Kenneth Riegel, an esteemed American opera tenor, was born on April 19, 1938, in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania. His passion for the stage led him to make his theatrical debut at the Santa Fe Opera in 1965, captivating audiences with his portrayal of the Alchemist in the opera "König Hirsch." That same year marked his debut at the renowned Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, further establishing his presence in the opera world.
Riegel's talent and artistry caught the attention of the New York City Opera, where he was engaged from 1969 to 1974. His inaugural performance at the City Opera was in "L'heure espagnole," sharing the stage with the celebrated Karan Armstrong. In 1973, he made his highly anticipated debut at the Metropolitan Opera, captivating audiences as Iopas in "Les Troyens" alongside the esteemed Jon Vickers and Shirley Verrett. This performance was just the beginning of a remarkable journey with the Metropolitan Opera, as Riegel went on to grace their stage in an astounding 102 performances. His repertoire included remarkable roles in operas such as "La clemenza di Tito," "Les contes d'Hoffmann," "Elektra," "Fidelio," "Lulu," "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg," "The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," "Salome," "Die Zauberflöte," and "Wozzeck," showcasing his versatility and immense vocal range.
In 1975, Riegel achieved another milestone in his career with his first appearance at the prestigious Salzburg Festival, solidifying his status as a world-class tenor. Notably, in 1979, he took on the role of Alwa in the debut performance of the three-act version of "Lulu" at the Paris Opera, leaving an indelible mark on the production. Additionally, in 1981, Riegel astounded audiences with his portrayal of the title role in "Der Zwerg" in Hamburg, further cementing his reputation as a masterful performer. Perhaps one of his most notable achievements came in 1983 when he originated the role of the Leper in the highly acclaimed opera "Saint François d'Assise."
Throughout his illustrious career, Kenneth Riegel's powerful and captivating voice enchanted audiences around the world. His dedication to his craft, remarkable stage presence, and ability to bring characters to life with depth and emotion have made him a revered figure in the opera community. Riegel's contributions to the art form will forever be cherished, and his legacy as an American opera tenor will continue to inspire future generations of performers.
Listen to an excerpt of the tenor singing, ' Il mio tesoro' from Mozart's Don Giovanni.