“Whatever he sings, Pursell’s diction is a model of clarity, and his intriguingly dark voice is beautifully projected…”
“note-perfect and poignant.”
“power, precision and congeniality”
Hailing from the Santa Cruz mountains of California, bass-baritone Christian Pursell is a rising star among the next generation of singers. This season he adds three important roles to his repertoire: Both Masetto and Leporello in Don Giovanni (San Diego Opera and Cincinnati Opera, respectively) and Don Basillio in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Virginia Opera). He also makes his Carnegie Hall debut in a concert performance of Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath and sings performances of Handel’s The Messiah with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
A graduate of the prestigious Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera, Mr. Pursell’s performance credits with the company include Lieutenant Ratcliffe in Billy Budd, Walter Raleigh in Roberto Devereux, the Jailer in Tosca, Count Lamoral in Arabella, and an Angel in It’s a Wonderful Life conducted by Patrick Summers. He also sang a critically acclaimed performance of Dandini in La Cenerentola with Merola Opera Program.
Other recent opera engagements include his debuts at Opera Philadelphia as Elmiro in Rossini’s Otello, the Canadian Opera Company as Angelotti in Tosca, Wolf Trap Opera as Blitch in Susannah, at Wiener Staatsoper as Second Englishman in Prokofiev’s The Gambler, and the Houston Grand Opera in Laura Kaminsky’s Some Light Emerges. Known particularly for his performances of Escamillo in Carmen, he has performed the role at the Cincinnati Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
As a concert soloist, Mr. Pursell has performed Handel’s Messiah with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Samuel in Handel’s Saul with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in Walt Disney Concert Hall, a concert version of Strauss’ Salome with the Fabio Luisi and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and performances of Britten’s War Requiem, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Haydn’s The Creation, Faure’s Requiem, and Pärt’s Passio. His first commercial recording, the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was released in 2017.
Pursell most recently placed 3rd in the 2022 Opera Mississippi Vocal Competition and won 3rd prize in the 2021 James Toland Vocal Arts competition. He is the recipient of the 2019 Igor Gorin Memorial Award,and is a national semi-finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (2016). He was also a quarterfinalist in the 2019 Operalia competition, a Richard F. Gold Career Grant recipient (2018), winner of the Partners for the Arts competition (2018), second award winner of the Jensen Foundation competition (2017), winner of the Theodor Uppman Award from the Sullivan Foundation (2017), and recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation (2017).
Mr. Pursell is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and received his Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.