On January 9, 1991, in true understudy-becomes-star fashion, American soprano Martile Rowland stepped on stage at Carnegie Hall and captured New York as Elisabetta in Roberto Devereaux. Engaged by Eve Queler and her Opera Orchestra of New York to cover this difficult role, she stepped in on three hours’ notice when her colleague fell ill. Ms. Rowland scored the kind of triumph which catapults singers to international success. Standing alone on stage with the conductor and orchestra after Elizabetta’s final scene, Ms. Rowland heard a sold out house roar its approval.
In reviews that followed, the New York Times praised Ms. Rowland for “agility at the top of the voice, a laudable willingness to venture a high pianissimo. And the ability to hold together an adagio line. The voice carried strongly into the hall….” Said the New York Post, “Rowland made a big impression. Vocally fearless, she risked much, especially in the more extravagantly florid passages at the top of the soprano compass… she sounded like a real discovery.” From the New York Daily News: “Vocally the performance left nothing to be desired. Elizabeth was sung by newcomer Martile Rowland. Her voice is big and secure (high notes and coloratura pose no problems), and she has admirable sense of style and temperament.” In New York Magazine, Peter G. Davis compared her to her great predecessors in the role. “At her best, Rowland suggested some of the finer qualities of all three singers; Caballe’s plush amplitude, Sills’ agility, and Gencer’s dramatic emphasis… here is a soprano to watch, no doubt.”
On April 18, 1991, Martile Rowland made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Elvira in I Puritani – again in dramatic fashion. In his review, Martin Bookspan describes her first entrance: “A Hollywood script writer could not have conjured up a more dramatic situation. Elvira makes her first appearance in the Second Act as an off-stage voice: we heard that sound and we were brought bolt upright in our seats. Here was a gorgeous soprano voice, in full bel canto tradition. The Second Act contains the Mad Scene, a test of a soprano’s caliber as severe as any in the repertory. Miss Rowland came through with flying colors, and the ovations that followed actually stopped the show.”
Also during the 1990-91 Season, Miss Rowland sang Elizabetta in Roberto Devereaux in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes: Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito in Bielefeld, Germany, and The Queen of the Night in her debut with Opera de Nice. She appeared in a gala opera concert in Basel, Switzerland, which was broadcast internationally over the radio, and was the soprano soloist in the Verdi Requiem with both the Denver Symphony and in her debut at Buenos Aires’ famous Teatro Colon.
Ms. Rowland returned to Carnegie Hall as Lucrezia in Verdi’s I Due Foscari with Opera Orchestra of New York and at the Richard Tauber Centennial Gala, where her performance prompted the reviewer from the New York Times to say: “Martile Rowland, a young soprano, brought down the house with her aerial acrobatics in “O luce di quest’ anima” from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix.” In its review of Ms. Rowland’s initial appearance with Miami Opera as Lucia, a role in which she also appeared at Atlanta Opera, the Sun-Sentinel said, “Martile Rowland is a major find. The soprano sang an exquisite “Regnava nel silenzio and a terriific mad scnene that had the audience on their feet cheering.” She sang the role of Amalia in Verdi’s rarely seen I Masnadieri in a new production with Stuttgart Opera at the Ludwigsburger Festival which was recorded and released on compact disc by Bayer Records. She sang the role of Musetta in La Boheme for the Metropolitan Opera’s Parks Series.
Martile Rowland made her European debut at Frankfurt Opera where she appeared as The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Violetta in La Traviata, and Musetta in La Boheme. Her American engagements have included operatic appearances with Opera Colorado, Shreveport Opera, Colorado Opera Festival, Bel Canto Opera, Centennial Philharmonic Opera in such diverse roles as Leonora in Il Trovatore, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Constanze in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Mistress Ford in the Falstaff (both Verdi and Nicolai). At Czechoslovakia’s Brno Festival she sang the title role in Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco and the Verdi Requiem, both of which were recorded on the RCT label.
Ms. Rowland has also experienced numerous successes in the Music Theater and cabaret arena. In her early career, she appeared in leading and character roles in The Gondoliers, Patience, Pirates of Penzance, Hello Dolly, The Sound of Music, The Golden Apple on CBS Television (with Margaret Whiting), She Loves Me for the Broadway in Town Hall Series on the stage of the famous New York landmark (with Madeline Kahn, Rita Moreno, and Barry Bostwick), and at the Latin Casino with Vivian Blaine in Hello Dolly. She worked at Wit’s End in Atlanta, and in dinner theaters in St. Louis, Washington D.C., Tennessee, and in Texas as part of the Wit’s End Review players. Her one-woman show took her to clubs in New York such as the Speakeasy, The Grand Finale, and The Bushes.
On the concert stage, Ms. Rowland has sung an equally varied repertoire including: Bach’s B Minor Mass with Fort Worth Symphony and Colorado Springs Symphony; Mozart’s Requiem with Denver Chamber Orchestra; Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915; and Gorecki’s Third Symphony and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis both with the Colorado Springs Symphony and San Antonio Symphony:; Mahler Symphonies No 2, 4, 8; Gliere’s Concerto for Coloratura and Orchestra; Britten’s Les Illuminations: Richard Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder; Rachmaninoff’s Vocalize; the Requiem Masses of Verdi, Mozart and Brahms; Mozart’s Grand Mass in C Minor; Haydn’s Creation; the Poulenc Gloria and Stabat Mater; Mendelssohn’s Elijah; and the Stabat Maters of Rossini and Pergolesi. She has appeared in solo recital throughout the United States as well as in Germany, Italy, and Austria.
During 1993-94, Martile Rowland returned to the Metropolitan Opera for Lucia di Lammermoor with renowned tenor, Alfredo Krauss. She essayed the same role for her Baltimore Opera debut. She opened the Miami Opera season as Violetta in La Traviata, then portrayed the same role for the audiences in Wiesbaden, Germany; she sang the title role in Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco at the Ludwigsburger Festival (released on CD by Serenissima) and portrayed all four heroines in Les Contes d’Hoffmann with Colorado Opera Festival. She made her first appearance in the Netherlands in a KRO Radio concert in which she performed Mad Scenes from I Puritani, Roberto Devereaux, Anna Bolena, and Il Pirata – as usual to a standing ovation. She portrayed the pinnacle bel canto role of Norma with Dayton Opera and her first Anna Bolena in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes under the baton of Enrique Patron de Rueda.
During subsequent seasons, engagements for Ms. Rowland included her first encounter with the Ice Princess, Puccini’s Turandot, with Colorado Opera Festival, prompting rave responses from critics: “Vocal dramatics were on a high plane, led by the stunning soprano of Martile Rowland.” (Opera News): “Rowland seems to have plenty of surprises in store for the critics. Her voice seems to be, if anything expanding. With a solidity of tone and projection on top together with an astonishingly firm, resonant bottom register, the midrange has an evenness of production that’s the envy of any singer. Taken all together, this is a voice that is very likely to be one of the major events of this decade.” (Denver Post)
Ms. Rowland made a triumphant return to Carnegie Hall with the title role fo Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro, after which a Princeton reviewer stated: “Rowland caused a sensation, stopping the show twice in the second scene of the Prologue. The roaring ovation at the finish was followed by another at the close of the aria’s sprightly cabeletta. Similar outbursts occurred after each of her solos, and at the concert’s end several bouquets of flowers sailed to the stage – an expression of adulation we have not seen before in the hall.” Ms. Rowland returned to the Netherlands for a concert of Bel Canto duets with the famed Polish Contralto, Ewa Podles; added the title role of Luisa Miller to her repertoire with the Ludwigsburger Festival in Germany; and returned to Atlanta Opera for performances of Norma. Of her Norma performances, Opera News stated: “Bellini’s Druid priestess held no fears for Martile Rowland, who scored a triumph in the role in Atlanta Opera’s Norma. From her authoritative entrance onward, the soprano commanded the stage with a fully drawn, intensely felt portrayal of one of opera’s most complex characters while fitting into the overall realistic staging. Rowland remained in ravishing voice throughout the evening, from a secure “Casta Diva” through her duets with Adalagisa and heartfelt martyrdom at the final curtain- one of the most exceptional performances the Atlanta Opera audiences has seen in some time, and the packed house responded with roaring approval.”
Martile Rowland’s operatic career continued to gain momentum with debuts with San Diego Opera in Lucia; with Michigan Opera for Donna Anna in Don Giovanni; her first portrayal of Odabella in Verdi’s Attila for Stuttgart Opera; concerts with the Sudwestfunk Orchestra in Frankfurt’s Alte Opera and In Friedrichshafen and a return to the Ludwigsburger Festival for Lucrezia in Verdi’s I Due Foscari. Ms. Rowland also returned to New York’s Metropolitan Opera the heroines in Verdi’s I Lombardi and Bellini’s I Puritani. She made her debut in the famed Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires as the soprano soloist for the Verdi Requiem under the baton of Maestro Michelangelo Veltri, and performed Norma in both Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City. Reviews that followed were glowing:
“Martile Rowland’s Norma seemed a force of nature herself, from the spell-binding pianissimos of her “Casta Diva” to the fierce coloratura of “Trema per te” and Vanne, si’, so when her rage at the fleeing Pollione and Adalgisa stirred up a cyclone of leaves, it made perfect sense she had summoned the wind to her will. Rowland’s last-act arias and ensembles shimmered with a kaleidoscope of nuances, her ‘son io’ was a sustained high pianissimo projecting shame, resignation, and courage.
Ms. Rowland continued with debuts at New York City Opera in Turandot and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and with Washington Concert Opera as Odabella in Verdi’s Attila. She returned to Atlanta Opera for more Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and for Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore. The Atlanta Constitution said of this performance: “Martile Rowland was a masterly Leonora. Her voice glowed with tenderness in her romantic moments, and she achieved genuine heartbreak in the final act. Technically, Rowland was equally adept at spinning out ravishing long lines and negotiating Verdi’s Donizettian coloratura.”
Ms. Rowland switched gears to be Stage Director for Colorado Opera Festival’s production of Carmen (again to rave reviews) and returned to Carnegie Hall to portray Paulina in the New York Premiere of Donizetti’s Poliuto, where she was honored by the presence of Dame Joan Sutherland, Maestro Richard Boynyge, Renata Scotto and Licia Albanese in the packed house. She returned to Colorado Opera Festival for performances of Lucia and to Atlanta Opera for sold-out performances of Puccini’s Turandot. Sprinkled in between her operatic performances, Ms. Rowland sang numerous concerts and song recitals in the United States and Europe including the Verdi Requiem with the San Antonio Symphony, Colorado Springs Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony in Denver.
In 1998, Martile Rowland founded Opera Theatre of the Rockies, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She also established the unique Opera Theatre Goes to School program that same year. She has served as the company’s Artistic Director since its creation and as Stage Director for productions of Hansel and Gretel, the Merry Widow, Pagliacci, a Night at the Opera with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the award-winning production OTR Goes to Court, Puccini Spectacular, and the tenth anniversary production of Carmen for March, 2008, as well as Music Director for several productions including The Ballad of Baby Doe, Gianni Schicchi, La Traviata, Threepenny Opera. She has also served as Producer for all of OTR’s productions. She made an appearance as the Old Lady in Bernstein’s Candide for OTR and most recently returned to the stage as Mme. Armfeldt in A Little Night Music by Sondheim. Ms. Rowland has also been the Director of Opera Theatre of the Rockies’ collaboration with The Colorado College, having developed the famed Vocal Arts Symposium which supported young artists in their professional training over 11 successful years. Opera Theatre is excited to announce the inaugural season of the Vocal Arts Festival that combines with an Intensive Training Program, featuring a nationally renowned faculty, culminating in a full opera production of Robert Ward’s The Crucible on August 2 & 4 at Armstrong Theater. Highlights of this exciting offering that runs from July 8-August 4 includes a special scenes concert and the Free For All outdoor concert with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic entitled “Pop-era in the Park,” generously underwritten by the Bee Vradenburg Foundation celebrating the legendary Charles Ansbacher and Bee Vradenburg. “Opera Theatre of the Rockies is proud to have reached an important milestone in celebrating its 15th Crystal Anniversary Season in 2012-2013 and remains dedicated to bringing the most beautiful operatic productions to the audiences of the Pikes Peak Region,” says Rowland. Opera Theatre’s stars are now appearing on stages around the world including Opera Colorado, Central City Opera, Ft. Collins Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Pacific Opera, San Diego Opera, the St. Louis Opera, Sarasota Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Piedmont and Chautauqua Operas, St. Bartholomew’s International Music Festival, the Salzburg Festival and the International Festival de Belle Ile in France to name a few.
As a renowned voice teacher, Martile Rowland has mentored performing artists from around the world and was named 2006 Teacher of the Year by Classical Singer Magazine.