New York City-based, Southern California-bred mezzo-soprano and composer-performer Ruston Ropac has been praised by composer Jon Deak as having a “highly expressive range and contrast of vocal colors.” She is a dynamic performer committed to exploring eclectic vocal soundscapes and exploring ideas of intimate expression between performers and audiences.
As a solo and chamber musician, she has performed a diverse array of works by leading composers. Her featured performances include Dan Visconti’s The Clear Light, Arnold Schoenberg’s Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, and Lee Hyla’s The House of Flowers. She is a member of the extended roster of the vocal chamber ensemble Ekmeles, and made her debut with the ensemble in 2019 singing new works by composers of the ICEBERG collective. She is also an alumna of the Manhattan School of Music’s contemporary chamber ensemble Tactus, where her repertoire includes works by Steve Reich, 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), Matthew Simon’s That Time for voice and viola (2017; rev. 2018) alongside violist Lena Vidulich, and Nhat Nguyen’s Nhớ con for solo voice (2017), a piece based on Vietnamese Ca trù folk singing.
As a composer-performer, Ruston 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.
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. In 2019, she will sing in Rappresentatione di anima et di corpo, a staged oratorio written by Emilio de’ Cavalieri written in 1600, with the choir and orchestra of St. Peter’s. In 2018, she appeared as La Messaggera in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and in scenes as Arnalta in L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Baroque Opera Workshop at Queens College, and performed the Son’s aria from Samuel Zagnit’s opera now/here sea/son in recital with the Opera Theatre of Montclair, New Jersey. She has previously performed or studied roles in operas by Mozart, Weill, Puccini, Sullivan, and her own works.
Ruston Ropac 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