A Pathbreaking Singer Arrives at the Met, With Pearls and Tattoos

The bass-baritone Dav­óne Tines, wearing Dr. Martens boots, a sleeveless black shirt and six vintage pearl rings, stood on a rehearsal stage at the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan the other day and began to sing.

“My soul’s above the sea and whistling a dream,” he sang, a passage from the Nativity oratorio “El Niño” by John Adams, in which Tines makes his Met debut this month. “Tell the shepherds the wind is saddling its horse.”

Tines, 37, known for his raw intensity and thundering voice, has quickly become one of classical music’s brightest stars. He has won acclaim for performances of Bach, Handel and Stravinsky, and he has helped champion new music, originating roles in operas like Adams’s “Girls of the Golden West” and Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.”

Tines has also used his art to confront social problems, including racism and police brutality. In 2018, he was a creator of and starred in “The Black Clown,” a searing rumination on Black history and identity inspired by a Langston Hughes poem. In 2020, he released a music video after the police killing of Breonna Taylor, calling for empathy and action.

During a rehearsal break at the Met, he described his art as cathartic, saying his aim was to “pick apart the complicated, contentious existence that is knit into the American landscape.”

“It’s a blessing to be a performing artist because you get an explicit place to put your feelings,” he said. “It’s the blessing of having a channel.”

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