Countertenor. A native of Spartanburg, Daniels was born on March 12, 1966, the son of Perry and Phyllis Daniels, two former voice teachers at Converse College. In addition to studying voice with his mother, he took piano and cello lessons. At age eleven Daniels performed the boy-soprano role of Elijah under Robert Shaw at the Brevard Music Center. During his senior year at Spartanburg High School, he won the Music Teachers National Association competition.
After attending Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music on scholarship, Daniels (then a tenor) received a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, where he studied with George Shirley. Near the end of his graduate program in 1992, Daniels declared himself a countertenor, a voice type most often associated with the castrati of the eighteenth century, although his sound is atypical of the modern countertenor’s male falsetto. His breakthrough came in 1994 when he was cast as a mezzo-soprano (Nerone) in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival at Cooperstown, New York.
In 1999 Daniels made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Sesto in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. He has appeared with numerous companies, such as the New York City Opera, the Glimmerglass Opera, the San Francisco Opera, Boston’s Lyric Opera and Handel and Haydn Societies, the English National Opera, the Royal Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, and the Bavarian State Opera. Daniels has also received critical acclaim for his impressive recital repertoire of French song literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, performing in places such as New York, London, Munich, Paris, and Edinburgh.
Daniels was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1999 for his recording of Handel arias. Other notable honors include the 1997 Richard Tucker Award, Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year for 1999, and BBC Music Magazine’s 2000 Male Singer of the Year. He resides in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Milnes, Rodney. “People: David Daniels.” Opera 49 (October 1998): 1154–60.
Waleson, Heidi. “The New Countertenors.” Early Music America 6 (spring 2000): 18–25, 46.