Praised for her “expressive” and “persuasive” performances, mezzo-soprano Quinn Middleman is equally at home on the operatic and concert stages and maintains a wide variety of repertoire, ranging from early music to bel canto to world premieres. In the summer of 2017, Quinn was a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artist at Central City Opera in Colorado, covering the role of Dorabella in Così fan tutte, performing the role of Second Entertainer in Britten’s The Burning Fiery Furnace, and presenting a recital of art songs by women composers. Currently a Young Artist with Chicago Opera Theater, Ms. Middleman’s upcoming engagements with the company for the 2017-2018 season include covering Secretary in Menotti’s The Consul and singing Doris/Witness 3 in the Midwest premiere of Kevin Puts’ Elizabeth Cree. In the 2016-2017 season, Quinn appeared with COT in Purcell’s Fairy Queen, in the Chicago premiere of Martin’s Le vin herbé and of Philip Glass’s The Perfect American. She also appeared in recital with the Musician’s Club of Women on May 22 in the Chicago Cultural Center, as a recipient of the Farwell Trust Award, was the alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah conducted by Philip Bauman and in Mendelssohn’s Elijah conducted by Philip Simmons. Quinn performed alongside Dawn Upshaw, Sanford Sylvan, John Harbison, Lucy Shelton, and Kayo Iwama as a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in both 2015 and 2016. She received many accolades for singing the world premiere of Harold Meltzer’s Variations on a Summer Day for the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in 2016, and in 2015 sang alongside Lucy Shelton in the premiere of Yehudi Wyner’s Sonnet: In the Arms of Sleep.
Quinn received her Master’s degree at Northwestern University, where she studied under W. Stephen Smith. At Northwestern, she was seen as Marcellina (Le nozze di Figaro), Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti), and Sister Helen Prejean in the Chicago premiere of Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. She co-founded the student opera company Chamber Opera Initiative and performed the title role in Handel’s Ariodante with the company in 2015.
Quinn graduated from the University of Southern California in 2014, where she received Bachelor’s degrees in both Vocal Arts and Oboe Performance. In her time at USC, she sang the roles of Nerone (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Mother Marie (Dialogues of the Carmelites), Third Spirit (Die Zauberflöte), and La India in the Los Angeles premiere of David Conte’s America Tropical. She was also a soloist in Philip Glass's A Madrigal Opera with the LA Philharmonic's Minimalist Jukebox Festival. Other operatic roles include La Zelatrice (Suor Angelica), Ottavia (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Sesto (Giulio Cesare), and Fidalma (Il matrimonio segreto).
Off the operatic stage, Quinn enjoys a fulfilling schedule of art song, concert work, and competitions. Most recently, she sang the solos in Mendelssohn's Elijah, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 14, Bach’s St. John Passion, Walton’s Façades, Mozart’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, and Vivaldi’s Magnificat.
As a winner of Musicians Club of Women Edith Newfield Scholarship, she recently presented a recital of lesser-known Lieder alongside San Francisco Ballet Orchestra clarinetist Andrew Sandwick. In 2015, she won third place in the Ziering-Conlon Recovered Voices Initiative Competition, championing the music of composers suppressed during the Nazi regime. She recently appeared alongside composer Jake Heggie and flutist Carol Wincenc in the Music at Meyer concert series in San Francisco, in a recital featuring the composer’s music. Quinn currently studies with Judith Haddon.
What is the story of how you first came to love music and opera?
Music has always been a big part of my life, starting at the age of two when I saw Tchaikovsky's Peter and the Wolf at the Oregon Symphony. My mom started me in piano lessons when I was in kindergarten, but it was when I started playing the oboe in sixth grade that I first became serious about pursuing music as a career. I fell in love with the instrument, and it was my dream to be the principal oboist in the New York Philharmonic -- until I started voice lessons, that is. My mom took me to Portland Opera to see Carmen, and I was hooked. While I continued to play the oboe seriously and even double majored in oboe and voice in college, singing has remained at the forefront of my life since then.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
While I love traveling and exploring, sometimes it can be difficult for me to be away from home for opera contracts. I try to create a home-away-from-home as much as possible when I’m on the road, but it isn’t easy to be away from loved ones.
Do you have a favorite performer?
I really respect anyone who has the talent and tenacity to make a career as a performer, but lately I have been loving the work of two fabulous mezzos-- Sarah Connolly and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.
Do you have a favorite role? Aria? Opera?
When I was at Northwestern University pursuing my master’s degree, I recruited some of my classmates to produce Georg Frideric Handel’s opera Ariodante. I love Handel’s work so much, and I wanted to share that experience with my friends and show them what draws me to his compositions. As the titular character and main producer of the show, I spent many hours working with the score and became infatuated. While so many Baroque operas are about mythology and larger-than-life plots, which I love for different reasons, the text and plot of Ariodante are so real and relatable. The relationships between the characters, and the sorrow and joy they feel, are palpable in Handel’s music, and I can’t get enough of that opera!
Do you have any favorite books about music?
Lately I’ve been reading Parallels and Paradoxes by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim.
What else are you reading?
I always have a few books on my bedside table that I rotate between, and currently those are: Language in Thought and Action by Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa, A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber, and The Trial of Elizabeth Cree by Peter Ackroyd. (That last one is part of my preparation for a February, 2018 role in Chicago Opera Theater’s premiere of Elizabeth Cree by Kevin Puts!)
Who are your favorite 17th and 18th century composers?
Georg Frideric Handel, Barbara Strozzi, Claudio Monteverdi, Nicholas Lanier.
What do you love about HOC?
I am so excited to be a part of my first HOC production. I love the authenticity and elaborate production values, and of course it is such a privilege to get to work with such polished and expressive musicians.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?
I practice yoga regularly, and I love hiking and being outside. I also knit and crochet. My latest project is making hats with animals and flowers on them to donate to a children’s hospital.
If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?
I probably would have gone into Arts Administration. I’m very detail-oriented and productive in an office, and I gained valuable experience producing operas during my master’s work, but I would miss the particular expression of performing.