Athlone Artists is pleased to welcome Peruvian-American baritone Ian Burns to its roster of artists. A recent graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Diploma in Voice program, Burns is rapidly gaining recognition for his rich tone and self-assured stage presence. In the summer of 2020, Burns was prepared to cover the roles of Herr Zeller in The Sound of Music and Masetto in Don Giovanni as a member of the Glimmerglass Festival’s Young Artist Program, but instead participated in the company’s six-week virtual festival created in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though many singers come to opera by the time they go to college, Burns is relatively new to the field – he first began his studies at Valencia College in Florida as a theater actor. He quickly immersed himself in the art form and savors every opportunity to learn more. At the Glimmerglass virtual festival, the young baritone jumped at the chance to take advantage of as many coachings as possible and relished classes with industry leaders Francesca Zambello, Joseph Colaneri and Gayletha Nichols.
Burns had never considered a career path in opera, despite often listening to the Three Tenors and Sherrill Milnes, and hearing tales of his distant relative, famed Italian baritone Mario Sereni. He enjoyed roles in classical theater, where people often noted Burns’ resonant speaking voice. At Valencia College, he decided to sign up for voice lessons in musical theater with Anita Endsley, who quickly realized the potential of his natural instrument. “She started me on the right path,” says Burns.
Soon after, Burns began studying voice at Hillsborough Community College in his native Tampa with soprano Stephanie Sager, who further encouraged and fostered his love of opera. He performed his first operatic role as Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the European Music Academy in the Czech Republic in 2016.
The summer of 2019 saw Burns as an Apprentice Artist at Santa Fe Opera, where he covered the roles of the Foreman in Janáček’s Jenůfa and The Gardener in the world premiere of Poul Ruders’ The Thirteenth Child. He also covered Marcello in La Bohème, a favorite role that the baritone had previously performed at the University of North Florida (2018) and at the European Music Academy (2017). He also studied at the Taos Opera Institute in 2018.
Burns’ love of opera was solidified in his studies under tenor J. Patrick Raftery at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he performed the role of Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola, “rattl(ing) through his patter-songs with self-confident pomposity” (Review Vancouver). There, he also sang the roles of Lieutenant Audebert in Silent Night and Captain in Eugene Onegin, performed Der Lakai/Perückenmacher and covered Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos, and was the Baritone Soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.
It was also at UBC that Burns met his partner, triple-threat tenor and fellow Athlone Artist roster member Spencer Britten. It was Spencer who ultimately introduced Ian to Athlone’s Founder and President, Miguel Rodriguez. “Miguel first saw me at Santa Fe,” says Burns. “It was there that I first became aware of the exciting things Athlone Artists is doing for their artists, and I saw that the roster was missing a voice exactly like mine – singing baritone repertoire like the Count, Escamillo, and Ford from Falstaff.”
“I first heard Ian at the Santa Fe Opera, and immediately realized that this was a very young Verdi baritone in the making!” says Athlone Artists’ President and Founder Miguel Rodriguez. “His consistent beautiful singing with lots of ‘squillo’ in the highest part of the baritone range is simply remarkable.”
This fall Ian and Spencer will move to Berlin to study, audition and perform in Europe.
“I fell into opera and then I fell in love with opera,” says Burns. “I have that drive and ambition to always do the next thing and be prepared for what is on the horizon. People always say, ‘if you can do anything else as your career, do it,’” he adds with a chuckle. “And there are things I could do. But opera is something I enjoy so much – I don’t want to do anything else. This just feels right to me.”