John Duykers


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Internationally acclaimed tenor, John Duykers, made his professional operatic debut with Seattle Opera. Since then he has appeared with many of the leading opera companies of the world including The Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Netherlands Opera, the Grand Theatre of Geneva (Cellini/Benvenuto Cellini), Frankfurt Opera, Opera de Marseille (Mime/Siegfried), the Canadian Opera Company, Santa Fe Opera, Los Angeles Opera, San Diego Opera and the Opera Company of Philadelphia (Shuisky/Boris Godunov; Herod/Salome).

John Duykers is particularly known for his performances of contemporary music, having sung in more than 100 contemporary operas including 50 plus world premieres. Among these, he created the role of Mao Tse Tung in John Adams' Nixon in China which he performed throughout the world. He made his debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the title role of Tannhäuser and has been a frequent performer there. He has appeared regularly with San Francisco Opera where he performed in recent seasons in Britten’s Billy Budd, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Ligeti’s  Grand Macabre ;and Los Angeles Opera where he sang most recently in Strauss’ Die Frau Ohne Schatten.  He has performed a number of times with Santa Fe Opera where he returned in summer 2008 as Red Whiskers in Britten’s Billy Budd.

John Duykers has had a close association with a number of contemporary composers, notably John Adams, Philip Glass and Paul Dresher. He sang for the premiere of Glass’ White RavenIn The Penal Colony and the title role of Galileo Galilei. He premiered Paul Dresher’s solo opera The Tyrant in 2005 with the Seattle Chamber Players, followed by performances in Philadelphia, with Cleveland Opera, Present Music in Milwaukee, the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the EdgeFest in Berkley. In 2006 he sang the premiere of Libby Larsen’s Everyman Jack for Sonoma City Opera; in 2007, the premieres of Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center and Ann LeBaron’s Crescent City with the LOOS Ensemble in The Hague, Netherlands; in 2008, the premiere of Erling Wold’s Mordake as part of the San Francisco International Festival; in 2009, the premiere Allan Shearer’s The Dawn Makers in San Francisco and 2010, the premieres of Don Davis’ Rio De Sangre with Florentine Opera in Milwaukee and Xenia by Thomas Sleeper with the Frost Orchestra in Miami., recorded for Albany Records. That season also saw performances of Nixon In China (Mao Tse Tung) with Long Beach Opera and Wozzeck (Captain) with Ensemble Parallèle and the Astoria Music Festival. 2011 brought Philip Glass’ Orphee with Ensemble Parallele and premiere of Caliban Dreams by Clark Suprynowicz in August 2011 with First Look Sonoma, a group started by Duykers and his wife, the director Melissa Weaver. Spring 2012 bought the premiere of Max Duykers’ Apricots of Andujarwith Birds on a Wire in Kalamazoo Michigan and a return to Long Beach Opera for The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.  In Fall 2012 he sings for the premiere of The Daughter of the Red Tzar by Lisa Scola-Prosek and Red Earth. Hunger by Virko Baley, at the Kiev Music Festival in the Ukraine.

John Duykers is a frequent performer with symphony orchestras throughout the United States.  He has sung with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Dc and on tour, the American Composers Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Kansas City Symphony, Tri-Cities Symphony, Sacramento Symphony, Santa Rosa Symphony and the San Jose Symphony. In 2005 he sang the premiere of  Kurt Rohde’s Bitter Harvest with Kent Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony. He made his Disney Hall debut in spring 2006 with the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Orff’s Carmina Burana. His appearances at major festivals have included Aspen, the American Music Theater Festival, the Gaudeamus Music Week, Kaitheater Festival, the Brooklyn Academy of Music's 'Next Wave' Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, the London International Festival of Theatre, Internationale Teaterfestival in Copenhagen, Edinburgh Festival, the Festival Internacional de Teatro of Granada and Juneau Jazz and Classics.

John Duykers has received critical acclaim in numerous productions of the Paul Dresher Ensemble, George Coates Performance Works, and the A.Ga.Pe Performance Group which have been seen on the world's most important contemporary music and theater stages. He can be heard on numerous recordings of traditional and contemporary opera and contemporary music including Nixon In China in the Grammy Award-winning CD as well as the DVD of the Emmy Award-winning PBS Great Performances production.





Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Long Beach Opera:
“The singers were marvelous. Tenor John Duykers, a memorable Mime is LBO’s Ring cycle, was warmly sympathetic as the doctor, exhibiting the proper medical authority and avuncular charm while singing beautifully.”

- Long Beach Gazette - June 2, 2012

 “The singers are all excellent. The veteran tenor, John Duykers, personifies everything that is sympathetic about Dr. S.”

- Los Angeles Times - June 17, 2012

“As Dr. S, tenor John Duykers combines low-key demeanor with a focused curiosity and fundamental sympathy as he seeks the nature of Dr. P's condition.” 

- A Fool in the Forest - June 18, 2012

 “The performers were as stunning as expected. Tenor John Duykers (a singer with a unique, utterly unmistakable timber) was Dr. S, a neurologist delving into the astounding phenomenon of visual agnosia, the Man’s primary problem.” 

- Opera West - June 26, 2012

 “The piece seemed to sit very well in Duykers' range, as he sounded rock solid throughout.”

- Ausculations - June 29, 2012

 “Dr. S is tenor John Duykers, and he conveys perfectly the subtle and manifold ways he slowly pieces together his diagnosis. He is always compassionate, but always a little distant, as you might want a doctor to be.”

- Press-Telegram - June 21, 2012

Recording of Erling Wold’s Mordake:
“The star of this brief but captivating piece is John Duykers, who has made a virtual career out of promoting new music and roles created especially for his fluid tone, clear diction and occasionally tortured theatrical persona. In Mordake, his portrayal of a sad lonely man whom nature has treated cruelly and descends into madness is clear and strongly felt. Moments in the piece are emotional and attention-getting, such as the closing monologue.  Every word can be heard. I suggest that anyone who enjoys new opera, is a fan of John Duykers, or likes anything that is in the general northern California ‘para-minimalism’ camp would enjoy this disc a great deal! ” 

- Audiophile Audition –-July 22, 2011


Caliban in Clark Suprynowicz’s Caliban Dreams, West Edge Opera and Cinnabar Theater:
“At its premiere performance, the two-act, 140-minute opera emerged as a delightful romp and major vehicle for the astounding, seemingly indefatigable tenor John Duykers.Duykers (singing Caliban) is a miracle. It has been 45 years since his debut with Seattle Opera, and 24 years since he created the role of Chairman Mao in John Adams’ Nixon in China, but his voice sounds in better shape now than it has in some of his performances over the last two years. His unique timbre and deeply involving declamatory style, histrionic immediacy, impeccable enunciation, and artistic brilliance remained undimmed. Unless you’d heard the man 20 or 30 years ago, you might well think he’s at the peak of his powers. Think ‘the Plácido Domingo of new music,’ and you’re on target. Duykers’ marvelous tour de force is reason enough to put Caliban Dreams on your must-see list. Caliban Dreams deserves more than a chance to be seen and heard. It’s entertaining to the core.” 

- SFClassical Voice - July 30, 2011


“Duykers' Caliban was a strongly sung and appealing protagonist, by turns furious and simple-minded.” 

- San Francisco Chronicle - Aug. 23


 “Go see the world premiere of Caliban Dreams. It is miraculous that new live theater gets produced at all in this era of economic woe. When it is made with care it is not to be missed. The ongoing musical feast which truly sets this opera apart is the dense and evocative choral arrangement that underlies and makes possible the provocative performance by the renowned John Duykers (Caliban).” 

- San Francisco Examiner - July 31, 2011


Major Domo in San Diego Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavalier:

“Others came and went with panache, none more so than John Dukyers as the Marschallin’s Major-Domo.”

- Los Angeles Times - April 4, 2011


Heurtebise in Philip Glass’ Orphée, Ensemble Parallèle:

 “In a cast dominated by youth, it was veteran tenor John Duykers who made the production come alive. As the Princess's chauffeur -- quite literally, an employee of Death itself -- he brought a winning humanity and dry wit to this otherwise grim persona. His tender rapport with Biller was especially poignant, but all of his scenes were in some way enriched by his resonant voice and finely calibrated acting.”

- SF Weekly - March 2, 2011


Recording of Thomas Sleeper’s Xenia:
“Duykers sings with the kind of heightened voice that carries the drama of the cycle well,”

- - Sept. 15, 2010


Captain in Berg’s Wozzeck, Astoria Music Festival:

 “John Duykers and Skinner were equally powerful figures of menace and oppression.”

- The Oregonian - June 28, 2010


“John Duykers impressively spouted off as the pompous Captain.” 

- Oregon Music News - June 27, 2010


Red Whiskers in Britten’s Billy Budd, Santa Fe Opera:

“Saturday's premiere of this seldom-staged, emotionally riveting piece set a new creative benchmark for the company. Conductor and director can do little without intelligent singers, and SFO was equally on the mark here.... pleasing singing and acting also came from John Duykers' blustering but earnest Red Whiskers.”  

- The New Mexican - July 14, 2008


Title role of Wold’s Mordake, San Francisco International Festival:

“Buoyed by tenor John Duykers' bravura performance in the title role, the piece holds the listener's attention forcefully throughout a series of brief, disconnected segments. None of this would work even as well as it does without the virtuosic efforts of Duykers, who commands a nearly bare stage with just his vocal and theatrical bravura (along with a few props and some video effects) to keep him going. He storms, he blusters, he bewails his fate - and, when necessary, he taps into reserves of sweetly tuned lyricism. It's a dynamic, affecting performance.” 

- San Francisco Chronicle - May 26, 2008


 “Wold’s new solo chamber opera, starring acclaimed tenor John Duykers, is enjoying a thrillingly intimate world premiere this week. Weaver’s sharp and resourceful staging blends Wold’s stirring minimalist themes, Duykers’ formidable and dynamic performance and darkly funny libretto and the luxuriant all-enveloping video scheme into nothing short of a total experience.”

- SF360 - May 28, 2008


Orff's Carmina Burana, Master Chorale of South Florida:

“Duykers was equally effective in his roasted swan solo, bringing a wryly nuanced and humorous rendering.”

- Miami Herald - April 12, 2008


Paul Dresher’s Tyrant, Project Artaud, San Francisco:

“With the resourceful and charismatic tenor John Duykers at its center, the 70-minute piece offered a dark meditation - sometimes riveting, sometimes merely diffuse - on power and paranoia. Duykers, a performer of considerable vocal and theatrical virtuosity, drove each point home definitively.”

- San Francisco Chronicle - Friday, March 14, 2008


Music of Philip Glass University of Miami:

“It was a pleasure to discover John Duykers as the first artist on the program. The tenor hasplayed an important part in modern American opera, creating the roleof Mao Tse-tung in John Adams' Nixon in China and premiering threeGlass operas, including Galileo Galilei (2002). His experience in the latter title role was manifest Wednesday inGalileo's long opening scene, with Duykers' majestic, beautifullysung and dramatically involved performance conveying the wonder andconflicted emotions of the persecuted scientist-astronomer. Duykersand Malis opened the evening with the hypnotic KuruField of Justice section from Satyagraha.”

- Miami Herald - February 8, 2008


Dresher's The Tyrant, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago:

“John Duykers' vocal lines and the Chicago Chamber Musicians interacted seamlessly. Duykers inhabited the looney liege with well-timed facial tics and crisp diction, boasting an eerie floating falsetto and booming low chest notes. It's a gripping drama.  The chamber drama is making its way across the country and the MCA audience was happy to welcome it.”

- Chicago Tribune – January 29, 2008


Paul Drescher’s “The Tyrant,” at CAL Performances’ EdgeFest:

"In 'The Tyrant,' the tender, rueful and gently ravishing solo chamber opera that opened Cal Performances' Edge Fest, absolute power becomes the texture of an absorbing musical rhapsody. This superb, 70-minute piece has its final performance tonight. Riding the streams and storms of Paul Dresher's translucent score, tenor John Duykers gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as a king in torment.  Duykers gives it all a dramatic focus and sense of purpose. Sloe-eyed and indolent in one scene, he turns raffish or terrified, quizzical or suffused in wonder. Dressed in a natty nautical cap and pinstriped suit at the outset, he's a changed man an hour later. His throne has become an abandoned bunker and the trappings of power discarded as he creeps downward into the stony depths. Duykers' voice probes every corner of the character, from striving intervals and bright intonation to downbeat spoken lines. Concise as it is, without a scene or a musical phrase that seems extraneous, "The Tyrant" is expansive enough to propose an 'American Idol'-style singing contest at one point. Here, clearly, is a show that contains multitudes.  "

- San Francisco Chronicle - June 9, 2007


Role of Red Whiskers in “Billy Budd,” Pittsburgh Opera:

“There wasn’t a weak link in the cast.  John Duykers was a feisty Red Whiskers.”

- Pittsburgh Post Gazette – May 7, 2007


“It is the measure of Pittsburgh Opera’s strong casting that the leads do not overshadow other important roles, such as John Duykers’ Red Whiskers”

- Pittsburgh Tribune – May 8, 2007


Narrator in Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar, Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco:

“The narrator speaks and sings and hangs around onstage and sets the tone.  John Duykers did that so well that what followed couldn't completely fail, as it sometimes might have.”

- Los Angeles Times - February 19, 2007


“The half-spoken, half-sung narration, which could so easily have dragged the evening down, got a jolt of theatrical energy from the ever-charismatic tenor John Duykers.”

- San Francisco Chronicle – February 18, 2007


Libby Larsen's Everyman Jack, Sonoma City Opera:

“John Duykers sang with terrific poise and clarity while changing characters with chameleonic swiftness.”

- San Francisco chronicle – November13, 2006


Paul Dresher's The Tyrant, Cleveland Opera:

“Tenor John Duykers, a veteran of many modern operas, was the Tyrant. His ability to express emotion with his voice is undiminished. He caresses or trumpets phrases, speaks forcefully and sings recitative, commanding the stage with absolute authority. Once out of his cage, Duykers came down to within feet of the audience, never once focusing on any one person but aware that we were 'his subjects.' The drama came across clearly, with good diction and total immersion in the character. The audience was appreciative.”

- - July 2006


“Sung with stellar urgency by tenor John Duykers, 'The Tyrant' is a compelling study in paranoia, pettiness and pretension, just a few of the qualities that inhabit those for whom power is paramount. Onstage for the opera's entire 65 minutes, Duykers brings a gamut of vivid inflections to the tyrant's frustrations and rantings. Dresher's vocal writing is grateful until the despot heads into the most apprehensive regions of his soul, which usually means his high register. Duykers copes boldly with the demands, seizing the character's psyche by throat and body.” 

- Cleveland Plain Dealer - May 4, 2006


“Tenor John Duykers portrays a king on the edge of madness in Dresher's 'The Tyrant.' When Dresher composed it, he had in mind John Duykers, a longtime colleague, as the single singer. On Tuesday, Duykers inhabited the part completely. His ability to find his own melodic lines, which so often run independently of the instrumentalists, was impressive, as was his acting. Duykers was especially poignant when he stripped off his pinstriped suit coat and came forward to sit on the stairs leading to the audience, as his character broke down. This was a case where superior musicianship and intelligence held their own. To bring in a recent (1-year-old) opera of this quality, performed by six world-class instrumentalists and an excellent actor/singer, signals a valuable interest in looking to see what's happening elsewhere. It also alerts the public that The Tyrant's co-presenter, Opera Cleveland might be interested in shaking up the status quo for its recently merged groups. That could be the most interesting development of all.”

- Akron Beacon Journal - May 5, 2006


Orff's Carmina Burana, New World Symphony, Boris Brott, conductor

“Soloists for the evening were of exceptional quality: tenor John Duykers, who fashioned his one lachrymose aria into a tongue-in-beak tearjerker as he took the role of a swan whose life was ending on a roasting spit.” 

- Ventura County Star - May 25, 2006


Paul Dresher's The Tyrant, Present Music, Milwaukee:

“The performance was strong all around. Duykers is a genuine virtuoso singer.”

- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - April 23, 2006


Paul Dresher's The Tyrant, Project Artaud, San Francisco:

“As embodied with wonderfully reptilian anguish by tenor John Duykers in an excerpted performance Friday night at Theatre Artaud, the nameless tyrant is a mixture of self-assurance and terror. Friday's performance offered only a tantalizing taste of the full work, but that was enough to leave a listener eager for the rest. Duykers, in fact, was the main attraction of the performance, his singing potent and well modulated and his dramatic contribution terrifically nuanced.”

- San Francisco Chronicle - April 3, 2005


Mime in Long Beach Opera's Wagner mini-Ring:

“The star may have been the veteran John Duykers as Mime.”

- Long Beach Gazette - January 2006


“John Duykers brought his wealth of experience to a beautifully realized Mime.”

- - January 2006


“John Duykers, who has performed in Rings around the world, is suitably smarmy and self-destructive as Mime, Alberich's brother and forger of the ring.”

- Long Beach Press Telegram – January 17, 2006



“John Duykers, one of our great character singers, was the Mime in Siegfried, making me regret that the role had also been cut from Rhinegold.”

- LA Weekly – January 17, 2006


“The most satisfying of the four operas was ‘Siegfried,’ which was presented Sunday. John Duykers, who can always be relied on for a fine performance, played the role of the previously missing Mime.” 

- – January 21, 2006


“And while we're discussing the Nibelungen family, it's necessary to mention the outstanding character tenor John Duykers, flawlessly cast as Mime. Although his character was left on the cutting room floor in Rhinegold, we got plenty of his delicious nastiness in Siegfried.”

- OperaWest – January 19, 2006


“Mime - the redoubtable John Duykers as a vivid and cunningly detailed character, a doting sad sack, pointed with illuminating vocal colors.”

- Wagner Society of N. California - February 2006


Premiere of Kurt Rhode’s Bitter Harvest, Berkeley Symphony, Kent Nagano conducting:

“It's the writing for Ruby -- including a beautiful aria to his late wife -- that gives ‘Bitter Harvest’ its beating heart. Nagano led an engaging performance, and tenor John Duykers sang with power and pathos as Ruby. Duykers, who has given the first performances of numerous 20th-century roles in operas by John Adams, Philip Glass and others, brought an admirable dimension to the part of the embattled farmer.”

- Contra Costa Times – December 5, 2005


“Duykers — with his gorgeous voice, especially rich in low registers and falsetto, with facially

and vocally projected anguish — looked the quintessential farmer in his gray overalls.”

- SF Classical Voice – December 6, 2005


“Tenor John Duykers brought the requisite touch of beleaguered dignity to the part of Black.”

- San Francisco Chronicle: December 6, 2005


“The veteran tenor John Duykers, best known for his Mao Tse-Tung played and recorded in Adams' 1980s opera 'Nixon in China,' sang (with some high falsettos to boot) and spoke Ruby as if it was written for him---which it was.”   

- – December 6, 2005


Premiere of Paul Dresher's The Tyrant, Seattle Chamber Players:

“Tenor John Duykers returned in an unforgettable portrayal of a tyrant. The Tyrant's fears, needs, paranoia and, most chillingly, his methods of getting what he wants are there before you in Duykers. Sometimes speaking, sometimes singing, and always audible, he disintegrates before your eyes and ears."

- Seattle Post Intelligencer - May 2, 2005


“The Tyrant is a tour-de-force - a gripping music-theater piece that is witty, poignant and wonderfully effective. Duykers was absolutely mesmerizing in the role of the king. It's hard to imagine anyone else as eerily effective in the role he has made so wholly his own. One of the world's pre-eminent specialists in contemporary music, Duykers still commands a pliant and suitably majestic tenor, more than capable of meeting the score's stringent demands. But he is considerably more than a singer. His thoroughly detailed presentation of the Tyrant waxes and wanes from imperious irony to yearning, terror, paranoia, infatuation, despair and resignation. This performance will be recorded, but it should be filmed as well; what Duykers does with his face and body, as well as his voice, should be commemorated for posterity.”

- Seattle Times, May 3, 2005


Paul Dresher's The Tyrant, Project Artaud, San Francisco:

“As embodied with wonderfully reptilian anguish by tenor John Duykers in an excerpted performance Friday night at Theatre Artaud, the nameless tyrant is a mixture of self-assurance and terror. Friday's performance offered only a tantalizing taste of the full work, but that was enough to leave a listener eager for the rest. Duykers, in fact, was the main attraction of the performance, his singing potent and well modulated and his dramatic contribution terrifically nuanced.” 

- San Francisco Chronicle - April 3, 2006


Monsieur Triquet, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, San Francisco Opera:

“There were fine contributions by John Duykers as the French neighbor, Monsieur Triquet.”

- San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 2004


White Minister in Ligeti’s Grand Macabre, San Francisco Opera:
“Duykers and Bloom almost stole the show with the back-and-forth machinations of the Black and White Politicians.”

- San Francisco Chronicle – November 1, 2004


“There were riveting performances: the debate between the White and Black politicians (John Duykers and Joshua Bloom) was downright Chaplinesque.”

- Los Angeles Times – November 1, 2004


“Two politicians immediately cement themselves as highlights of the far-flung production. Scheming, conniving and quite funny, the duo argues uncontrollably, threatening resignation every few minutes and carrying a lively repartee.” 

- San Francisco Examiner – November 9, 2004


Red Whiskers in Britten’s Billy Budd, San Francisco Opera:

“Standouts among the large cast were tenor John Duykers as Red Whiskers.”

- San Francisco Chronicle - September 28, 2004


The Hunchbak in Strauss’ Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Los Angeles Opera:
“In a myriad of smaller roles, Phillip Skinner, Andrew Funk and John Duykers are standouts as the supremely unattractive, bumbling brothers.”

- Orange County Register - February 24, 2004


Preview of Kurt Rhode’s Bitter Harvest, Berkeley Symphony:

“This excerpt hit listeners in the gut. Sung affectingly by John Duykers, it was an aria from next year's Berkeley Symphony premiere of Rohde's Bitter Harvest.”

- SF Classical Voice - March 9, 2004


Pilate in the premiere of Wold’s Sub Pontio Pilato, San Franciusco

“The opening performance could scarcely have asked for stronger performers. Tenor John Duykers is superb in the title role, his singing forthright and nuanced, his theatrical presence magnificently touching.”

- San Francisco Chronicle - April 12, 2003


 “Though the action in this head-trip opera is almost nonexistent, this econo-production has such a telling effect that I was drawn back to catch it again another night. The immediacy of this seldom-used format is considerable, with tenor John Duykers in the title role a commanding, near-regal presence dictating awe and involvement.” 

- - April 12-20, 2003


Galileo in Philip Glass' Galileo Galilei, Goodman Theatre, Chicago:

“John Duykers sings the older Galileo with aplomb.”

- Variety - June 28, 2002


“Duykers strongly conveyed the aged astronomer's thoughtful, often baffled state of mind.”

- Chicago Sun Times - June 25, 2002


 Peter Maxwell Davies Eight Songs for a Mad King, Seattle Chamber Players:

Headline: “Songs for a Mad King is a smashing triumph

“Duykers' performance dominated the stage, drawing this audience member into appalled and sympathetic understanding of the king's state as he portrayed it.  One could hear the collective gasp of the audience.” 

- Seattle Post Intelligencer - January 21. 2002


"Moment Most Worthy of an Oscar Clip"

- Best of the Year 2002:


“John Duykers' fearless, frighteningly intense rant in Peter Maxwell Davies' one-man opera 'Eight Songs for a Mad King,' a Seattle Chamber Players concert. Runner-up: Seattle Chamber Players violinist Mikhail Schmidt's deadpan despair as Duykers grabbed and smashed his violin.”

- Seattle Weekly - December 25 - 31, 2002