About

Nathan’s official biography


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Nathan Gunn commands an operatic baritone whose mighty heft and richness confer an outsize authority on everything it touches ..."

The New York Times

Nathan Gunn is widely acclaimed for his diverse performing career bridging the genres of opera, musical theatre, and recital. Gunn grew up in South Bend, Indiana doing what most Midwestern boys do: playing sports, working hard at school, and spending time with his family. His interest in music became a passion during his junior year of high school when he was introduced to Mozart’s opera, Die Zauberflöte. Consumed by a desire to learn more, Nathan attended the University of Illinois (the third generation in his family to attend the school) to study music.

As a performer, Nathan is respected as an artist, musician, and singing actor. He has performed many of opera and musical theater’s greatest roles on the world’s most prestigious stages. Nathan has also been seen and heard on television, radio, video, and live simulcast performances, including the first ever Met in HD broadcast (The Magic Flute), in which he sang Papageno, one of his signature roles. In addition to Papageno, Nathan has reinterpreted classic roles such as Billy Budd, Figaro, and Don Giovanni, garnering many awards, including the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording (Billy Budd) and the Metropolitan Opera’s first ever Beverly Sills Award. Additionally, Nathan has been widely acclaimed for his ability to cross over into musical theater, including performances with the New York Philharmonic in Carousel and Camelot, as well as a televised celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday. Nathan has frequently collaborated with many stars of musical theater, including Mandy Patinkin, Kelli O’Hara, Audra McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth.

Nathan Gunn. Photo: Sandra Powers

Nathan believes that music is a living art form and must be nurtured to remain relevant. He has championed dozens of new songs, operas, and sung theater in a multitude of venues. His most recent project is a one-man autobiographical show produced and written by Hershey Felder, entitled Flying Solo, which has been lauded as a “riveting autobiographical musical [that] is a stunner both with its touching, relatable, family-centric narrative and Gunn’s  entertaining, charismatic performing style (Broadway World review).” This coming year, Nathan and Julie Gunn will launch their new production company, Shot in the Dark, producing and performing cabaret shows which entertain the public and give young artists and hometown celebrities a platform to showcase their talents. Nathan and Julie are also often seen in recital and cabaret settings where they enjoy creating programs uniquely tailored to the special event.

Nathan is a professor and Swandlund Chair at the University of Illinois where he is co-director of Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, a comprehensive program embracing a broad continuum of opera and musical theatre, as well as the development of new works. At the Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, Nathan developed and founded the first ever Bachelor of Musical Arts in Lyric Theatre curriculum in the nation. The program is part of the School of Music at the University of Illinois and housed in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to life as a performer, educator, and arts advocate, Nathan is an avid patron of the arts. Nathan and Julie Gunn consistently support pre-college music education and sponsor local cultural events in order to secure the future of the art form. Nathan and his family reside in Champaign, Illinois.

Gunn’s baritone is an object lesson in beautiful technique, vowels perfectly placed, the color balanced between bright and dark, consistently rich from top to bottom."

Boston Globe
Nathan Gunn. Photo: Joshua Spencer
Nathan Gunn. Photo: Joshua Spencer