Andrea Velis

7 June 1932 New Kensington – 4 October 1994 North Conway

Andrea Velis sings Andrea Chénier: Donnina innamorata, with Anselmo Colzani

Of Greek (and not, as per Kutsch & Riemens, of Italian) descent, his real name was Capsambelis. His father had a restaurant and wanted him to take it over, but he started at age 16 to take voice lessons in Pittsburgh. After army service, he continued his studies in Rome at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. He made his debut in 1954 in Pittsburgh as Goro in Madama Butterfly, and for the next few years, he divided his time between Chicago, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

It was in Cincinnati that Fausto Cleva, the leading conductor of the Met, discovered and hired him. From 1961 to his death, he stayed at the Met, singing a total of 1692 performances with the company. For his entire career, he was exclusively a comprimario, and proud to be one; he knew about the high value of comprimari for successful operatic performances. His most important roles were Mime, the Simpleton, the Servants in Les contes d'Hoffmann, Triquet, the Emperor in Turandot or the Witch in Hänsel und Gretel by Humperdinck. Other than that, he was a Britten specialist, singing in the US premieres of five Britten operas: the Madwoman in Curlew River (Caramoor Festival, 26 June 1966), Nebuchadnezzar in The burning fiery furnace (Caramoor Festival, 9 July 1967), Abbott/Tempter in The prodigal son (Caramoor Festival, 29 June 1969), Squeak in Billy Budd (Lyric Opera Chicago, 6 November 1970) and Apollo in Death in Venice (Met, 18 October 1974).

Reference and picture source: Andrea Velis website

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