"Urban Arias gave an important piece the production values and cast it deserved, with an evocative square of park around a bench at the center of the black-box theater, and two singers who did a good job becoming three very different characters before our eyes. Jorell Williams, a plummy baritone, was particularly notable both for his liquid singing and his convincing incorporation of all three roles he played."
- The Washington Post, URBAN ARIAS World Premiere of Independence Eve
Jorell Williams is an American operatic baritone with a wide variety of experience from standard repertoire to premiere pieces. He begins the 2019 - 2020 season with the world premiere of Kamala Sankaram’s Looking at You at the HERE Center for the Arts, returns to Seattle Opera for The Falling and the Rising and Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, and makes company debuts with Opera Birmingham in Independence Eve, Pacific Opera Victoria in Carmen, and the Cincinnati May Festival in John Adams' I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky. Mr. Williams previous season included the American premiere of Frank London’s Cuban-Yiddish Opera Hatuey: Memory of Fire with Peak Performances, followed by returns to Victory Hall Opera in The Medium, Finger Lakes Opera in La Boheme, and his New York City Opera debut, reprising the role of Hannah-Before in Laura Kaminsky’s As One.
In the 2017 – 2018 season, Mr. Williams debuted in the American premiere of Rameau’s Sympathie (or Acante et Céphise) as Le Genie Oroès with Victory Hall Opera, returned to the Caramoor International Music Festival as Nardo in On-Site Opera’s production of La finta giardiniera, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus with Finger Lakes Opera, and joined Matt Aucoin in a remount of Crossing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, directed by Diane Paulus. He was featured with the Juneau Symphony Orchestra as soloist in Faure’s Requiem, and premiered new works by Libby Larsen, Daren Hagen, and Laura Kaminsky in a variety of concerts with the Phoenix Concerts and The Five Boroughs Music Festival at National Sawdust. Jorell was also a guest in residence with The Park Avenue Armory and Vy Higginsen’s Sing Harlem Choir for Interdisciplinary artist Nick Cave's The Let Go: Up Right performance exhibit.
In the 2016-17 season, Jorell made his European opera debut at the Budapesti Nyari Fesztival in the role of Jake in a concert version of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess, followed by debuts at Seattle Opera as Hannah-Before in Laura Kaminsky’s critically acclaimed As One, Opera Maine as Morales in Carmen, Atlanta Opera and On-Site Opera as Nardo in a co-production of Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, The Bay Chamber Music Festival as Escamillo in Bizet’s La Tragédie de Carmen, and returned to Urban Arias in the world premiere of Sidney Boquiren and Daniel Neer's Independence Eve. He was featured as soloist in the Duruflé Requiem with the Kingston Chamber Choir in Kingston, Ontario; in recital with the IIluminarts Miami Festival for the Dandy Lion Exhibit; reprised the role of Vernon Addams in Hilliard and Boresi’s Blue Viola with the Lyric Opera of the North; and a return to the Chautauqua Institution as soloist with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass.
A former resident artist of the American Opera Projects Composers and the Voice series from 2011-2014, Jorell is a much in demand interpreter of contemporary opera, and has created roles in several world premieres, notably: Hilliard and Boresi’s Blue Viola at Urban Arias; Matt Aucoin’s Crossing with the American Repertory Theater; John David Earnest’s The Theory of Everything with Encompass New Opera Theater; Anthony Davis’ Lear on the Second Floor at the University of San Diego; John Musto’s Bastianello with Rochester Lyric Opera; and workshops of Michael Torke’s Senna (2010), Nico Muhly’s Two Boys (2011), and Ricky Ian Gordon’s Intimate Apparel (2018) with The Metropolitan Opera.
His concert engagements include the baritone solos in Ginastera’s Estancia with the Eugene Symphony Orchestra; Dvorak in America with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Jennifer Hidgon's Dooryard Bloom with the Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey; Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Omaha Symphony Orchestra; and John Musto’s River Songs with Songfest - Los Angeles. Mr. Williams has recorded world premieres by Wynton Marsalis, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, David Lang’s Difficulty of Crossing a field with Beth Morrison Projects (Opera News top critics’ choice of 2015), and most recently, Jennifer Higdon's 2017 Grammy nominated Cold Mountain with the Santa Fe Opera. Mr. Williams made his off-broadway debut in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars with New York City Center Encores!, and has toured as a soloist with the Mark Morris Dance Group. He had the honor to perform with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in "A Celebration of America" at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on the occasion of the first Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama, as well as the European premiere of Marsalis' Abyssinian Mass at the Barbican during the 2012 Olympics in London.
Jorell has performed as a young artist with the Santa Fe Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Caramoor Bel Canto Program, Opera North, the Steans Institute of Music at the Ravinia Festival, Songfest-Los Angeles, Des Moines Metro Opera, and the Westchester Vocal Institute. While a Master's degree and Professional Studies candidate at the Manhattan School of Music, Jorell performed the title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Milord Arespighn in Cimarosa’s L’italiana in Londra, Robert Sirota’s The Tailor of Gloucester, as well as the roles of Le Directeur in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Ronaldo Cabral in the John Musto’s New York premiere of Later the same evening, Henry Davis in Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, Tarquinnius in The Rape of Lucretia, and Robert Garner in previews of Richard Danielpour’s New York premiere of Margaret Garner with the New York City Opera and Copland House Center for American Music. While a bachelor's degree candidate at the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, Jorell performed the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Marquis de la Force/le Geôlier in Dialogues des carmélites, Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas, and King Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Jorell is a recipient of the 2018 Rochester Classical Idol XII Top Prize and Audience Choice awards, and garners top awards from the Gerda Lissner International Competition, Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges, Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, The American Prize, Serge Koussevitzky Foundation, David Adams Art Song Competition, The American Traditions Competition, Civic Morning Musicals Foundation, the National Association of Negro Musicians, and the Liberace Foundation.