Sanford Sylvan


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“Its most striking quality is sheer beauty, emerging in sudden flashes in rich, dark low notes or the majesty of full high fortes.”

- New York Times

From Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin and the Passions of J.S. Bach to the operas of John Adams, American baritone Sanford Sylvan displays a remarkable range of vocal expression and communicative power. On the concert stage and in recordings, his radiantly pure, lyric tone, clarity of diction and profound understanding of both words and music speak directly and intimately to his audience.

Deeply committed to the art of the vocal recital, Mr. Sylvan and his long-time collaborator, pianist David Breitman, have performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe, in major venues in London, New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Their recitals and recordings have earned exceptional praise from critics and audiences, including five Grammy nominations.

In the realm of opera, Mr. Sylvan is an acclaimed Mozartean. His portrayals of Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Alfonso in Cosi fan tutte have been seen internationally, including PBS "Great Performances." He has been much acclaimed for the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni, which he sang for his Glyndebourne Festival debut and with New York City Opera, where he has since become a regular performer in such operas as The Magic FluteAriodanteThe Rape of Lucretia and Handel’s Semele. Sanford Sylvan is closely associated with the productions of renowned directors: Peter Sellars in works of John Adams, Mozart and Stravinsky; Robert Wilson in Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts,as well as Sir Peter Hall and Andrei Serban. He has developed longstanding relationships with major composers who have written for him: John Adams' Nixon In China (Chou En-Lai), the title role of The Death of Klinghoffer and the song cycle, The Wound Dresser; and numerous works of John Harbison. He was in the US premiere of The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the world premiere of Philip Glass' The Juniper Tree, and sang Sir Michael Tippett's The Ice Break at the BBC Proms. He portrays Klinghoffer in the film of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer; receiving much acclaim and numerous international awards including a Grammy nomination. 2008 brought another Adams role for his debut with the Chicago Opera Theater: the Storyteller in John Adams’ The Flowering Tree conducted by the composer. He repeated this role at the Perth International Arts Festival in Australia (those performances won Australia’s 2009 Helpmann Award for Best Symphony Orchestra Performance) and again at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. In 2011, to much acclaim, he sang the title role in Hindemith’s Cardillac with Opera Boston.

Sanford Sylvan has performed with many of the leading orchestras of the world including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, London Symphony, BBC Symphony, Royal Concertgebouworkest, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestras, the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich, Academy of Ancient Music, Melbourne Symphony, Australian Chamber Orchestra and the NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation) Symphony. He has collaborated with such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, James Levine, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Herbert Blomstedt, Christopher Hogwood, Kent Nagano, Edo De Waart, Leonard Slatkin, Helmuth Rilling, Bruno Weil and Roger Norrington, among many others.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic commissioned Steven Stucky’s American Muse for him; the premiere was conducted by Esa Pekka Salonen. Again with Maestro Salonen and the LA Philharmonic, he sang Haydn’sCreation opening the first subscription week of concerts in the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in fall 2004.  Highlights of recent seasons include Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron with the Boston Symphony under James Levine, the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Requiem with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney and Adams’ The Wound Dresserwith the Baltimore Symphony, conducted by the composer. 2011 brought two Carnegie Hall appearances: the role of Moses in the US premiere of Paul Dessau’s Haggadah shel Pessach with the American Symphony Orchestra and John Adams’ The Would Dresser with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. 

Mr. Sylvan's many festival appearances have included the Edinburgh, Tanglewood, Vienna, Holland, Schleswig-Holstein, Ojai and the Oregon Bach Festival. His longstanding relationships with the Carmel Bach Festival and the New England Bach Festival brought annual appearances for many years. As a chamber musician he has performed, toured and recorded with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Music from Marlboro, the Sarasa Chamber Music Ensemble, Ensemble Sequentia, Emmanuel Music and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players with whom he recorded John Harbison's Words from Paterson. 

Sanford Sylvan's recordings are known throughout the world and appear on the Nonesuch, Decca, Harmonia Mundi, Musicmasters, Bridge, Koch, Virgin Classics, New World and CRI labels. A Grammy and Emmy Award winner for his role in John Adams' Nixon In China, he has received five additional Grammy nominations: for his recordings with David Breitman, L'Horizon Chimérique of chansons of Gabriel Fauré; Beloved That Pilgrimage, American songs of Barber, Copland and Chanler; John Adams' The Wound Dresser; the film soundtrack for Adams’ The Death of Klinkghoffer; and in 2009 for Charles Fussell’s Wilde with Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.  Recent recordings include Stucky’s American Muse with BMOP, Marjorie Merryman’s Jonah with The Washington Chorus and his third recording of John Adams’ The Wound Dresser with the Oregon Stmphony under Carlos Kalmar. He can bee seen in numerous productions on DVD including John Adams’ Nixon in China and Klinghoffer and Peter Sellars’ productions of Cosi fan tutte and Nozze di Figaro.

Mr. Sylvan is currently on the vocal faculty of McGill University in Montreal.





Carmel Bach Festival:

“The music making at the Carmel Bach Festival this season has been extraordinary. Wednesday afternoon’s “Schumann, the Romantic Visionary:” the incomparable baritone heart-melter Sylvan gave his final recital at the Bach Festival. This lush afternoon with Sylvan commemorated Schumann’s bicentennial with Liederkreis.”

- Monterey Herald – July 29, 2010


Recital at Montclair State University, David Breitman, piano:

“Baritone Sanford Sylvan has been such a versatile performer that the specificity and technical integrity of his all-American song recital at Montclair State University on Wednesday came as no surprise. Sylvan sounded in fine voice. His is a smooth and velvety baritone with remarkably even tone from top to bottom. This program showed off the baritone's impressive ability to make language into a sensual experience. He and Breitman are a dynamic duo. Sylvan is a master of diction, an expert in balancing both the momentum of phrase and the pulse within key words. He seems to love the click-click rhythm of consonants and vowels, which he organizes more intelligently than many other singers. From Harbison's 'Flashes and Illuminations,' Sylvan extracted warmth and poignancy, lingering over a lover's phrase. This would have to be called the most imaginative, persistently forward-looking vocal recital this state has seen in years. Sylvan crafted a delicate, occasionally icy, yet intricate evening, one that the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy.”

- New Jersey Star Ledger – October 22, 2005


Schubert Winterreise, Chamber Music in Historic Sites, Los Angeles

"Sanford Sylvan had the wisdom to let Schubert's songs draw the audience's tears on their own. His singing was remarkably straightforward and admirably vivid, strongly seconded by David Breitman's piano. By the time his singing had filled in that chill final picture, the wind-chill factor in the handsome precincts of the Doheny Mansion had sunk out of sight. Brrr, as in brrravo.” 

- LA Weekly


Recital: Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH:
Headline: “Song cycle voiced by masterful storyteller”   “When baritone Sanford Sylvan and pianist David Breitman take to the stage, there is every likelihood that something extraordinary is going to occur. Such was the case when these musicians opened Oberlin Recital Series with a concert that was as far from hackneyed as one could imagine. The evening contained only two works, Both were revelatory experiences. Sylvan's beautifully textured baritone, elegant phrasing and crystal-clear enunciation catapulted the fearsome and charming aspects of the songs to our ears like arrows hitting the bull's-eye. The vocal part sings and speaks, screams and whispers. Sylvan was masterful storyteller and extensive cast of characters.   The piano part is equally challenging. Breitman vibrantly set forth every subtle and dramatic nuance, as if he were a symphony orchestra of one.”

- Cleveland Plain Dealer


Schubert's Winterreise Oraneg County Performing Arts Center:

Headline: “Sylvan inhabits the emotions of Winterreise” “Sylvan has supplied vivid characterizations in stagings of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas and in roles written for him by John Adams. And that's exactly what he did in 'Winterreise' He has a strong lyric instrument that can range from gentle introspection to declamatory anger. He can spin out a long line or break it for dramatic effect. He makes grace note turns sound effortless. He followed the feelings in the texts and made them his own. Sylvan captured all these emotions in detail.”

- Los Angeles Times


Beethoven An die ferne Geliebte 92nd Street Y in New York City:

“Mr. Sylvan is a rare vocal artist able to use his voice like an instrument, blending work and note into a unified and exact musical expression. One wished they would do the whole thing again as soon as they had finished.”

- New York Times


Schubert's Winterreise Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY:

“His performance was surely one of the most eagerly anticipated vocal events of the season. Sylvan's prominence in the vocal world is easy to understand. His voice is toffee-smooth, beautifully settled in its deep baritone range yet steady in all registers and spectacularly versatile. He's endowed with the most remarkable focus and breath support. Technical razzle-dazzle aside, Sylvan is above all a sensitive interpreter who know how to play with words, color the voice and vary the sound. In no small way, Sylvan and Breitman provided Rochester with an artistically satisfying and spiritually enriching evening..”

- Rochester Democrat


Recital, Vocal Arts Society, Washington, DC:

“A fabulous recital by baritone Sanford Sylvan. Sylvan exhausted himself and the audience in a sweeping performance that delivered every subtlety, every declamation, every sad, ironic twist of words and music. Pianist Breitman showered the hall with sonic shards of broken glass, with skittering, asymmetric rhythmic projectiles, with stabbing repeated notes laden with pain, with gospel and honky-tonk piano that did not so much suggest experience as embody it.”

- Washington Post


Schubert Winterreise, Corpus Christi Church, New York City:
“Sylvan’s reading of ‘Winterreise’ was very austere, with the velvety smoothness of his baritone supplemented by passages of conversational roughness. At a few scattered, unpredictable climaxes, Sylvan hit tones of Wagnerian grandeur, showing Schubert’s wintertime walker as something more than a pitiable person on the verge of death.  His traveler begins by ranging against the world.  I have never heard ‘Winterreise’ taken quite so fearlessly for what it really is – a document of insanity.”

- New Yorker


“Beauty isn't a word that always applies to a baritone voice: strong, powerful or resonant is a more expected accolade. But while all of these words could be used to describe Sanford Sylvan's voice, its most striking quality is sheer beauty, emerging in sudden flashes in rich, dark low notes or the majesty of full high fortes.  In Mr. Sylvan's performance the voice's nuanced shimmer, with its golden depths, seemed to mirror the veneer of the fortepiano behind him. He drew on a full palette of dynamic and emotional expression, from soft falsettos to full operatic fortissimos that gave a spine-chilling climax to ‘Die Krähe.’  ‘Winterreise’ is not an easy journey, and Mr. Sylvan had mapped every step, his diction and his expression deliberately calibrated to make the experience rich.”

- New York Times


Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York:

“Mr. Sylvan's performance was a shattering tour de force.”

- New York Times





Adams “The Wound Dresser,” Oregon Symphony,Carlos Kalmar, PentaTone Records:
“Wound-Dresser is an emotional setting of Whitman's poem written after the author had visited wounded soldiers during the Civil War. It is beautifully sung by baritone Sanford Sylvan whose enunciation is so clear we really don't need the provided text.”

- ClassicaCDReview - February 2012

“Best Classical Music Recordings of 2011.”  

- New Yorker – January 2012


 “We move into what is surely one of John Adams' finest works 'The Wound Dresser'. It is magnificently sung by the baritone Sanford Sylvan, whose close identification with the music of Adams is well known. Sylvan's performance is profoundly moving and though the poem is printed in the booklet, his immaculate enunciation of the text makes it almost superfluous.”

- – November 6, 2011

 “Magnificent music. A superb album. This album is a moving, sometimes heart-breaking contemplation of war and its consequences. The very core of the concert is the John Adams piece, which sets a civil war-era Whitman poem, The Wound Dresser, to strikingly appropriate and powerful music. Baritone Sanford Sylvan portrays Whitman's voice superbly.”

- – November 5, 2011


 “This appears to be Sanford Sylvan’s second take on the work since his premiere recording of it. Sylvan’s diction and interpretation help bring the human drama and intensity to a real studied intensity.  The overall arch of the piece comes across equally well in a way that makes this recording a must for John Adams’ fans. Pentatone’s hybrid multichannel recording is simply amazing and demonstration quality.”

- / November 3, 2011

Baritone Sanford Sylvan's performance here is as gripping as Whitman's words: deep, resonant tone, clear diction, and a seamless blend with the orchestra characterize Sylvan's singing.”

- - November 2011


 “Sanford Sylvan, a baritone of national reputation, sings consolingly in Adams' ‘Wound-Dresser.’ Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki weaves sweet-toned solos with Sylvan's vibrant baritone.

The Oregonian – October 25, 2011

Bach Cantatas with Dominique Labelle and the Sarasa Ensemble:

“In many ways, this is Sylvan’s shining hour, for his performance of ‘Ich habe genug’ is the strongest of the three. Yet both singers perform masterfully in the final cantata.”

- Early Music America – Winter 2006


“Labelle and Sylvan are prominent and experienced Bach singers, and both perform with their customary beautiful tone, scrupulous musicianship, and verbal communicativeness.”

- Boston Globe - May 12, 2006


Figaro in Moazrt’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Peter Sellars production on DVD:

“Sanford Sylvan, a fabulous Figaro, sets the tone for the funniest version of the first two acts you are ever likely to see.”

   - Dallas Morning News, September 7, 2005


Klinghoffer in John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer, Blast Films, Channel 4 Television:

“Sanford Sylvan should have received an Oscar nomination for his courageous portrayal of the murder victim Leon Klinghoffer.” 

- New York Times, April 24, 2005


 “The cast seems to be absolutely caught up in the performances they give. There are exceptional contributions from Sanford Sylvan as Leon Klinghoffer.”

- Opera - August 2004


 “Much of this is brilliant, and Woolcock gets performances out of her singing cast that redefine the possibilities of operatic acting. Baritone Sanford Sylvan is magnificent as the loving, terrified, essentially decent Klinghoffer, and his singing of the posthumous underwater aria is touched by rare spiritual grace.”

- Boston Globe, February 8, 2004


“Nerve-tingling urgency is added by the use of handheld cameras, with Sanford Sylvan (Klinghoffer) and Christopher Maltman (the captain) outstanding among a large cast who can all, for once, act as well as they can sing. This stunning realisation of a brave and very moving work deserves to win every award going.”

- London Observer - May 18, 2003


“The camera reveals the sweet dignity of Sanford Sylvan's Klinghoffer with greater poignancy than I remembered from the staged production, The music emerges not as a soundtrack, but as the characters' thoughts and actions, never more effectively than in the sequence of Klinghoffer's drowning, during which Mr. Sylvan sings a serenely beautiful aria, while his corpse descends with eerie majesty to the bottom of the sea.”

- New York Observer - May 28, 2003


 “Sylvan, who created the role in the original production, and Howard, give stellar dramatic performances. Sylvan sings with transcendental lyricism.” 

- Los Angeles Times - April 19, 2003




Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Bard College
“The magnificent, eloquent baritone Sanford Sylvan.” 

- New York Times – February 17, 2012

 Adams “The Wound Dresser,” Oregon Symphony,Carlos Kalmar (Oregon and Carnegie Hall):
  The ever-noble baritone Sanford Sylvan joined the orchestra to sing John Adams’s 1988 piece ‘The Wound-Dresser’.”

- New Yorker – June 6, 2011


 “Baritone Sanford Sylvan, who originated the solo part 13 years ago, gave a knowing, experienced account. “

- - May 18, 2011


“In ‘Wound-Dresser’ he showed an artistry that remains special and rare: the singing elegant and clear, the emotions utterly honest and never overplayed.”

- New York Observer - May 17, 2011


“Mr. Adams writes with more sentiment and less mystery than Ives, and he channels much of his music’s power into a wide-ranging vocal line, which the baritone Sanford Sylvan sang with his characteristic acuity.”

- New York Times - May 13, 2011


 “It was amazing to hear each and every word that Sylvan sang. His voice was so clear and distinct that no one had to refer to the printed program.  His top notes were soft but had enough force to cause a slight shudder that conveyed the sensitive text superbly. The orchestra supported his singing with somber conviction, including a glowing horn solo, and Adams’s music became a soothing balm.”

- Oregon Music News - May 13, 2011


 “The Oregon Symphony showed the hometown crowd that it's ready to rock and roll when it plays Carnegie Hall on Thursday. The Oregon Symphony travels to New York this week in peak condition. After two years of planning and fundraising, it will play music as challenging, both physically and emotionally, as any in its eight seasons under his demanding baton. Saturday's performance cohered in ways both consoling and searing, and the orchestra played with a precision and intensity that would have been unattainable a decade ago. From near-silence, the orchestra and the superb baritone Sanford Sylvan moved into more harrowing territory with ‘The Wound-Dresser’ by John Adams. The intimacy of Adams' music understates the horror. Sylvan's diction was good. His vocal colors and emotional engagement with the text mirrored the music's deep compassion.”

- The Oregonian - May 8, 2011


Headline: “Oregon Symphony unleashes musical intensity and thrilling artistry.”

“The Oregon Symphony floored everyone with an intense, highly artistic, and emotionally rewarding concert on Saturday. Each piece in the concert received stellar treatment. Baritone Sanford Sylvan joined the orchestra to perform Adams’s The Wound Dresser, which is laden with the evocative poetry of Walt Whitman. The graphic description of wounds and the anguish in Whitman’s poetry could still be felt. The orchestral forces sang marvelously with Sylvan.” 

- Oregon Music News - May 7, 2011


Moses in Paul Dessau’s Haggadah shel Pesach, American Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall:

Headline: “In a Tale of Deliverance, It’s Moses to the Rescue”

“The choruses and soloists were generally solid, but the great baritone Sanford Sylvan, who sang Moses with his usual authority, clarity and nuance, was in another league. His diction was impeccable, his phrasing sensitive and honest. He is a riveting, communicative artist who appears too rarely in New York. When he sang, this ancient, familiar story felt as it should: truly immediate.”

- New York Times - April  22, 2011

Cardillac in Hindemith’s Cardillac, Opera Boston:
“Sylvan is an artist of profound depth, and he found his way into the role so that it became a perfect fit. His performance was quietly chilling, and he turned the natural warmth of his voice to fine effect in his portrayal of a creator who simply and sincerely (if psychotically) loves his inanimate creations above all else.”

- Opera News – June 2011

“Sanford Sylvan, a veteran of early Peter Sellars productions—he was the original Chou en-Lai in ‘Nixon in China’-gives a thoughtful, firmly sung portrayal of the enigmatic Cardillac.” 

- - March 4, 2011


 “At the center of this cast was the accomplished baritone Sanford Sylvan, returning to Boston to take up the title role, here with a tightly controlled performance, vocally nuanced. Sylvan’s Cardillac is not a two-dimensional villain but an obsessive artist for whom a veil of calm masks the grip of volcanic passions.”

- Boston Globe - March 1, 2011


 “Hindemith’s opera is so concise, and this production of it so unrelenting and engrossing, that during the curtain calls I wanted to ask them to do it all again so I could take in more of its rich details. As a chilling and yet human Cardillac, baritone Sanford Sylvan sang with a velvet tone and beautiful dynamic range, even when expressing the coldest of emotions. Deliberate physical movements created a sense of menace while his impassioned singing justified Hindemith’s wish that audiences would sympathize with the murderous jeweler. When the Cavalier tears the golden mask from Cardillac’s grip, Sylvan stares at his hands, not only in disbelief at losing a beloved object, but evoking simultaneously an artist and a murderer contemplating what his hands have wrought.”

- Parterre Box - Feb. 28, 2011


 “It was fascinating to hear Sanford Sylvan, who in the past has brought intense, poignant feeling to such characters as Chou En-Lai in ‘Nixon in China,’ carry off the fierce one-dimensionality of Cardillac. With corpse-hued makeup, a severe expression, and a hard edge to his usually mellifluous baritone, Mr. Sylvan made Cardillac a monster with no redeeming qualities other than his artistic talent.” 

- Wall Street Journal - March 2, 2011


 “The veteran baritone Sanford Sylvan gives an insightful, firmly sung portrayal of the enigmatic Cardillac.” 

- Financial times - March 2, 2011


 “A presentation of Hindemith’s ‘Cardillac’ proved that with exceptional stagecraft, acting and singing, audiences don’t need to know a bunch of hummable arias to appreciate a performance. Sanford Sylvan sang powerfully in the title role. You might be hard-pressed to sing any of Hindemith’s music afterward, but you will certainly never forget this compelling production.” 

- Boston Herald – February 27, 2011


Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque conducted by Jane Glover:
“Sylvan impressed with gravitas, inwardness and power held in reserve throughout.”

- Chicago Tribune – December 6, 2010

“Baritone Sanford Sylvan brought authority to the bass parts.”

- Chicago Sun Times – December 6, 2010

 “Sanford Sylvan’s warm baritone conveyed the glowing humanity of the text.”

- Chicago Classical Review – December 6, 2010


Carmel Bach Festival:

“Baritone Sanford Sylvan used his still-greater range and energy to draw the most vivid dynamics, from room-filling authority to a beguiling sotto voce. His was the most compelling storytelling.”

- – July 20, 2010


“Sylvan’s aria was extra special, like liquid granite. He remains one of the leading baritones of recent decades.”

- San Jose Mercury News – July 19, 2010


Boston Modern Orchestra Project:

“Sylvan was a welcome guest, his limpid and elegant tone and nonpareil diction (few singers project English with Sylvan’s clarity) smartly focusing the interpretive drama.”

- Boston Globe - May 31, 2010


“BMOP, presented its last concert of the season: five works composed in the past 25years, two of which featured the great baritone Sanford Sylvan. Sanford Sylvan, erstwhile super-singer, has, I believe, never given less than a stellar, moving performance, whether his venue was opera or recital. No singer I know communicates words more clearly — in any language — or with more innate intelligence. It’s as if a poem was just waiting, sometimes for a century, to be sung by Mr. Sylvan. Before he sings, even if it’s for several minutes, he stands, eyes closed, utterly still, until he opens his music. He has the audience transfixed before he sings a note, and completely under his spell from that moment on. Familiar texts become clarified, as if they were written for the sole purpose of being sung by Mr. Sylvan. The evening’s highlight, Stucky’s song cycle, ‘American Muse,’ began as a commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Mr. Sylvan. Mr. Sylvan sang beautifully throughout, and in the last movement of Martin Boyken’s ‘Symphony for Baritone and Orchestra’ he added a touch of the sublime in ‘To Sleep’ by John Keats.”

- Boston Musical Intelligencer - May 29, 2010


Debut with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, Nicholas Kraemer conducting:

“Bach Cantata No. 130 featured some fine solo work by the authoritative baritone Sanford Sylvan matching himself gamely against trumpets and timpani.  The prize of the evening was unquestionably the cantata by Telemann. Sylvan stood out for his strong presence and intelligent pointing of the text in the arias.” 

- Chicago Classical Reviews - May 8, 2010


“Among other standout solos were baritone Sanford Sylvan’s heartfelt singing in one of the Passion's most captivating gems, ‘Make thee clean, my heart.’”

- Birmingham News - April 10, 2010


“The excellent principal singers were Jessica Rivera, Russell Thomas and baritone Sanford Sylvan as the storyteller.”

- St. Petersburg (FL) Times - August 30, 2009


“Mr. Sylvan sang with warmth and heart.”

- Wall Street Journal – August 20, 2009


“A storyteller, baritone Sanford Sylvan presides over every scene. Sylvan doled out the narrative with the confidence, ease, and perfect diction of an old Adams hand.”

- New York Magazine - August 16, 2009


“Sanford Sylvan narrates the tale movingly.” 

- New York Post - August 15, 2009


“It couldn’t get a more committed or expressive performance than the one here, conducted by the composer and featuring the sterling contributions of Jessica Rivera, Russell Thomas and Sanford Sylvan.” 

- Baltimore Sun - August 14, 2009


“As the Storyteller, Adams-Sellars favorite Sanford Sylvan narrated in a nuanced, conversational baritone.” 

- New Jersey Star Ledger - August 14, 2009


“There are only three solo characters, each performed here by a superb singer in a deeply expressive performance. The baritone Sanford Sylvan, singing with his admirable combination of resonant sound and utterly natural delivery of words, is the Storyteller, who dominates the opera.”  

- New York Times - August 14, 2009


The Australian premiere of John Adams’ “A Flowering Tree” at the Perth Festival:

“This he does with absolutely clear diction in a tone that is radiantly pure and intimate.”

- Arts Hub - March 10, 2009


“Three soloists gave outstanding performances: Sanford Sylvan bringing an engaging warmth to the role.”

- The Australian - March 10, 2009


“Perfectly cast, the three principals were a joy to listen to. Sanford Sylvan was beyond criticism as the storyteller. The clarity of his diction was superb. He seemed incapable of an ugly sound, each precisely pitched note clothed in mellow, pure-pitched tone.”

- The West Australian - March 9, 2009


“Baritone Sanford Sylvan as the storyteller carried much of the opera narrative with his smooth, calm voice.”

- Australian Stage - March 7, 2009


Schubert Winterreise, Carmel Bach Festival:

“Here are my favorite concerts: among the recital programs, Sanford Sylvan and David Breitman's performance of Schubert's 'Die Winterreise' is number one. Sylvan and Breitman turned these woeful songs into a curiously sublime interlude, in which the grace and purity of the performance transmuted the tragedy into great art.”

- Monterey County Herald - July 31, 2008


“Beyond question was the strength and beauty of his voice. Low notes, when appropriate, were chilling, and high fortes filled with passion. Its sonorous directness and security is often arresting. Nor was there any question of Sylvan’s commitment. The entire cycle was memorized, and clearly enunciated without a single deviation from the written word. Sylvan sang each word and note as if it mattered. It was the kind of tour de force that brought much of the audience to its feet. Breitman did a fine job and his authentic instrument was far less clunky than fortepianos I’ve heard on lieder recordings.  Perhaps Schubert’s favored baritone, Johann Michael Vogl, and other singers of Schubert’s time more closely tuned their voices to the sounds of the era’s instruments. I pondered Sylvan’s numerous verbal and musical accents, the coldness at the start at the second verse of ‘Gefror’ne Tränen’ and the opening citation of Frost at the start of ‘Der greise Kopf’ gray, heard the anguish in ‘Erstarrung’ was impressed by the big open sound of the words ‘Mein Herz’ at the end of ‘Die Post’ and loved the sound of his voice.”

- - July 25, 2008


B Minor Mass and Brahms Requiem - Carmel Bach Festival:

“Beloved festival baritone Sanford Sylvan, as always, connected the listeners to the highest spirit of the Bach masterpiece through his luminous vocal presence. The entire ensemble seemed inspired Sunday afternoon in all aspects of this presentation of the two works from exquisite solos by Sylvan to the grandeur of the full festival ensemble. This was simply an extraordinary musical event, certainly one of the most deeply moving in my life, even as a regular attendee of the Bach Festival.”

- Monterey Herald - July 24, 2008


“The Brahms Requiem set the emotional high point of the weekend in which Weil fully engaged every moment of the inspired score. Sanford Sylvan rose to the occasion while the combined Chorus and Chorale ranged from timorous intimacy to implacable authority.”

- MetroActive - July 23, 2008


John Adams’ A Flowering Tree Chicago Opera Theater:

“They also cheer for the intelligent and moving readings of soloists Sanford Sylvan (baritone, Storyteller)….” 

- Windy City Times - May 21, 2008


 “Sanford Sylvan, a longtime stalwart of the Adams-Sellars stock company, made a clear and engrossing Storyteller.”   

- Chicago Tribune - May 17, 2008


Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” Washington Bach Consort:

“Lewis was blessed – that seems the right word – with wonderful soloists fully conversant with Bach’s style: Sanford Sylvan enunciated clearly and blended beautifully.”

- Washington Post – December 10, 2007


John Adams’ Wound Dresser, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra:

“The Wound-Dresser is a profound work. Sanford Sylvan, the baritone who sang the work’s premiere in 1989, achieved considerable eloquence.”

- Baltimore Sun – October 6, 2007


“Baritone Sanford Sylvan, for whom the work was written, got all the nuances right: The banality of the tools of wound-dressing, the near-declamatory style of much of the vocal setting, the emotions held tightly in check, except in one passionate outburst about a gangrenous limb, ‘so sickening, so offensive.’ This is a deeply moving piece, but scarcely music to applaud, so unnerving are its images.”   

- Washington Post – October 6, 2007


Carmel Bach Festival, various programs:

“The most profoundly moving virtuoso performance of the program belonged to baritone Sanford Sylvan, whose rendering of the aria ‘Schlummert ein’ transported all present into the deepest mystery of Bach’s music. Weil conducted the orchestra with utmost care to support Sylvan’s extraordinary interpretation of this soul-penetrating aria.”

- Monterey County Herald – July 20, 2007


“The festival is famous for gathering exceptional artists. The standouts were Sylvan, with his top-to-bottom ease of delivery.” 

- San Jose Mercury News – July 17, 2007


“Sylvan lent his vocal finesse to the cantatas, complemented by the glorious chorus and choral Matthew Passion. Among the vocalists, Sylvan was a deep flame with his somber presence and vocal magnificence.”  

- Monterey County Herald - July 17, 2007


Davidovsky's Sefarad, Music Viva, Boston:

“Davidovsky's exacting vocal lines span huge ranges, often within the same measure; baritone Sanford Sylvan made it not only sound easy, but idiomatically natural, with a sensitivity to both text and timbre that brought out the psychological drama of the epigrammatic textures.”

- Boston Globe - May 7, 2007


Premiere: Christopher Rouse's Requiem Los Angeles Master Chorale:

“Christopher Rouse's Requiem begins beyond emotion. For the first few minutes of the premiere of this extraordinary 90-minute score, Sunday night by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, baritone Sanford Sylvan stood alone on a darkened Walt Disney Concert Hall stage. Unaccompanied, he intoned a cheerless lyric by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. The song lies somewhere between chant and chantey. Sadness is presented as an offering, prayerful yet oddly matter of fact. Each exquisitely enunciated word, delivered by Sylvan in haunting rounded tones, was like a bomb gift-wrapped. Rouse's is a Requiem of wondrous mixed emotions. Death's inexhaustible fury exhausts baritone, chorus and orchestra. The Requiem ends where it begins, outside emotion, without conclusion or answers. We know nothing of death except its existence. The performance was comprehensive and exalted.”

- Los Angeles Times – March 27, 2007


“Amid the clanging of instruments and heady rush of massed voices, Rouse offers a few surprises, starting with the Heaney poem that opens the work. It is sung a cappella by just the baritone soloist, in this case the peerless Sanford Sylvan, who brought his flexible, smooth-toned voice and celebrated sensitivity not just to this poem, but to all the work's poetry. The evening's most touching moment came when Sylvan finished the dreamlike setting of Jonson's lament on his deceased child and the Los Angeles Children's Chorus entered with the 'Sanctus', the latter flowing from the former and turning both into a single moving elegy”"

- – March 29, 2007


“Each exquisitely enunciated word, delivered by Sylvan in haunting rounded tones, was like a bomb gift-wrapped.”  

- Los Angeles Times – March 27, 2007


“Sylvan provided eloquent lyricism, pointed in diction.”

- Orange County Register – March 27, 2007


John Harbison's Flight Into Egypt, Cantata Singers, Boston:

“Brown and Sanford Sylvan were the fine soloists, both marvelously pure-toned and eloquent.”   

- Boston Globe – January 22, 2007


“Sylvan was Flight into Egypt's narrator, in sumptuous voice (and you didn't need to read along to understand every syllable)." 

- Boston Phoenix – January 23, 2007


Handel's Ariodante, Emmanuel Music, Boston:

“The most beautiful and expressive singing came from baritone Sanford Sylvan as the King of Scotland.”

- Boston Phoenix – January 20, 2007


Handel's Messiah, Pittsburgh Symphony:

“The performance featured four superb vocal soloists. But the agility and verbal focus of bass Sanford Sylvan was the most remarkable performance to experience, providing rarely heard clarity for fast musical figures in arias such as ‘Thus Saith the Lors’.”  

- Pittsburgh Tribune – December 22, 2006


“Of the soloists, Sylvan stood out the most. But each had moments of glory.”

- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – December 22, 2006


Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, conductor

“How wonderful it was to see and hear the ever-splendid Sanford Sylvan.”

- Boston Herald – October 28, 2006


Somnus/Cadmus in Handel's Semele, New York City Opera:

“Sanford Sylvan is always a pleasure to hear.”  

- New York Magazine - October 2, 2006


“The wonderfully expressive Sanford Sylvan made every word vivid.”

- Gay City News - September 21, 2006


“Triple-cast in disparate roles, Sandfor Sylvan demonstrated rare savoir-faire, and vocal depth.”

- Financial Times - September 15, 2006


“The admirable Sanford Sylvan.”

- New York Times - September 15, 2006


“Sanford Sylvan was excellent.”

- New York Sun - September 15, 2006


Bach and Mozart at the Carmel Bach Festival, Bruno Weil, conductor:

“The concert gave the audience the first tastes of the thrilling solo voice of returning baritone Sanford Sylvan.”

- Monterey Herald - July 18, 2006


“Weil showed the connection between "Symphony No. 41 and the concert aria "Un bacio di mano" sung with jovial elegance by baritone Sanford Sylvan. More baritone splendor came from Sylvan in the humorous and popular aria 'Non piu andrai’.”

- Monterey Herald - July 20, 2006


“Among the recital series highlights were the opportunities to hear Sylvan sing.”

- Monterey Herald – August 3, 2006


Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem / Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli, Vermont Symphony:

“Baritone Sanford Sylvan sang with simplicity and heart-wrenching expressiveness. This was a grand performance. And it was responded to by the audience, first with respectful silence, then an enthusiastic standing ovation”

- Montpellier Times Argus - March 14, 2006


Don Alfonso in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Glimmerglass Opera:

“Sanford Sylvan is a baritone as noted internationally for his acting as for his singing, and he brings a gleeful malice to the mastermind behind the scheme, Alfonso, that gives the evening its invigorating dose of pessimistic misogyny.”

- The Record - August 14, 2005


“As for veteran Sylvan, he is smooth as silk, and his interpretation and voice coloration are about the best in the business.”

- Globe and Mail (Toronto) - August 8, 2005


“Sanford Sylvan dominates the cast as an Alfonso of exquisite refinement.”

- Financial Times (London) - July 28, 2005


“Sanford Sylvan is an unusually wise and delectable Don Alfonso.”

- New Yorker - July 25, 2005


“Sanford Sylvan plays the wily old trickster Don Alfonso to the hilt.”

- Dallas News - July 23, 2005


“Don Alfonso, masterfully sung by baritone Sanford Sylvan, spends much of his time lurkng in corners with a mein of scientific detachment, shrewdly watching his experiment in human behavior unfold.”    

- The Journal - July 14, 2005


“Holding the plot strings and grounding the ensemble was bass Sanford Sylvan as Don Alfonso; he showed exceptional understanding of this role's every move and every note.”

- Ithaca Times - July 6, 2005


Haydn's Harmoniemesse, San Francisco Symphony, Paul McCreesh, conductor:

“Sanford Sylvan, singing with his familiar, distinctive timbre and his customarily meticulous diction.” 

- SF Classical Voice - May 10, 2005


 “Sylvan projected vibrantly and sounded touchingly at home.”

- San Francisco Chronicle - May 6, 2005


Manoa in Handel's Samson, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan, conductor:

“Sanford Sylvan was a movingly eloquent Manoa in Thursday night's performance.”

- - February 21, 2005


 “The finest showing came from baritone Sanford Sylvan whose noble, lugubrious singing as the bereaved Manoa melted the heart.” 

- San Francisco Chronicle - February 19, 2005


Luciano Berio's Stanze (US premiere), Pittsburgh Symphony, David Robertson, conductor:

“The overall sound of the piece is so strong, especially the rich voice of Sylvan.”   

- Pittsburgh Post Gazette – October 9, 2004


 “Its often beautiful vocal line - sung with artistry by Sylvan.”

- Pittsburgh Tribune – October 9, 2004


Soloist, Carmel Bach Festival., Bruno Weil, conductor

“Baritone Sanford Sylvan is a reason all by himself to travel from afar to this festival, for his consistently extraordinary artistry.”        - Monterey Herald - July 20, 2004


Bach B Minor Mass and St. Matthew Passion, Oregon Bach Festival:

 “Sanford Sylvan's powerful and elegant bass-baritone voice was also capable of finesse.”

- Eugene - Register-Guard - June 27, 2004


Bach St. Matthew Passion, Washington Bach Consort:
"Baritone Sanford Sylvan gave the final aria a gripping eloquence."

- Washington Post - May 11, 2004


Mendelssohn Elijah, Choral Society of Durham:

“The great American baritone Sanford Sylvan did more than just sing the title role — from his very first notes, he embodied the role, never once letting up. There were incredible delights and artistic revelations. The exchanges involving Sylvan and the choir were literally hair-raising - one could hardly have expected better diction and projection or more precise and responsive dynamics. The audience responded immediately and with enthusiasm that is rare in Durham and the applause lasted many minutes. Elijah was on the boards elsewhere in NC the same weekend. Durham was the place to be - 'cause Charlotte didn't have Sylvan!”

- Classical Voice North Carolina - May 5, 2004


Wotan in Wagner's The Valkyries, Eos Orchestra, New York City:

“Sanford Sylvan sang Wotan with a richness of verbal and musical subtlety that put artistry to work. This gifted lieder interpreter reached the expressive core of the music.”

- Opera News - June 2004


“Sanford Sylvan, lyrical yet marvellously incisive, dominated the proceedings as Wotan.”

- Financial Times - March 22, 2004


“Character explorations built so effectively that when you reached the great music of the final scene - and add to that the cast's one great singer, the ever-interesting Sanford Sylvan as Wotan - all elements galvanized. It was mesmerizing.”

- Philadelphia Inquirer - March 20, 2004


 “Sanford Sylvan as Wotan delivered a quietly commanding performance: sensitive text delivery, expressive physicality, and elegant singing. His great Act II monologue displayed his immense storytelling capabilities, and the final scene with Bruennhilde was as moving an account of the final duet as one could imagine. How can the broad, larger-than-life characterizations of Jane Eaglen and James Morris compete with the intimacy of insightful performances such as these?”

- Wagner Society - March 19, 2004


Haydn Creation, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa Paka Salonen, conductor

"Haydn's extravagantly upbeat and inventive music made it difficult not to look around every time the commanding and amiable baritone Sanford Sylvan sang his 'It is good' and agree. Sylvan has such a complete vocal presence that he transcends acoustics. He sounded marvelous in Disney, but then he also sounded marvelous in the Chandler Pavilion.”

- Los Angeles Times - November 2, 2003


Bach Cantata "Ich Habe Genug” Sarasa Ensemble:

“Sylvan sang with his usual musical insight, command of technique (breath, legato, coloratura) and responsiveness to text; his voice positively bloomed in the small room. The intensity of the overall experience was comparable to that of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's singing of this work on a recent CD.” 

- Boston Globe - February 3, 2004


Voltaire / Dr. Pangloss in Bernstein's Candide, Opera Boston

“Sanford Sylvan doubled as Voltaire and Dr. Pangloss, his creamy baritone, likewise his formidable dramatic presence.” 

- Opera – May 2004


“Sanford Sylvan brought solid tone and commanding diction to the dual role of Voltaire and Dr. Pangloss; Sylvan maintained the character's sweetness and dignity.”  

- Boston Globe - November 10, 2003


Brahms Requiem, Oregon Bach Festival, Helmuth Rilling, conductor:

“Sylvan was a wonder. He lent even the most ringing phrases the hushed intimacy of a Lied.”

- Oregon Register-Guard - July 2003


Bach St. Matthew Passion, Carmel Bach Festival:

“The knockout scene was Sylvan's. Not only is he one of the great singers of our time, but a comedic actor of magnificent superficiality, just what the part calls for.”

- San Francisco Classical Voice - July 29, 2003


“The great American baritone Sanford Sylvan proved a wonder. In his beautiful arioso, he was the voice of compassion.”         

-Los Angeles Times - July 23, 2003


Kernis’ Garden of Light, Minneasota Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg:

“Highlighted by superb solo singing from baritone Sanford Sylvan.”  

- Minneapolis Star Tribune


“Sylvan shone in the astronautical scene.”   

- St. Paul Pioneer Press


Stravinsky / Crumb, BBC Proms (London) with Sinfonia 21, Martyn Brabbins:
“The most gripping was baritone Sanford Sylvan's performance of Abraham and Isaac.  Sylvan's unsentimental declamation of Stravinsky's cantor-like melismas is what has stayed with me.  His singing is devastatingly powerful and, in terms of its ability to persuade, antithetical to the anonymous gloss of Levine.”

- The Independent


“The performance of the week was that of baritone Sanford Sylvan.  In one of Stravinsky's most willfully austere scores, Sylvan's immaculate command of the fiendish Hebrew text drove on the superb players of Sinfonia 21 as compellingly as their conductor.  The result was a powerful affecting soundscape.”

- The Observer


“Sung by the American baritone Sanford Sylvan with lyrical fluidity and a feeling for the score’s craggy severity.” 

- The Times


John Adams' Wound Dresser, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Anne Manson:

“The wonderful baritone Sanford Sylvan, created the role. The eloquence of his performance owed partly to his strong, true baritone - does any American singer have better English diction? - partly to his profound identification with the poet's sympathy and longing.”        

- Chicago Tribune


Bach's St. John Passion, Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival, Berea, OH:

“Sanford Sylvan was commanding.  He is an artist whose vocal magnificence and interpretive depth make everything sound special.”

- Cleveland Plain Dealer


Handel's Saul, Emmanuel Music, Boston:

“Saturday night's performance was a milestone; you could not hear a better performance of a work by Handel anywhere in the world today.  Sanford Sylvan took the title role, singing with royal dignity even in fury, creating a superb vocal and dramatic characterization that didn't stop even when he wasn't singing.  One of his greatest moments came in the expression on his face when Saul accepted his doom.”

- Boston Globe (Richard Dyer)


 “In dignity, in power, in his subtlety, and in the sheer magnificence of his voice, Sylvan must now be the greatest interpreter of this role ever. He was the burning center of this very great work.”  

- Boston Phoenix


Shostakovich Symphony No. 13,(Babi Yar) Kansas City Symphony, Anne Manson:

Headline: “Remarkable war-themed concert will linger in memory."

 "The symphony's rendering of Shostakovich's symphony was made convincing by the finely crafted solo performance of baritone Sanford Sylvan, whose Russian was crisp, rounded and attuned to the vividly expressive poetry. Adams' "The Wound-Dresser," rounded out the program. Baritone Sylvan imbued the work with eloquence”

- Kansas City Star


Mendelssohn Elijah, Carmel Bach Festival:

“The extraordinary contribution of American baritone Sanford Sylvan in the title role marked this "Elijah" as a highlight of the conductor's 10-year tenure. It was Sylvan who prompted this project; his supple baritone and matchless projection of texts elevated this performance even beyond his sterling work in Carmel during the past six years; call it a career landmark.”

- San Francisco Chronicle


Stravinsky Abraham & Isaac, Los Angeles Philharmonic in Los Angeles and New York City:
“The highlight was an amazing performance of 'Abraham and Isaac,' a pungent 12-tone setting of the biblical story, here sung poignantly and with the intensity of an Old Testament prophet by Sanford Sylvan, who performed the formidable work from memory.”

- New York Times


“Sanford Sylvan sang the work from memory with a rabbinical intensity that alone would have made this performance impressive and gripping. But he brought something more to it. In his focus on word and feeling, he showed an Abraham so overwhelmed by the experience of nearly slaughtering his son Isaac that he returns to Beersheba transformed. Having been in the presence of the Lord, he now confronts the feeling of no longer belonging among his own people, of being an exile in his own land. It was as though, through complicated and difficult music, we could understand Stravinsky's own struggle with identity, belief and nationality. Here, where we least expected it, Sylvan revealed what it is that gives Stravinsky his enduring power over us. Sylvan's struggle with faith seemed to resonate in the hall.”

- Los Angeles Times


Shostakovich Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar). Symphony Hall, Boston:

“Above all, there was Sanford Sylvan He sang with awesome force, intense concentration and involvement, and a tonal quality that was infinitely responsive to words and feeling - as he sang of Anne Frank, his voice became as transparent as the image in the text; warmth suffused his tone as he sang of the strength of Russian women. He was terrifying as he expressed the pervasive power of fear, and amusing, then noble, as he sang of Galileo, his rivals, and the responsibility of faith and endeavor.”

- Boston Globe