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Why Gay Singer Nicholas Phan Has Loved Singing Old Dead Guys Stuff Since He Was a Teenager

Nick Phan

Nicholas Phan discusses his third solo album, A Painted Tale.


Photography by Henry Dombey

Tenor Nicholas Phan has earned critical acclaim for this two previous albums and his live performances, including being called an "artist who must be heard" by NPR. He has a busy schedule -- serving as soloist in choral collaborations with orchestras, including the Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati Symphonies -- and this season he's included in a star-studded staging of Sweeney Todd at Houston Grand Opera (April 24-May 9) and concert performances of Fidelio with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (June 25, 26 & 28).

His third studio album, A Painted Tale, is out now, and it's personal as well. According to press notes, the album is a "carefully curated selection of songs for voice, lute, and viola da gamba, by early English masters John Dowland, Thomas Morley, Henry Purcell, and their lesser-known contemporaries John Blow, Alfonso Ferrabosco, and NicholasLanier. Compiling such a program marks the realization of a dream that Phan has harbored since his teenage years. Recognizing that "the experience of love was the same in 1600 as it is now," the tenor conceived the idea of presenting these early English miniatures within a genuinely dramatic context.

As Phan explains:

"What has drawn me so powerfully to sing this repertoire since I first encountered it in my teenage summer music camp days is its timelessness. Reading the poetry in these songs, I am fascinated by how little the human experience has changed over the centuries. By assembling these pieces into what I'm calling 'a pastiche song cycle,' I hope that creating a dramatic context for them will highlight how relevant they still are today."

Watch a video preview of A Painted Tale below:

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