Tenor Noah Stewart has the distinction of being the first black musician to make it to No. 1 on Britain's classical music charts (in the spring of 2012, with his self titled album Noah). This was, like so many other seeming overnight sensations, after many years of training and struggling to find his own voice. Even so, his story still contains elements of a traditional rags-to-riches story.
Stewart and his sister were raised by their mother in Harlem, New York. Noah always knew he enjoyed singing and was able to enroll in LaGuardia Arts High School. While in school, he appeared in a Caldara opera and sang backing vocals for Mariah Carey, Coolio, and Hootie & the Blowfish. Meeting Leontyne Price, someone he'd admired for her pioneering role in classical music, inspired him to compete for a Juilliard scholarship, which he won. The discipline and rigor of the institution were not quite what he was used to, but it paid off. He missed his graduation because he was touring with the Bach Society of Columbia, performing Acis and Galatea in Germany.
Perhaps a little overconfident of his skills, Stewart next auditioned and competed for roles and scholarships, but kept being turned down and told he needed more training. This became a three-year period of a series of mundane jobs -- including as a receptionist at Carnegie Hall -- before he finally won a scholarship to study at the San Francisco Opera. That led to another three year stretch, this time in its fellowship program, where he made his professional debut in the world premiere of Philip Glass' Appomattox.
Since then, Stewart has had a number of significant roles and successes. He sang the Prince in John Adams' A Flowering Tree; Don José in Carmen with the Chicago Opera Theater; Luigi in Il Tabarro conducted by Lorin Maazel. He also toured South Africa with Opera Africa, and won several prizes, including the Mario Lanza Competition for Tenors, named for another of his idols. In 2012, Stewart made his Covent Garden debut in Judith Weir's Achterbahn, reprising the role of Hassan, which he sang in the work's premiere at the Bregenzer Festspiel.
His debut album on Decca, encompassed the diversity of his interests and adaptability, covering opera, gospel music, popular songs, and more. Stewart's confidence and ability to deliver in a variety of styles, plus his story, are making him a favorite with crossover audiences even as his operatic career takes off. ~ Patsy Morita