Praised in The New York Times for his “vocal heft, clarion sound and stamina,” by de Volkskrant for a “sublime” voice, in the Financial Times for his “extraordinary energy and stamina,” and heralded by Concerti for having ”sung himself into the front row of the hero tenors…”, American Clay Hilley appears at the world’s leading opera houses and concert venues in the most challenging heldentenor repertoire.
Clay Hilley triumphed at the 2022 Bayreuther Festspiele, where he replaced an ailing colleague as Siegfried for the premiere of Valentin Schwarz’s new production of Götterdämmerung, under the baton of Cornelius Meister. On less than 24 hours’ notice, he was flown from his vacation in Italy for this prominent debut, a performance acclaimed by critics and Bayreuth’s audience, alike.
The 2022-23 season saw the tenor in three prominent debuts: with Deutsche Oper Berlin he sang his first staged production of Tristan und Isolde conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles; at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden he assayed the role of Der Kaiser in a new production by Lydia Steier of Die Frau ohne Schatten with Kirill Petrenko on the podium of the Berliner Philharmoniker; and he made a debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in a new production by Deborah Warner of Wozzeck led by Sir Antonio Pappano.
No less impressive is a concert schedule that includes Die Frau ohne Schatten with Kirill Petrenko and the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Philharmonie, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Stéphane Denève and the Saint Louis Symphony and with Juraj Valčuha and the Houston Symphony, Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus with Sir Antonio Pappano and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and a concert performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Edinburgh International Festival with Sir Donald Runnicles leading The Philharmonia.
At age 39, Clay Hilley sang Siegfried in Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen in Stefan Herheim’s new production at Deutsche Oper Berlin under the baton of Sir Donald Runnicles. Other highlights include his debuts with Dutch National Opera as the title role of Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg in a new production by Nanouk Leopold led by Music Director Lorenzo Viotti and with the Tiroler Festspiele Erl as Siegmund in a new production of Die Walküre directed by KS Brigitte Fassbaender under the baton of Erik Nielsen. He joined Nicola Luisotti and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for the Third Act of Aida, John DeMain and the Madison Symphony for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and Erik Nielsen leading the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra in the Third Act of Siegfried.
Concert highlights of recent seasons include Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, the Second Act of Tristan und Isolde with Edward Gardner leading the Orchestra of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Beethoven’s Fidelio with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with Marin Alsop and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival.
Past operatic seasons have featured Clay Hilley in his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Dead Man Walking, in the role of Phoebus in Schmidt’s Notre Dame at Theatre St. Gallen, in the title role of Dvořák’s Dimitrij as well as singing Paul in Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt at the Bard Music Festival conducted by Leon Botstein, and in the title role of Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Salzburger Landestheater under the baton of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.
The tenor received his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education at the University of Georgia, a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Georgia State University, a Professional Studies Certificate from the Manhattan School of Music, and a Performer’s Certificate from the Opera Institute at Boston University.P