In the summer of 2014, baritone Jonathan Hays returned to Central City Opera to perform the role of Reverend Gruffydd in the world premiere production of How Green Was My Valley by Roger Ames. He will reprise the role in November with El Paso Opera, where he will also perform Angelotti in Tosca later in the season. This past spring, Hays joined tenor William Ferguson and pianist Craig Ketter on Dickinson College’s Stellfox Literary Award Concert for the world premiere of Robert Pound’s musical setting of poems by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon and Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney. Hays recently originated the role of the Narrator in the world premiere of Martin Bresnick and J.D. McClatchy's My Friend's Story at Yale University for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and sang Carl Nielsen's Symphony No.3: Sinfonia Espansiva with the Harrisburg Symphony, Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the University of Memphis, and Mohammed Fairouz’s Anything Can Happen with the Dickinson College Choir and Orchestra.
Renowned as an interpreter of contemporary music, Hays has been involved in the creation and performance of many new operas and song cycles. He essayed the role of Shadow Grendel in Julie Taymor and Eliot Goldenthal’s Grendel for a co-production with the Los Angeles Opera and Lincoln Center Festival, he premiered the role of Isaiah Berlin in Mel Marvin and Jonathan Levi’s Guest from the Future for Bard’s Summerscape Festival, and was a Texas Ranger in the world premiere production of Jean-Michel Damase’s Ochelata’s Wedding for the OK Mozart Festival. He has recently been heard in recital performing The Wound Dresser by John Adams with pianist Jennifer Blyth, The Glass Hammer by Jorge Martín with pianist Craig Ketter, and Helian by Jeremy Gill with the composer at the piano. A 2010 recording of Helian was released by Albany records and ranked fourth on Philadelphia City Paper’s list of Top 10 Classical Albums of 2011. In a review of the recording for Fanfare Magazine, Peter Burwasser said, “Jonathan Hays conveys the words, not just the music, with intelligence and careful diction, not to mention a splendidly lush baritone.” Also in 2011, his Avery Fisher Hall performance of Henry Cowell’s Atlantis was released on recording by the American Symphony Orchestra, and he was presented with the Big Easy Foundation’s award for Best Performance of New Classical Music for his duet recital with soprano JeAnne Moniz Swinley, An Unquiet Spirit: Madams, Madmen, and Other Unsavory Characters.
Hailed by Opera Magazine for his “commanding authority” and “sheer vocal excellence” in the Mozart repertoire, he has sung Don Giovanni with Cape Town Opera, Bel Canto at Caramoor, Syracuse Opera, and Chattanooga Opera; Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Greensboro Opera, Cape Town Opera, Bel Canto at Caramoor, Opera Roanoke, and the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra; Papageno in Die Zauberflöte with Portland Opera, Central City Opera, and Connecticut Opera; and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with Bel Canto at Caramoor, Eugene Opera, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Other notable performances in the standard repertoire include Achilla in Giulio Cesare with Washington National Opera, Belcore in L’elisir d’amore with Opera de la Colombia, Taddeo in L’italiana in Algeri with Central City Opera, Don Fernando in Fidelio and Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette with the Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra, Donner in Das Rheingold with the Eos Orchestra, and Fenice in Deidamia and Fernando in La gazza ladra for Bel Canto at Caramoor. Of this Caramoor performance, Paul Griffiths of The New York Times wrote, "In all his contributions, the nobility of his voice matched the nobility of his bearing and his singing was consistently strong, lucid, direct and bang on the note. His was a magnificent performance".
Mr. Hays has performed in concert with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, American Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Boston Musica Viva, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Alabama Symphony, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, among many others. He holds opera degrees from the Yale School of Music and the Hartt School, and serves on the voice faculties of Dickinson College, Susquehanna University, and Brooklyn College and Conservatory of Music.