Isaiah Bell performs across North America as a Classical tenor. Some recent opera appearances include Rufus Wainwright and Daniel MacIvor’s Hadrian at the Canadian Opera Company, The Barber of Seville for Vancouver Opera, Mark Morris’s production of Curlew River at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the world premiere of La beauté du monde at Opéra de Montréal, and Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Des Moines Metro Opera. Concert engagements include regular appearances with the Toronto Symphony, San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the Oratorio Society of New York. He also curates solo recitals that integrate traditional repertoire with spoken poetry and original compositions.
Isaiah complements his performance practice with composing and writing for the theatre. Currently he combines all these disciplines in his chamber-opera/cabaret-theatre solo show The Book of My Shames, a co-creation with director Sean Guist around Isaiah’s own words and music. The piece, currently touring in a version for chamber orchestra, has been described as “impossibly beautiful”, a “fascinating creation,” and a “comic, wrenchingly personal tour-de-force.”
Some recent and upcoming projects include Acis and Galatea with Richard Egarr and Philharmonia Baroque at Tanglewood and Caramoor, the world premiere of Julien Bilodeau & Michel Marc Bouchard’s La Reine-garçon at Opéra de Montréal, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Florida Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, and the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall. He also appears in concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Valley Concert Society, and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. In the spring of 2023 he will premiere a new arrangement of The Book of My Shames in a mini-tour to Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Kelowna, and City Opera Vancouver.
As a performer, Isaiah has established a particular relationship with the music of Britten, Handel, and Bach. He has appeared in many of Britten’s tenor roles (Albert Herring, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, War Requiem, Curlew River, Owen Wingrave, St. Nicolas) and has been seen across North America in Bach’s major works (including the Passions’ Evangelists) and cantatas. In addition to Handel’s Messiah, Isaiah has sung Acis and Damon in Acis and Galatea, and the tenors of Atalanta, Judas Maccabaeus, Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, Joshua, and La resurrezione.
During pandemic shutdowns, Isaiah created a diverse body of work, including translating, adapting, and performing Poulenc’s solo opera La voix humaine for a City Opera Vancouver filmed production (a “finely tuned performance, so perfectly married to his own sensitive and intelligent adaptation” — Opera Canada). He also designed hybrid concept recitals for Early Music Vancouver and Ottawa Chamberfest, which featured his own music and poetry alongside works from the Classical canon. For 200 days in 2020, Isaiah immersed himself into a large-scale daily art/music/poetry creation project inspired by the meditative practice of haiku writing. The results can be seen on Instagram @isaiahisaiahisaiahisaiahisaiah.
Isaiah is also engaged with music education and creative-process training. He travels speaking and hosting master classes, and directs experimental concerts and stage productions for young artists (University of Victoria, Opera NUOVA, University of Toronto). He is currently editing his first novel for publication, and trying to teach himself the ukulele.