Kyle Ketelsen



“Far and away the most commanding performance was that of bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello.  He has a naturally beautiful, superbly trained voice, rich and clear at the low end, smooth and flexible in the middle range and effortless at the top.  Good as his sound was, his acting was better.  Ketelsen fully realized the role.  He was rewarded at the curtain-call by an uninhibited outburst of cheering and a standing ovation.” 

Jess Anderson, Opera News

American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is in regular demand by the world’s leading opera companies and orchestras for his vibrant, handsome stage presence and his distinctive vocalism.

In the 2017-2018 season, Mr. Ketelsen will sing the role of Nick Shadow in Simon McBurney’s production of The Rake’s Progress with the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam and will make his company debuts at the Dallas Opera, the Opéra National de Lyon, and the NHK Symphony in Orchestra in Tokyo as Leporello in Don Giovanni. In addition, he will reprise the role of Escamillo in Carmen with the Teatro Real Madrid, as well as Alidoro in La Cenerentola with the Bayerische Staatsoper.

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In the 2016-2017 season, Kyle Ketelsen returned to The Metropolitan Opera to sing Escamillo in Carmen and to the Opernhaus Zürich to sing Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust. He sang the title role of Le nozze di Figaro in Lluís Pasqual’s new production at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and also appeared as Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande conducted by Louis Langrée at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Mr. Ketelsen returned to the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence to sing Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress. Concert work included an arias concert with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Highlights of Mr. Ketelsen’s recent seasons include returning to the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich as Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and to the Opernhaus Zürich for his role debut as Golaud in a new production of Pelléas et Mélisande directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov.  Mr. Ketelsen joined Harry Bicket and The English Concert on tour as Zoroastro in Handel’s Orlando, and also appeared with the St. Louis Symphony and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Messiah under the baton of Bernard Labadie. In addition, he made house debuts with the Opernhaus Zürich as Méphistophélès in a new production of Faust and the Staatsoper Berlin as the title role in Le nozze di Figaro; his role debut as Enrico VIII in Minnesota Opera’s production of Anna Bolena; his return to the Metropolitan Opera as in Billy Budd as Mr. Flint; performances of his celebrated Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Canadian Opera Company, Houston Grand Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, Bayerische Staatsoper, and at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence; Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Don Fernando in Fidelio at Houston Grand Opera; Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago; the title role in Le nozze di Figaro at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence; Cadmus in Semele at the Canadian Opera Company (on tour at the Brooklyn Academy of Music); and Escamillo in Carmen at the Chorégies d’Orange festival. Recent concert appearances include Rossini’s Stabat Mater with Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, Handel’s Messiah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Brahms’s Deutsches Requiem with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, Beethoven’s Fidelio with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, Mozart’s Requiem with Pinchas Zukerman and Handel’s Messiah with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Masaaki Suzuki, Falla’s Master Peter’s Puppet Show with The Knights at the Tanglewood Festival, and Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon with the Collegiate Chorale at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Ketelsen made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, followed by performances as the title role in Le nozze di Figaro and Méphistophélès in Faust, both conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. At the Royal Opera House Covent Garden he made his role debut as Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress, and he joined the Canadian Opera Company in a role debut as Alidoro in La Cenerentola. Mr. Ketelsen has performed at many of the world’s leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Royal Opera House, Los Angeles Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Pacific, Glimmerglass Festival, Michigan Opera Theatre, De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, Hamburg State Opera, Madison Opera, Washington National Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Teatro Carlo Felice, and Teatro Real in Madrid.

In concert, Mr. Ketelsen made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Oratorio Society of New York in Haydn’s Creation, and he repeated this work with Music of the Baroque in Chicago. He has collaborated with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Berlioz’s Lélio, de Falla’s El Retablo del Maese Pedro, Kaija Saariaho’s Cinq reflets au l’Amour de loin, and with the Philharmonia Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he has sung Stravinsky’s Pulcinella under the baton of Pierre Boulez, which was released on CD, and Berlioz’s Lélio conducted by Riccardo Muti in both Chicago and at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Ketelsen has performed with the St. Louis Symphony in Handel’s Messiah, the Seattle Symphony in Mozart’s Requiem under Itzhak Perlman, and the Cleveland Orchestra in Haydn’s Harmoniemesse under Franz Welser-Möst, as well as with the Orchestre National de France, Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Madison Symphony, and Indianapolis Symphony.

Mr. Ketelsen has won First Prize in several international vocal competitions, including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation (Career Grant), the George London Foundation, the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, the Sullivan Foundation, Opera Index, the MacAllister Awards, Fort Worth Opera, National Opera Association, Connecticut Opera, and the Liederkranz Foundation. He is an alumnus of the University of Iowa and Indiana University.


“The bass-baritone soloist was Kyle Ketelsen, whose crackling declamations and caramel-rich voice was the heart of the third movement (“Lord, make me to know that there must be an end of me”), which finishes with a bustling fugue”

Richard Scheinin

Mercury News

“Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen gave a fine account of “Herr, lehre doch mich,” making it sound both orotund and lyrical.”

Joshua Kosman

San Francisco Chronicle

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“The bass-baritone soloist was Kyle Ketelsen, whose crackling declamations and caramel-rich voice was the heart of the third movement (“Lord, make me to know that there must be an end of me”), which finishes with a bustling fugue”

Richard Scheinin, Mercury News

“Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen gave a fine account of “Herr, lehre doch mich,” making it sound both orotund and lyrical”

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“The best performance is Ketelsen’s Nick: dangerously attractive, he sings with sinister beauty and manages to be entirely credible, despite Lepage’s intransigence.”

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

“More imposing a presence, however, was young bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, whose beautiful instrument rose to meet the many challenges – both expressive and technical – contained in Handel’s demanding score.””

Christopher Moore, The Globe and Mail

“Ketelsen was an imposing villain, moving with feline grace, and handing the drama and humor with easy confidence. Vocally, Ketelsen did all that was expected, delivering an inspired Serenade, singing well and balancing the devilish nasty with tonal elegance.”

Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

“Fortunately, bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is fascinating all by himself in what amounts to the title role — Mephistopheles is, of course, the big enchilada in “Faust,” as the agent of Satan, and Ketelsen is familiar to Minnesota Opera goers as a robust, remarkable talent. The Clinton, Iowa, native lives on the Wisconsin side of the river now but is in high demand internationally; he’s a natural for this role, and he commands the stage from his first appearance in Faust’s study.””

Jay Furst, Post Bulletin, Rochester, MN

“As for the malevolent tempter, Mephistopheles oozes with the diabolical charm of a charismatic con man from Hell. Inhabiting the role, Kyle Ketelsen glides across the stage with sadistic and malicious intent, never more alive than when smilingly predicting the death of loved ones or corrupting the virtues of young maidens. Ketelsen’s voice conveys a disdain for humanity in magnetic voice, infusing his librettos with irresistible contempt for the world.”

Brad Richason The Twin Cities Performing Arts Examiner

“This devil dominates every scene And happily, he has at his disposal an actor-singer with the strength to embody that evil — bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen (the impressive Don Giovanni for this company in 2006). This Mephistopheles was no jaunty boulevardier with a flower in his lapel. This was a sinister force of nature, humorless, confident of his powers and unstoppable. Ketelsen dominated every scene he was in, and his singing was equally impressive — robust, incisive and rich in tone. ”

Michael Anthony, Minnesota Post

“Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen’s Mephistopheles was full of oily charm –we’re all in trouble if the devil is this smooth — and he sang with focused strength and suppleness.”

Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press

“But this opera’s success depends heavily on the voice and panache of Mephistopheles, and in bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, MOT has the poised, maleficent, vocally resplendent puppeteer needed to sell the play. This Mephistopheles indeed managed everything, starting with his own darkly vibrant music. Ketelsen, singing the role for the first time, strode and slinked about the stage with practiced assurance.”

Lawrence B. Johnson, Detroit News

“The company’s new Méphistophélès, making his role debut with MOT, was young American bass Kyle Ketelsen. A gifted singing actor on track for a fine international career after being well-tested in journeyman roles by various companies, Ketelsen has a handsome voice — two even octaves of hefty sound, with a clear tonal edge — and a superb sense of drama that informs both his singing and acting. His communication with the audience is palpable.”

John Koopman, Opera News

“The appealing and hardy-voiced bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen was an endearing Leporello”

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

“Kyle Ketelsen (Zoroastro) particularly impressed with his rich and even bass.”

Agnes Kory, MusicOMH

“Kyle Ketelsen scored a remarkable hit as Zoroastro: I have taken an interest in the career of this young American bass-baritone since being mightily impressed with his Speaker in 2004, and he does not disappoint: a real Handelian basso, he caught just the right note of portentousness in his opening aria, and he presided over Act 3, both vocally and dramatically, with unaffected skill.”

Melanie Eskenazi, Seen and Heard International

“Kyle Ketelson, another natural stage animal, lends welcome substance to Zoroastro.”

Andrew Clark, Financial Times

“The bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen was excellent as Zoroastro.”

Richard Morrison, London Times

“Kyle Ketelsen was an excellent Figaro, full of life and charm. His voice has a very natural, unforced quality, and his precision was ideal for Mozart”


“The young American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is the liveliest and most human of Figaros…”

George Hall, The Stage

“Kyle Ketelsen’s Figaro is a loveable scamp, singing with gusto and swagger.”

Neil Fisher, London Times

“Kyle Ketelsen is good at suggesting the revolutionary ardour that runs through Figaro’s veins, while still managing to seem a happy-go-lucky fellow, and his youthful bass-baritone promises much for the future.”

Richard Fairman, Financial Times

“Kyle Ketelsen, who has been giving a series of strong and stronger performances here in recent seasons, sings Figaro with just the right swagger, the right insecurity, the right timing. His voice is deep and agile-the notes pop out-and he phrases the part as if he’s speaking it, with the inflection, the tone and the attitude. He’s physically nimble too, and gambols about the stage.”

Timothy Mangan, The Orange Registe County

“Kyle Ketelsen, who played Don Giovanni two years ago for the company, was a powerfully masculine Figaro, full of bravado and guile and singing with a graceful ease.”

John Farrell, U Press-Telegram

“Great interest centered on the Figaro, Kyle Ketelsen, a bass-baritone making his company debut with these performances. He boasts a handsome face and an athletic stage presence. He brought a broad sense of humor and robust, well-rounded sound to the part.”

William V. Madison, Opera News

“The two leads are a delight and make it worthwhile for even the connoisseur to see this ‘Figaro.’ Kyle Ketelsen, who has been giving a series of strong and stronger performances here in recent seasons, sings Figaro with just the right swagger, the right insecurity, the right timing. His voice is deep and agile – the notes pop out – and he phrases the part as if he’s speaking it, with the inflection, the tone and the attitude. He’s physically nimble too, and gambols about the stage.”

Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register

“Both Kyle Ketelsen, a strong bass-baritone, and Brett Polegato…have garnered considerable attention with various recordings and appearances…Mr. Ketelsen, singing Figaro, showed an impressive, rich voice, immediately striking and sustained.”

Anne Midgette, New York Times

“Kyle Ketelsen made a very worthy [Metropolitan Opera] debut in the brief role of Angelotti.”

Russell Platt, Newsday

“[Carl Nielsen’s Maskerade] gets both…full-blooded singing and over-hearty acting…from an energetic cast dominated by Brindley Sherratt’s perpetually indignant father and Kyle Ketelsen’s hyperactive manservant.”

Richard Morrison, Times

“Performance-wise Kyle Ketelsen was most impressive, his insightful baritone finding its way with ease around the text.”

Evan Dickerson, Seen and Heard International

“Kyle Ketelsen is crisp, spry and personable in the Harlequin role of Henrik…”

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

“”…notwithstanding Herculean efforts by the performers. American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen (Henrik) was full of so much energetic comic business that he seemed to be plugged into the national grid.”

Bloomberg News (

“Vocally, the most fluent, expressive and commanding singing came from the relatively minor character of the Speaker, sung by bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen. He was an impressive Oroveso in Bellini’s “Norma” two years ago, and his career — in that exciting stage when a singer keeps adding new and more demanding roles to his résumé — is growing spectacularly. He overshadowed the singer playing Sarastro (Kwangchul Youn), who is, presumably, the Speaker’s boss.”

Phillip Kennicott, Washington Post

“Kyle Ketelsen delivered the Speaker’s lines with a ripe, glowing bass-baritone.”

Tim Smith, Opera News

“A very fine performance, and it was not the evening’s only one, since the American baritone Kyle Ketelsen made a notable debut as the Speaker: it is this role which the other great Papageno of our day, Matthias Goerne, considers to be the most interesting in the work, and Ketelsen gave it the authority and grandeur which it needs, and his voice is beautiful, evenly focussed throughout the range and with a fine, burnished tone.”

Melanie Eskenazi, Seen and Heard International

“The robust-voiced bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen looked and sounded ideal for that swaggering hunk of Spanish machismo, the toreador Escamillo.”

John Von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

“Only one singer really excelled: the Midwestern bass-baritone Kyle Kettelsen, as Escamillo. He not only sounded good – that big, rich, dusky voice booming into the night – but he, unlike nearly everyone else on stage, really acted his role.”

David Mermelstein, Musical America

“The evening’s most impressive debut, though, came from American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen as Escamillo, the swaggering toreador who succeeds Don José in Carmen’s affections. He dispatched the famous Toreador Song with ample tone, even in the treacherous low phrases that so often fade into inaudibility, and he brought a measure of romantic ardor to the final scene with Carmen.”

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“The redeeming graces of this Carmen were…and the completely magnificent voice of Kyle Ketelsen as Escamillo. Ketelsen looked the part, too, chillingly macho and utterly comfortable onstage.”

Paul Horseley, Kansas City Star

“From the minute he charges the stage, Kyle Ketelsen makes Escamillo his own. It is an immense pleasure to hear him sing his solo in Act Two. As an actor, he molds the Toreador into something larger. His towering voice and cocky swagger bring a breath of life to Escamillo, who is arguably the most important character in Carmen.”

Rob Levy,

“Baritone Kyle Ketelsen was the arrogantly assured bullfighter Escamillo. Mr. Ketelsen brought us the essence of the character by cutting a handsome, young and swaggering figure. His voice was strong, smooth and focused bringing a deft interpretation to the ‘Toreador Song”

S.D., Ópera Actual (Spain)

“The swaggering bullfighter Escamillo is a good fit for baritone Kyle Ketelsen, whose grainy, darkly handsome voice is comfortable throughout the wide range of the “Toreador Song.” He cuts a youthful (very nearly collegiate) figure onstage, and captures Escamillo’s rock-star-size ego deftly by singing most of the role straight out past the footlights as if preening in some unseen mirror.”

Joe Banno, Washington Post

“Supporting players also stole the show in Carmen: Kyle Ketelsen was an exciting, sexy Escamillo.”

Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal

“”…Kyle Ketelsen is robust and convincing as he muscles out anyone who stands between him and Carmen. His dominant presence makes it easy to see how Don Jose can be so easily pushed into the background.”

T.L. Ponick, Washington Times

“Kyle Ketelsen’s Escamillo was assured and confident, with plenty of vocal glamour.”

Judith Malafronte, Opera News

“Ketelsen’s Masetto was savvy and quick-witted…”

John von Rhein, The Tribune

“Ketelsen brought firm, flexible vocalism to the good-hearted bumpkin, Masetto.”

John von Rhein, The Tribune

“Ketelsen opened a run as the long-suffering Masetto in Lyric’s splendid new production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni.’ The depth of his rich, powerful voice was a charming foil for Zerlina’s perky soprano in Mozart’s comic tragedy. But he assumed an aura of ringing command Monday in the role of Raphael, the narrator who sets the stage for descriptions of God’s handiwork in The Creation. In a lengthy recitWynne Delacoma, Classical Music Criticative describing the creation of the animals, he and the orchestra vied to outdo each other’s imagery…The sepulchral growl of Ketelsen’s lowest bass note topped them all, however, prompting the audience to giggle at its imitation of a truly ghastly, creepy, crawly, worm.”

Wynne Delacoma, Classical Music Critic

“Far and away the most commanding performance was that of bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello. He has a naturally beautiful, superbly trained voice, rich and clear at the low end, smooth and flexible in the middle range and effortless at the top. Good as his sound was, his acting was better. Ketelsen fully realized the role. He was rewarded at the curtain-call by an uninhibited outburst of cheering and a standing ovation.”

Jess Anderson, Opera News

“High honors belong to Stella Zambalis’ Donna Elvira and above all to Kyle Ketelsen’s Lporello. Ketelsen is a superlative Leporello, singing with deep, rounded color and seemingly effortless dynamics, his Italian diction as secure at whatever velocity the words fly. The relationship of servant to master and master to servant, in disguise and out of disguise, lies at the core of this opera. Ketelsen and Garvin are an apt pair, appreciating how to tease the unspoken trust that binds them: class warfare as comic betrayal.””

Andrew Adler, Louisville Courier-Journal

“As Leporello…Kyle Ketelsen not only had the resonance and power of an excellent bass-baritone voice, he also pressed on with the insolence this character should have, even while vacillating between comic accomplice in the Don’s schemes and embarrassingly craven behavior. Ketelsen has a fine, broad, comic talent. The “catalog” patter song, enumerating Don Giovanni’s many, many seductions, had great pace and was flawlessly done.”

John Aehl, Wisconsin State Journal

“Kyle Ketelsen’s resonant Leporello was superbly done.”

David Shengold,

“Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello displayed agile phrasing and burnished sound. He sang a little too beautifully for the part, we thought.”

Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register

“Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen was vocally excellent as Abimelech, whose contributions to the singing excellence were cut short due to his character’s death early in the action.”

John C. Shulson,

“Kyle Ketelsen (memorable as Leporello in last season’s Don Giovanni) sang Colline with such richness and self-possession that he threatened to steal the show.”

Michael Van Duzer,

“As the most introspective of the four friends, Colline is seldom memorable, but Ketelsen’s huge, richly sonorous voice was impressive indeed, coupled with excellent acting. He is surely destined for a great career.”

Jess Anderson, Madison Isthmus

“As Norma’s father, Oroveso, Kyle Ketelsen filled the hall with his rock-solid, gorgeously nuanced bass-baritone.”

Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun

“Belying his youth, bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen made an impressive Oroveso. The voice is beautiful: firm, smooth and dark enough in timbre for the portrayal of a much older man…he mastered his character’s paternal anguish and frustration, something many of his more experienced counterparts never manage.”

Stephen Wigler,

“Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen proved a very competent and appealing performer in the multiple roles of Lindorf, Coppelius, and Dr. Miracle. His Miracle was a brilliant bit of delivery. Not only did he engage us with his strong singing ability but also with his theatrical rendering of the evil Miracle. Despite his character’s evil intent, you just couldn’t help but be mesmerized by his total presentation.”

John Shulson, WHRO Radio (Washington D.C.)

“Baritones Malcolm MacKenzie, as Mercutio, and Kyle Ketelsen, as Friar Laurence, both familiar to local audiences, have an almost flawless veneer to their voices. Each gave a marvelous performance, balancing the higher ranges of their counterparts with a polished timbre that almost glistened.”

Michael Muckian, Capital Times

“The overall standout in the quartet was bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, who sang with a rich, dark tone, rock-solid grasp of the music and a brilliant delivery that featured clean, accurate coloratura. He was well-partnered in “The Trumpet Shall Sound” by assistant principal trumpet Thomas Drake.”

Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Bass baritone Kyle Ketelsen has a large voice that is also very flexible. He is thrilling in the vocal fireworks of “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”

William Randall Beard, St. Paul Pioneer Press