Oberlin, Russell Keys

Oberlin, Russell Keys, 1928–2016, American countertenor, b. Akron, Ohio, grad. Juilliard, 1951. A boy soprano, he sang in his church choir and on the radio, and won a nationwide radio talent competition. Oberlin graduated as a high tenor from Juilliard and, finding that he could easily move to countertenor roles, became an original member of the early-music ensemble New York Pro Musica Antiqua (1952; later New York Pro Musica). His voice ranged over two octaves, from ethereal to dark and complex, and was robust but with sensitive phrasing and a rich, warm vibrato. He sang works by John Dowland, Bach, Handel, Purcell, and William Byrd as well as more recent works; one of his most famous roles was that of Oberon in Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream. Along with Alfred Deller, he was credited with inspiring the mid-20th-century revival of medieval, Renaissance, and early Baroque music. Retiring from performing (1966), he taught music at Hunter College, New York City, and lectured on the art and history of the countertenor.

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