Hailed by the critics as possessing a “resplendent voice”, bass-baritone Peter van de Graaff has sung to great acclaim throughout the world. Peter has appeared the symphonies of Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, San Antonio, Utah, Boulder Bach Festival, and Colorado Springs. He has sung internationally with the Chicago Symphony in Berlin, Czech State Philharmonic, Budapest Concert Orchestra, Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Czech Symphony. He has appeared in festivals internationally in Tokyo, China and Costa Rica and in the United States at the festivals of Grand Teton, San Luis Obispo and Bloomington Early Music, among many others. In Chicago, he has appeared with virtually every ensemble, including Music of the Baroque, Northbrook Symphony, North Shore Choral Society, Chicago Mastersingers, New Classic Singers, Rembrandt Chamber Players, Chicago Chamber Musicians, Oak Park/River Forest Symphony, Apollo Chorus, etc.
He has also been active in the opera house and has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Haymarket Opera, Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Opera, Rochester Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Cedar Rapids Opera and many other companies.
Mr. van de Graaff has made a specialty of the baroque repertoire and this has brought him as soloist to the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Costa Rica International Music Festival, Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, Pittsburgh Bach Choir, Grand Teton Music Festival, St. Louis Early Music Festival, Boulder Bach Festival, Haymarket Opera and many other festivals and concert series throughout the country. He and his soprano wife have been responsible for the modern premieres of several early 18th century chamber operas called “intermezzi." His recordings can be heard on the Naxos and Cedille labels. Peter has been a host of numerous programs at WFMT for 28 years.
What is the story of how you first came to love music and opera?
It took me a while to learn to love opera. I was drawn into classical music the first time I heard it, but I would RUN to turn the radio off if someone were singing! It was only when I started singing it myself (first as a boy soprano, later as a bass) that I started to get into it. Now-it’s a HUGE part of my life.
Do you have a favorite performer?
No question about it: my favorite performer is the German tenor Fritz Wunderlich. The clarity, the sweetness, the total commitment, the diction-it’s all there.
Do you have a favorite operatic role?
My favorite role is probably Rocco in Beethoven’s Fidelio-it’s my favorite opera, too (along with Weber’s Der Freischütz and Massenet’s Manon).
Do you have any favorite books about music?
I loved Jane Glover’s book Mozart’s Women. Berlioz’s Memoirs is fascinating, too. Right now I’m re-reading Cuthbert Girdlestone’s biography of Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Who are your favorite 17th and 18th century composers?
No doubt: Haydn is my favorite composer, but Rameau is in the top five, as well. Bach has a place there, too, as does Domenico Scarlatti.
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
The one recording I would take is Fritz Wunderlich singing Horch, die Lerche from Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor. But the one complete piece of music I would take would be either Bach’s St. Matthew Passion or Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.
What do you love about HOC?
I love the authenticity of HOC, but how they also don’t put it in a museum; HOC turns the operas into living, breathing works of art. I love working with such a talented and committed group of musicians.
Do you have a favorite memory from a past HOC event?
My favorite HOC memory would have to be Charpentier's opera La Descente d'Orphée aux enfers. I am so deeply in love with French Baroque music and this was the first opportunity I ever had to actually performing in a fully-staged French Baroque opera. Unforgettable.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?
When I’m not making music, I’m thinking about it or talking about it on the air. Beyond that, old movies are a huge passion.
What music do you listen to most often?
The music I listen to most often would have to be French Baroque opera. Second to that would be Haydn.
If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?
If I weren’t a singer/broadcaster, I would have been a linguistics teacher.