American tenor John Carlo Pierce enjoys an international reputation for beautiful sound and incisive acting. He holds a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Connecticut. He was recently assistant professor of voice at New Mexico State University, and director of the Doña Ana Lyric Opera, the university’s educational opera program. He has directed productions of Dido and Aeneas, Serse, Orphée aux enfers, and Suor Angelica. In his current position as associate professor of voice at Colorado State University, he teaches lyric diction, opera history and literature, and has directed Serse and Die Zauberflöte.
As a member of the Florida Grand Opera Young Artist Program, John Carlo Pierce made his professional debut in 1995 as Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos, and also sang the roles of Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Beppe in I pagliacci with that company. He made his European debut in 1997 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy as Victorin in Die tote Stadt. During this production, he was invited to join the International Opera Studio of the Cologne Opera in Germany. Soon after, he was promoted to principal soloist, and in the next two seasons sang leading roles in Die tote Stadt, Falstaff (Fenton) and Macbeth (Malcolm), among others.
For five seasons, John Carlo Pierce held the position of resident lyric tenor at the State Theater in Mainz, Germany. He was responsible for over twenty-five roles covering a broad range of repertoire. Highlights include the role of Jonathan in Handel’s Saul, which was broadcast live on German television, and the world premiere of an opera based on the life of Johannes Gutenberg by Gavin Bryars. Other roles include Belmonte (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Conte Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Alfredo (La traviata) and Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi). In Giessen, John added several new roles to his repertoire, including Prince Ramiro in La cenerentola, Narraboth in Salome, and Medoro in Orlando Paladino, which was broadcast live on German radio.
John Carlo Pierce can be heard on the EMI recording of Zemlinsky’s Der Traumgörge with the Gürzenich-Orchester under the baton of James Conlon. As guest artist,John appeared at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Aargau Festival in Switzerland, and in Darmstadt, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Freiburg, Halle, Heidelberg, Kassel, Nuremberg, Schwerin and Trier.
THE SONGS OF WINTTER WATTS
A RESEARCH AND RECORDING PROJECT
Wintter Watts, a prolific yet largely forgotten early twentieth-century American composer, wrote music filled with beauty, warmth, and depth. Born in 1884 in Cincinnati into a family of amateur artists and musicians, Watts received his earliest musical training from his mother and served as a boy soprano soloist at one of the largest churches in Cincinnati. Later, he studied organ and continued training his baritone voice. In 1904, Watts entered the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music where he studied composition with Pier Adolfo Tirindelli, a former classmate and friend of Puccini. He joined the composition class of Percy Goetschius at the Institute of Music Arts in New York City (now the Juilliard School) in 1910. Watts subsequently held a one-year position as theory instructor at the College of the Pacific, after which he returned to New York.
Beginning in 1919, Watts’ star was in the ascendant. That year, he was awarded the Morris Loeb Prize by the Institute of Musical Arts, he was chosen as a composition fellow by the MacDowell Colony, and his song cycle, Vignettes of Italy, described as a “contribution of permanent value to American song literature” by Musical America, was published. The Loeb Prize, along with a scholarship from the Joseph Pulitzer Awards, afforded Watts the opportunity to travel and study in Europe. He set sail in May 1923, and while there learned he had won the Rome Prize, which offered a three-year fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. He was 37 at the time and had already published some 60 songs. His time at the academy was cut short, however; at the end of his second year, his fellowship was revoked for no officially-reported reason.
Watts remained in Europe, living for a time on the French Riviera, and in 1931, returned to the United States. He reported to the press he had “devoted himself exclusively” to composition; yet the number of works he published in the ensuing years dropped off precipitately. He settled in Brooklyn, continued composing, and occasionally coached vocalists on his songs. Watts died at home in 1962. Because he had no surviving relatives, his effects where acquired by the State of New York and sold at auction. During the last decades of his life, his name slipped farther into obscurity, and his songs into undeserved neglect.
For the last several years, I have been working on a project to compile and record many of these forgotten gems, including the complete Vignettes of Italy cycle. The result of this project will soon be available from Centaur Records. In the meantime, please take a listen below to live performances of some of the songs.