Interviews

Catching Up with James Maddalena

What music truly means to the acclaimed baritone


James Maddalena quote FB3
Baritone James Maddalena

To help celebrate our 30th anniversary, we reached out to several artists who contributed to our recordings. We asked them about how their lives, careers, and views on the Jewish music world had grown since their initial participation. Enjoy this interview with James Maddalena and share your own story with us, below.

How did you get involved with the Milken Archive to begin with?

I worked with Maestro Gerard Schwartz as a soloist singing with the Eliot Feld Ballet and subsequently collaborated on other projects with Maestro Schwartz. I assume that he recommended me to the Milken Archive.

Describe your experience with Jewish music prior to your involvement with the Milken Archive. 

I sang at a Temple in Boston for the High Holidays and sang excerpts from the Bloch sacred service. I also enjoyed klezmer music a lot.

How might your experience with the Milken Archive have impacted or influenced your career?

Making several recordings with the Milken Archive was very beneficial to my career.

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James Maddalena with maestro Gerard Schwarz and members of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. 
Milken Archive recording session, 1999. Berlin, Germany.

Update us on your career since working with the Milken Archive. What are you working on today? What are some of the highlights or accomplishments you're particularly proud of?

I’m taking a break from performing in order to get my knees replaced. They’ve taken a beating over the years. As far as the accomplishments I’m most proud of, I would have to say singing the complete cycle of Bach Cantatas at Emmanuel Church in Boston with Craig Smith, The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte with Smith and Peter Sellars, and Nixon in China by John Adams also with Peter Sellars.

What stands out when you reflect on your experience recording for the Milken Archive? Can you share a favorite memory or anecdote?

What stands out the most is the experience of performing this music in Berlin with a German chorus and orchestra, and how music has the power to transcend bigotry and politics and all of the things that separate us. My favorite memories would have to be the wonderful dinners that we had after a day of hard work, and getting to know the people involved outside of work.

Listen on Spotify:

Milken Archive Presents: James Maddalena 

Did working on the Milken Archive change your connection to—or conception of—Jewish music? If so, how?

I don’t really think of classical music in those terms. To me, the music of great composers is transcendent and universal.

Do you have a favorite recording (audio or video) from the Archive's collection? What is it and why?

I would say the wonderful music of Judith Lang Zaimont is my favorite, simply because she came to Berlin and I got to meet her and get to know her a bit, again at those wonderful dinners. I also enjoyed very much the music of Lukas Foss.


James Maddalena is a featured artist in Lukas Foss's Song of Anguish.


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James Maddalena's Artist Profile 

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