Benjamin Butterfield | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Benjamin Butterfield

Benjamin (Tener) Butterfield. Tenor, teacher, administrator, born Halifax, NS 15 Dec 1964; Lic MUS (McGill) 1991. Raised in a musical family in Victoria, B.C.

Benjamin (Tener) Butterfield. Tenor, teacher, administrator, born Halifax, NS 15 Dec 1964; Lic MUS (McGill) 1991. Raised in a musical family in Victoria, B.C. (composer Christopher Butterfield and conductor Peter Butterfield are his brothers), Benjamin Butterfield first studied with Selena James at the Victoria Conservatory of Music 1982-6 and at the Banff Centre's Theatre Studio Ensemble 1986-8. At McGill University he studied with William Neill. Other influential teachers included Diane Forlano, Rudolf Piernay, Noelle Barker and Margreet Honig. Butterfield also worked with renowned coaches and clinicians such as Sir Thomas Allen, Elly Ameling, Robert Holliston, Michael McMahon and Peter Schreier.

On Stage

As a performer, Benjamin Butterfield excels in a variety of styles and is equally in demand for concert, opera and recital work on the international stage. Often receiving praise for his musicality, vocal suppleness and refined understanding of text, Butterfield has credited his success as "sheer hard work and perseverance, a mother who insisted on good diction, a father who loved ships, poetry and language, a teacher [Selena James] who let [him] be, and Richard Margison, [his] earliest vocal inspiration."

Since his debut in The Magic Flute with the New York City Opera in 1994, he has sung in all of the major opera centres in Europe and North America. Canadian collaborators have been numerous and include the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier, Tafelmusik and Les Violons du Roy. Butterfield has also maintained a privileged relationship with Pacific Opera Victoria, debuting numerous roles over the years in operas such as Eugene Onegin (1990), Così fan tutte (1991), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1993), Don Pasquale (1993), The Turn of the Screw (1997), Don Giovanni (1999, 2007), Semele (2009) and Rodelinda (2010). Other opera performances have included roles in The Barber of Seville, Le Comte Ory, The Cunning Little Vixen, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Fledermaus, The Fairy Queen, Mignon, Persephone, The Rake's Progress and Tamerlano.

In concert Butterfield has often performed Bach's B Minor Mass, St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion. Other works have included Britten's War Requiem and Canticles, Handel's La Resurrezione and Messiah, Messiaen's St. François d'Assise, Mozart's Requiem and Penderecki's Polish Requiem.

Awards and Appointments

Throughout his career, Butterfield has received several grants from the Canada Council for the Arts: in 1993 to study with Leopold Simoneau in Victoria and in 1994 to study with Diane Forlano in London, followed by two Career Development grants in 1996 and 1997. He was also a recipient of a William Matheus Sullivan Musical Foundation grant for opera, which supported his training from 1994 to 1999, and was a prize winner in the Oratorio Society of New York's international voice competition in 1994. Among many other recordings, he has appeared on the Juno-nominated albums Britten: The Canticles (1997) and A Britten Serenade (1998).

An experienced clinician, he has led countless master classes for festivals and at most major Canadian educational institutions. He joined the faculty of York University in Toronto in 2004, and in 2006 he was named head of the voice department at the University of Victoria. In 2011 he was on staff at Edmonton's Opera Nuova.

Selected Discography

The Aldeburgh Connection: Liebeslieder and Folk Songs. Schumann - Brahms - Greer. 1995. Aldeburgh Connection. CBC Records MVCD 1077

Dido and Aeneas - Purcell. 1995. Tafelmusik, Taurins conductor. CBC Records SMCD 5147

Britten: The Canticles. 1997. Aldeburgh Connection. Marquis Classics MAR 185

A Britten Serenade. 1998. Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Streatfeild conductor. CBC Records SMCD 5187

St. Matthew Passion - Bach. 1999. American Bach Soloists, Thomas conductor. Koch International (USA) BWV 244

Everlasting Light - Hatzis. 2002. Elmer Iseler Singers, Adams conductor. CBC Records MVCD 1156-2

Avowals - John Beckwith. 2007. Centrediscs CMCCD 12907

Beethoven Ninth Symphony. 2007. American Bach Soloists

Bach Cantata 191/ Magnificat. 2009. Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Funfgeld conductor. Analekta AN 29873

Yakiv Stepovyi: The Art Songs. 2011. Musica Leopolis


Dido and Aeneas. 1995. Mark Morris Dance Company, Tafelmusik. Rhombus Media

Messiah. 1998. English Concert, Trevor Pinnock conductor. ZDF Halle

Bach B Minor Mass. 2003. Bach Choir of Bethlehem. PBS

Burnt Toast. 2005. Esprit Orchestra. Rhombus Media

Further Reading