Chazmen Williams-Ali, Tenor

American tenor, Chaz’men Williams-Ali, begins Season 2018/19 at English National Opera, London, for the roles of Robbins and The Crab Man (Porgy & Bess) in their new co-production with The Metropolitan Opera and Dutch National Opera; following the London performances, he continues to Amsterdam to appear in his roles there.

He returns to the US to take on the role of Lensky in Eugene Onegin at Washington National Opera and continues to Fort Worth Opera for revival performances of Robbins/Crab Man in the Glimmerglass Festival Production of Porgy & Bess which he inaugurated last summer. At Opera Theatre of St Louis, Chaz’men initiates a principal role in the world premiere Fire Shut up in my Bones by Terence Blanchard.

2017/18 season highlights include Williams-Ali’s return to OTSL as a Gaddes Festival Artist in their summer season covering Alfredo La Traviata and performing the featured role of Jazz in the rarely heard Regina—the great success of the season–alongside Susan Graham and James Morris. He returned to Washington DC in April to sing Don Jose (Carmen) in concert with The Washington Chorus under the baton of Christopher Bell, and he made his Florida Grand Opera debut as Arturo in Lucia de Lammermoor.

Chaz’men Williams-Ali began his students at Central Visual Performing Arts High School before entering into the Artists-in-Training program for two years, and then studying voice at the University of Iowa School of Music. While there he excelled in many appearances in opera and oratorio performances, including La Traviata, The Elixir of Love, and Romeo and Juliette. A man of broad musical interests, Williams-Ali has lent his great talents to other genres, appearing professionally as a jazz soloist and in blues venues of renown across the US.

Get To Know Chaz

How were you introduced to the Artist-in-Training program?

I went to Central VPA High School, and at the time, it had been a while since someone from that school had participated in AIT. One of my teachers there was Mr. Dello Thedford. Mr. Thedford had informed me about AIT because he was the teacher of the very first grand prize winner, Jermaine Smith. I had only recently been introduced to classical singing and Mr. Thedford saw enough potential in me to pass along the audition date for AIT.

How did the AIT program shape you as a musician? As a young person?

AIT had a lot to do with my the direction that my life took. I had previously only been introduced to classical solo singing in high school with State Solo and Ensemble Competition. There you pretty much only sing art songs, however at AIT I was introduced to full operas. That changed the game for me especially when we went to see La Traviata my senior year with Ailyn Perez, Dimitri Pittas and Jamie Barton (what a lineup). Seeing the operas on that scale and then being able to discuss the singing with my teacher and coach from AIT was very eye opening for me.

What is one stand-out memory or highlight from your time in the AIT program?

There were so many, but I would have to say that working with the late, great, Shirley Verrett was right at the top of the list. She was just about the most elegant and classy person I’ve ever met. AIT afforded us the opportunity to rub shoulders with legends and you don’t get much bigger than Ms. Verrett.

What have been some career highlights for you thus far?

I have been very blessed already in my life to have some amazing experiences. I will single out three moments that will always stick with me. The first was when I was called to step in as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La boheme at the Glimmerglass Festival. The second would be when I sang Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Kennedy Center with Washington National Opera. Lastly, meeting and working with Susan Graham and James Morris here at OTSL this past summer while working on Blitzstein’s Regina.

What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned during your training and professional career?

One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned in this career is to trust yourself. There will always be someone with an opinion or a suggestion about everything, I mean, down to what you should wear, what you sing, how you should sing it, all of the above. You have to trust that you have prepared for the moment and lean on that. Keep your circle close and small, and let other things roll off of your back.

Do you have a favorite aria/composer/genre, either to sing or to listen to?

I’m a big fan of Puccini and Verdi. If I had to narrow it down, I’d say those are my guys.

When you’re not singing, what might we find you doing in your spare time?

I sing other genres when I’m “not singing” – ha! I like to watch sports and movies and play video games. Believe it or not, playing a sports video game (which is very much mindless) while listening to an audiobook is one of my “happy places.”

What advice would you give to young singers? What advice for singers currently in the AIT program?

Don’t forget what brought you to the dance. So many times we take lessons and things and we only hang on the things we need to fix, but it’s important to remember the things that you do well. It’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy your own singing sometimes. If you want others to enjoy it, you should enjoy it too. But in all that you do, do with humility and hard work!

Chaz’men Williams-Ali as Jazz in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ production of Regina (2018). Photo: Ken Howard