Though he’s performed on many stages in his successful career as an opera singer, the stage of Camp Concert Hall holds many memories for Matthew Worth, ’00. “I performed Vaughan Williams’ ‘Songs of Travel’ on this stage after winning the concerto competition in my senior year,” he says. “Some of my favorite memories were singing with Schola Cantorum, my lessons with Dr. [Jennifer] Cable, and playing trombone in the jazz band.”

His career has taken him to some of the top American opera houses to perform in works written by leading opera composers, such as Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, and Philip Glass. He has performed in many classic operas, including “The Barber of Seville,” “Don Giovanni,” and “The Magic Flute.” In early 2013, he originated the role of Father Flynn in the Minnesota Opera’s production of “Doubt,” based on the play by John Patrick Shanley, receiving rave reviews. 

Worth’s passion, however, lies in developing and performing new music. “I love reaching out to new and young composers and putting their work out there so that we continue to build the canon,” he says.

Worth brought this commitment to modern music when he returned to Camp Concert Hall for a recital in February 2013. Every selection in his performance was written by 20th century North American composers and performed in English. “Recitals are poetry,” he says. “The more we can communicate from the stage directly to the audience without having to go through a language translation, I think it serves the art infinitely better.”

In addition to singing music by Samuel Barber, Marc Blitzstein, Charles Ives, and Richard Rodgers, Worth performed two pieces that were written specifically for him — a rare opportunity for singers.

One of those pieces, “Peter Quince at the Clavier,” was based on poetry by Wallace Stevens and was a collaboration between Worth and composer Andrew Staniland as part of American Opera Projects’ Composers and the Voice program. “A group of six singers and composers sat down in New York every month to talk about writing for the voice, and Andrew and I worked and created this piece together,” Worth says. “I have such a huge affinity for it because it was written collaboratively.” 

While he lives the busy life of a singer, regularly preparing and singing new roles, Worth also enjoys playing the role of teacher. During his visit to the Modlin Center, Worth had the opportunity to share his expertise in a master class for current Richmond voice students. Worth’s advice to those students who are currently performing on Camp’s stage and aspiring to be professional musicians? Take your time and embrace learning in all shapes and forms, just as he did as a student.

“Students ask if they should go to a conservatory, and I tell them the best thing they can do is go to a liberal arts school and explore,” he says. “Having the opportunity at Richmond to take the CORE curriculum, there was a basis of knowledge that was imparted on us from day one, that everyone shared. I could be a part of this music department, play the trombone in the jazz band, be in the choir, take the voice lessons, and that was normal. That was what everybody did.”