John Chest


"The voice itself is both beautiful and immediately engaging, virile but distinguished by an appealing vulnerability and urgent catch in the timbre."


"In the title role [of Billy Budd], John Chest sounded tenorishly clear and agile, reserving a fuller, fleshier sound for the ‘Darbies’ solo."


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American baritone John Chest has sung at major opera houses throughout Europe and the United States. He studied at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University with David Holloway, held apprenticeships with the Santa Fe Opera and the Chicago Opera Theater and took part in the prestigious Merola Opera Programme. He is a graduate of the Opera Studio at the Bayerische Staatsoper and a former member of the ensemble at Deutsche Oper Berlin.

In the 2021-22 season he sings Count Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro for the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg, Posa Don Carlos for Theater Basel, and Valens Theodora with Il Pomo d’Oro. He also performs Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Bernstein’s Concerto for Orchestra: Jubilee Games with the Orchestre national de Lille.

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Title role, Billy Budd

San Francisco Opera, September 2019

In the title role, baritone John Chest made an impressive company debut with a performance of freshness and vitality. Billy doesn't have much personality - he's a blank, beautiful screen onto whom the other men on board can all project their desires and fears - but Chest's singing, especially in the lovely late ballad "Billy in the Darbies" created a telling simulacrum.

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 September 2019

Striking a balance between boldness and vulnerability, easy-on-the-eyes baritone John Chest made a splendid impression in his SFO debut as Billy Budd, who arrives, Messiah-like, and quickly gains the admiration of his fellow hands on deck, who have been beaten down by the system and who see in "Baby" Billy their innocence that has been lost. With warmth and smooth resonance, Chest's Billy would make anyone fall for him; he was especially moving in his Act 2 final monologue.

James Ambroff-Tahan, San Francisco Examiner, 9 September 2019

The title role was sung with winning exuberance by baritone John Chest, making his SF Opera debut. Chest's Billy was lithe and charming, giving plausibility to the handsome sailor's popularity among the sailors (and attractiveness to Captain Vere). Even more to the point, Chest's singing gave Budd an exciting presence, almosdt every vocal line imbued with vitality. The ballad-like lament that Billy sang in the moonlight as he waited for the morning of his death (accompanied by a lovely piccolo solo) was delivered with a plangency that conveyed Billy's still-innocent understanding of the darkness and beauty of the world.

Nicholas Jones, San Francisco Classical Voice, 9 September 2019

The title role was interpreted by American baritone, John Chest, and with panache. “Beauty,” as Budd is called by the malevolent enemy Claggart, is good as he is handsome, pure as he is real. Chest appealed right from the start, his voice beautiful in its sonority, his conviction embedded in each note. His timbre was perfect, the plangent “cri de coeur” never cloying, nor a plea for sympathy. That was unique, in fact, in Budd’s character – he knew where he was in time and space and otherwise: “I am a good sailor” he told the Captain when he stood before him apparently going to receive a promotion. “In my hands, you would be safe.” Indeed, the audience was also safe in his hands.

Lois Silverstein, OperaWire, 11 September 2019

The cast is uniformly strong, led by brilliant vocal performances and convincing stage presence from the three principals: John Chest in the title role... Chest, a properly youthful 34, maintained the role’s challenging vocal and dramatic presence; his return to the company ten years after his Merola Program participation here was a memorable occasion.

Janos Gereben, Classical Voice North America, 14 September 2019

Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights

Opéra national de Lorraine, May 2019

Baritone John Chest is irreproachable, expressing a complete palette of feelings in the role of Heathcliff. The voice goes from chilling darkness to cautious jealousy with an unsettling ease that almost makes the character endearing.

Christian Dalzon,, 5 May 2019 (translated)

John Chest and Marcelo Amaral / Die Schöne Magelone

Alpha Classics; ALPHA421 / release date 11 January 2019

The voice itself is both beautiful and immediately engaging, virile but distinguished by an appealing vulnerability and urgent catch in the timbre. His German is impeccable, too, his way with Tieck’s words natural, engaged and engaging. He’s matched by vivid, supportive playing from the outstanding Brazilian pianist Marcelo Amaral

Hugo Shirley, Gramophone

...his German attentively enunciated, setting out his stall with heroic declamatory zeal. The headstrong optimism of 'Traun!' radiates virile conviction, and the long arc of 'Sind es Schmerzen' unfolds a sensitively shaped trajectory. The operatic heft of ‘Wie soll ich die Freude’ whips up a tortured storm in singer and pianist alike; ‘Verzweiflung’ generates a churning vortex of despair; while ‘Wie schnell verschwindet’ is lovingly cast as a Schubertian refugee refashioned in Brahms’s image

Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine

Pelléas in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, July 2018

Christopher Purves and John Chest play off each other as Golaud and Pelléas to wondrous effect. Golaud’s rage and pathos is heartrending, while Chest’s warm baritone pervades the story with a thread of marvellously sustained beauty.

Michael Church, The Independent, July 2018

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