Derek Lee Ragin is regarded as one of the foremost countertenors of our day. In great demand as a master of Baroque vocal style, he is also an inspired interpreter of contemporary music. His performances of such diverse repertoire are characterized by an unusual warmth and expressivity, and he has received unanimous accolades from critics and audiences throughout the world.
Mr. Ragin sang the 1739 (first performance) version of Handel’s Israel in Egypt in Budapest, debuted Der Name der Rose by Munich composer Enjott Schneider (a composition for countertenor and organ written especially for him), and with the London-based group Florilegium, returned to the Budapest Early Music Festival and the Handel Festival in Halle, Germany. Mr. Ragin appeared in the Munich Opera’s production of Rinaldo, and toured Austria and Germany with the Vienna Konzertverein. He sang Handel’s Messiah in Cleveland with Apollo’s Fire, collaborated with the Aulos Ensemble in a Christmas program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and appeared in San Francisco with the American Bach Soloists. He also returned to Australia for performances in Sydney and Melbourne with the Brandenburg Orchestra. He sang Belize and several other roles in the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’ Angels in America at the Châtelet in Paris. He sang the world premiere of Jonathan Dawe’s Prometheus at the Guggenheim, and toured throughout the US with the baroque ensemble Rebel.
Other highlights include the New York Philharmonic world premiere of Kancheli’s “And Farewell Goes Out Sighing”; performances of Bach’s St. John Passion with the London Philharmonic; Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice in Vienna and at the Rheingau Music Festival; and Kancheli’s Diplipito with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra at the Lucerne Festival and again in Stuttgart when the work was recorded for ECM. He performed Handel’s Alexander Balus in St. Paul, Minnesota; concerts with the Cologne Chamber Orchestra in Cologne and Munich; and Bach cantatas with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra in Milan and London which were recorded for Deutsche Grammophon. Other engagements include performances ofThe Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Louisville Bach Society; and the role of Anfinomus in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with the Netherlands Opera in Sydney.
Mr. Ragin sang in Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms at Tanglewood with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony. He has appeared at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, and at Salzburg Festival in Györgi Ligeti’s re-written opera Le Grand Macabre, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Peter Sellars. The production was also presented in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet. He appeared in recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; sang the role of Arsamenes in Handel’s Xerxes at the Seattle Opera, and in a return engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, sang the role of Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Mr Ragin has performed at venues across the world in recital with the pianists Julius Drake, Mark Markham, Christopher Glynn, Joseph Joubert and the late Moses Hogan with whom he pioneered a distinctive approach to Negro Spirituals. He has also enjoyed a long-standing and productive relationship in recital and recording with lutenist Peter Croton.
Derek Lee Ragin was born in West Point, New York and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He first studied the piano, and went on to begin his formal vocal training at the Newark Boys Chorus School. He later attended the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, where he majored in piano and music education. With a swiftly moving career, he made a series of highly acclaimed debuts, notably at the Metropolitan Opera in Handel’s Giulio Cesare ; in recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1991, and at the Salzburg Festival in Gluck’s Orfeo with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra in 1990. He made his London recital debut at Wigmore Hall in 1984, and was immediately re-engaged for the following year.
Mr. Ragin’s discography includes Italian lute songs, Handel cantatas, and a disc of spirituals entitled Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit, all for Channel Classics. He recorded the role of Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice for Philips Classical, the title roles in Handel’s Tamerlano and Teseo for Erato, and the role of Poro in the world premiere recording of Johan Adolf Hasse’s Cleofide on the Capriccio label. With the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Shaw, Mr. Ragin performed and recorded Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and the world premiere of the composer’s Missa Brevis. The recording subsequently won a 1995 Grammy Award, and his recording of Giulio Cesare with Concerto Köln received a Gramophone Award in 1992.
Among Mr. Ragin’s other awards are first place winner in the Purcell-Britten Prize for Concert Singers in England, and First Prize at the 35th International Music Competition in Munich. He also lent his voice to Farinelli, a film about the famed 18th century castrato which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film in 1995. The soundtrack won the Golden Record award the following year in Cannes.
Mr Ragin has recently returned to the USA from England where performed with English Touring Opera and created the role of Nya ‘il in the premiere of Julian Grant’s Prophet and Loss as well as enjoying a busy teaching and masterclass schedule including work at The Royal College of Music.