He's only 35 and by no means a household name, but it seems only a matter of time. Matthew Polenzani, a Chicago-born lyric tenor, possesses a smooth and golden voice supple enough to shape the perfect Mozartean phrase, but also strong enough to cut through a thick Wagnerian orchestra, which he did most recently as a magnificent David in last season's Metropolitan Opera production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
As word spreads, Polenzani's calendar is catching up with his talent. This season, in addition to returning to the Met for major roles in new productions of Don Giovanni and Salome, he'll make his debuts with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Opera (in Barber of Seville). On October 21 he makes his New York recital debut in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, accompanied by James Levine—a prized endorsement for any singer. "When I asked Maestro Levine if he would play, he just gave a big smile and said, 'I would love to do that,' " Polenzani says. "It was a great thrill. Those were six words you can only dream of hearing some day."