Opera on the River 2022 Vocal Competition Winner
Sunday, July 31, 2022
Lowell Park, Stillwater, MN
Mark Billy (OOTR 2022)
Native (Choctaw) baritone Mark Billy has a multi-faceted career in opera, recital, and concert work. Mark recently won first place the St. Croix Valley Opera Competition, in addition to a cash prize he will have the opportunity to sing with orchestra in a concert later in the summer conducted by Joseph Li. The Schubert Club recently engaged Mark to sing and play a recital with pianist Nathan Cicero. This fall Mark will sing the role of King’s Man in Minnesota Opera’s world premiere production of Edward Tulane, by Paola Prestini. In 2021 Mark made his debut with his "hometown" orchestra the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. In 2020 Mark was awarded a prestigious grant from the Wagner Society of the Upper Midwest. This allowed Mark to curate a virtual recital that featured works by Verdi and Verismo composers juxtaposed with narratives of violence against Native Women to bring these largely untold stories to light. That same year Mr. Billy was to make his role and house debut at Mill City Summer Opera, singing Marullo in Katherine Carter’s production of Rigoletto as well as to cover the title role. Also in the summer of 2020 Mark sang the role of Angelotti in Chia Patino’s production of Tosca at the Northern Lights music festival. In the fall of 2019 Mark joined the St. John’s Boys Choir to sing the role of Mega the Baker in Stephen Paulus’ opera The Star Gatherer. Mr. Billy was also the featured soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the St. Catherine Choral Society and was a featured soloist at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Gerald Finzi’s In Terra Pax.
In 2019 Mr. Billy was a Young Artist with Hawaii Opera Theatre where he sang the role of Figaro in their touring production of The Barber of Seville on Oahu, the Big Island, and Kauai. Following the tour, the baritone made his debut in the role of Marchese in La Traviata on HOT’s main stage, where he also covered Quinn Kelsey in the role of Germont. Upon returning to the mainland the baritone made his role debut as Der Vater in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel led by AVA vocal coach Luke Housner. Also that summer featured as Marchese in La Traviata on the mainstage at the Northern Lights Music Festival in the Iron Range of Minnesota.
In 2018 Mark was a Young Artist with Fargo Moorhead Opera singing Melisso in Handel’s Alcina, and appeared as a featured soloist with Minnesota Chorale (Messiah), the East Metro Symphony (Beethoven 9), and Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church (Duruflé Requiem). Mark was also First Place Winner in the 2018 Schubert Club Competition.
Hailing from Finley, Oklahoma, Mark’s undergraduate studies in voice at the University of Oklahoma were under the mentorship of baritone Richard Anderson. The baritone also studied with the legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne. Mark’s graduate studies at Indiana University’s Jacob School of Music were with soprano Carol Vaness. Mark is also an accomplished clarinetist, having studied with David Etheridge at the University of Oklahoma. Currently Mark serves as Cantor at St. Albert the Great Church and St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church and is the bass/baritone of the Bethel Quartet in Hudson, WI under the direction of Skip James. Mark is a soloist/chorister at Minnesota Chorale, and is a member of Minnesota Opera Chorus. Mark is a faculty member teaching voice at the St. Paul Conservatory of Music and the International School of Minnesota. Check out markbillybaritone.com for upcoming performances.