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Russell Oberlin

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Russell Keys Oberlin (born October 11, 1928 in Akron, Ohio) is a pioneering American countertenor who was a founding member of the New York Pro Musica Antiqua ensemble.

Russell Oberlin studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York from 1948 to 1951. After completing his education, he began a professional singing career as a countertenor ho sang in a natural (not falsetto) voice. In 1952 he was a founding member of the New York Pro Musica Antiqua ensemble, with which he appeared as soloist in works from the medieval and Renaissance periods. Oberlin became the first countertenor in the United States to achieve general recognition; as Peter G. Davis wrote, he was “for many years the lone practitioner of any note” of “a voice type that had never flourished in America before.” He recorded extensively, gave recitals and appeared as soloist with leading orchestras in the US and abroad. Oberlin sang the role of Oberon in the Covent Garden premiere of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1961.

At the age of 36, he retired from active engagements to become a teacher, joining the faculty at Hunter College in New York as Professor of Music, where he served from 1966 to 1994. As a senior Fulbright research scholar, he lectured extensively in the USA and England. After the reissue of his Expériences Anonymes recordings of the Lyrichord Early Music series, Oberlin appeared on radio programs including Performance Today, Millennium of Music and similar programs in interviews about his life and work in music.

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