New York City-based, Southern California-bred mezzo-soprano and composer-performer Ruston Ropac is a dynamic musician committed to exploring eclectic vocal soundscapes and exploring ideas of intimate expression between performers and audiences. An alumna of the Contemporary Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music, she brings her artistry to chamber music, early music, opera, and beyond. Her engagements in the 2019-20 season include a recital with Peter Argondizza on theorbo, performing works by Monteverdi, Strozzi, Francesca Caccini, Dowland, Byrd, and Purcell.
In the 2018-19 season, Ms. Ropac sang the world premiere of Matt Simon’s That Time for voice and viola with violist Lena Vidulich, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols with Arts at St. John’s in the Village, and a recital of works for two unaccompanied voices with soprano Amber Evans at Spectrum in Brooklyn, marking their debut as the vocal duo Tongue In Cheek. She also debuted as an extended roster member of the contemporary vocal sextet Ekmeles, singing world premieres of works by composers of the ICEBERG collective, and with Opera Theatre of Montclair singing excerpts from Sam Zagnit’s opera now/here sea/son in a company recital. She made her commercial recording debut singing in the women’s chorus of Poul Ruders’ The Thirteenth Child (Bridge Records). With St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan, she sang Bach’s cantata Schwingt freudig euch empor and the St. John Passion, and as Piacere (Pleasure) in Cavalieri’s oratorio Rappresentatione di anima, et di corpo.
Her engagements in the 2017-18 season included La Messaggera in L’Orfeo with the Baroque Opera Workshop at Queens College, where she also appeared in scenes from L’incoronazione di Poppea. She also sang excerpts from The Threepenny Opera as Lucy Brown in a concert titled “Weimar, Why Not?” at Spectrum in Brooklyn, and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
As a solo and chamber musician, she has sung the world premieres of seventeen new works of chamber music, and has performed a diverse array of chamber repertoire by leading composers. Her featured performances include Dan Visconti’s The Clear Light, Arnold Schoenberg’s Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, Lee Hyla’s The House of Flowers, and Steve Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians. With Tactus, the contemporary chamber ensemble of the Manhattan School of Music, she performed works by Kaija Saariaho, George Crumb, Luciano Berio, Karin Rehnquist, Georges Aperghis, Jon Deak, Oliver Knussen, Sky Macklay, and Victor Baez. Works written for her include Longfei Li’s Echoes of Bells for solo voice (2016), and Nhat Nguyen’s Nhớ con for solo voice (2017), a piece based on Vietnamese Ca trù folk singing. In addition to contemporary music, Ropac actively performs opera and early music. As the alto section leader and soloist at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan, she frequently performs early music with period orchestra, and sings solos in Bach cantatas and other Baroque works. She has previously performed or studied roles in operas by Mozart, Weill, Puccini, Sullivan, and her own works.
As a composer-performer, Ms. Ropac specializes in vocal chamber music that experiments with theatrical elements and seeks to challenge the performer(s) vocally and dramatically. In 2017, she wrote and premiered My Conscience is Showing!, a comedic “one-woman-show” piece for one unaccompanied singer playing three cartoonish characters, rapidly switching between each. In 2015, she sang the role of Georgiana in the world premiere of The Birthmark, a chamber opera for which she wrote both the music and libretto, in Redlands, California. This opera is adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short horror story by the same name, seeking new angles on the original story. Her other works include film scores, electronic music, and instrumental chamber music, including a string quartet written for the Hugo Wolf String Quartet. She has a special interest in the Serbo-Croatian language family and is currently writing a cycle for voice and percussion, setting Croatian prose-poetry on themes of loss, mourning, and reminiscence.
Ms. Ropac is also an accomplished choral musician, whose career has taken her to several prestigious stages. Memorable highlights include Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, conducted by Dr. Bálint Karosi; Tan Dun’s Water Passion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, conducted by the composer; and Mozart’s Requiem with the New England Symphonic Ensemble at Carnegie Hall, and Messiah at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, both conducted by Dr. Joseph Modica. She also performed for His Holiness the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, during his visit to Redlands, California.
Ms. Ropac made her debut as a concert soloist in her teens with the National Youth Choir at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Simon Carrington. She holds a Master of Music degree in Contemporary Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with soprano Lucy Shelton. She holds of Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Redlands in Southern California, where she studied voice with Dr. Melissa Tosh and composition with Dr. Anthony Suter and André Myers. She currently lives in Manhattan.
Photographer: Ashley Chui