicago Lyric, Wolf Trap, San Francisco, Orlando, Fort Worth, and Des Moines Metro Operas; on the faculties of Michigan State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Puget Sound, Lone Star College, and the University of South Dakota; and includes the founder of the Lone Star Lyric Theater Festival, the assistant music director of Chanticleer, two Fulbright scholars, and myriad Metropolitan, international, and regional competition winners.
She is the Martin E. and Corazon D. Sanders Professor of Voice at the Eastman School of Music and serves as the Chair of the Voice and Opera Department, as well as a University of Rochester Faculty Diversity Officer. For fifteen years, she served on the international faculty of the Artescénica Encuentro Operistico in Mexico and for the last half decade, the voice faculty of Opera Viva in Verona, Italy. In addition to her teaching, her research interests in physician education have been the focus of her recent work at the University of Rochester's School of Medicine and Dentistry, from which she holds the Master of Science degree in Medical Humanities.