San Francisco Opera broadcast, Saturday at 12:00 pm[Matthew Polenzani as Hoffmann] The kids at New Trier High School probably weren’t surprised when Matt Polenzani decided to major in music—he and some other kids had a rock band, and the Polenzanis were always playing or singing something. In fact, Matt’s grandfather, Lynn Hauldron, was locally famous as the Empire Carpet Man (it was Hauldron who composed the iconic barbershop jingle: Eight hundred five eight eight, two three hundred–Empire).
Matt was finishing up a degree in Music Ed. at Eastern Illinois when he ran across a tape of José Carreras signing “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca. That changed everything. Soon Polenzani was packing up to study voice at Yale. From there he returned home to Wilmette and promptly won an audition to join the young artists program at Lyric Opera, today known as the Ryan Opera Center.
The rest, as they say…
Polenzani was part of the program at Lyric from 1995-1997. At one performance, The Metropolitan Opera’s artistic director Jonathon Friend was in the audience; Polenzani was singing a minor role in a Lyric production (an opportunity many of the Ryan singers have as part of the program). Afterwards, Friend invited Polenzani to audition at the Met. Soon after that, the young tenor was singing for James Levine. Levine would become a mentor to Polenzani. It was Levine at the piano when Polenzani did a recital at Weill Recital Hall.
To date, Matthew Polenzani has logged 285 performances at the Met. He’s headlined in several of the HD cinemacasts, including as Aflredo with Natalie Dessay as Violetta in La traviata; he’s scheduled to return to the silver screen this season in Così fan tutte.
Matthew Polenzani’s still a local boy, though. When he was in Chicago to sing Tales of Hoffmann, he attained a career high singing the national anthem at the Bears-Packers game. This season Polenzani returns to Lyric for La clemenza di Tito.
Matthew Polenzani sings the title role in Tales of Hoffmann this weekend in the San Francisco Opera broadcast. Looking back, here he is speaking about the part just prior to his role debut at Lyric: