While we have heard always heard of opera singers like Pavarotti repeatedly, we thought it would be fun to look at some of the newer vocal talents that have been wowing opera audiences in recent years. Out of countless female opera stars that currently grace the stage, we thought these are the five you need to know.
1. Elīna Garanča
Born to a mother who was a singer and professor of music and vocals and a father who worked as a choral director, this mezzo-soprano began her lessons when she was just a child. Her formal training began in 1996 when she attended the Latvian Academy of Music, and she studied under Sergej Martinov. From there she moved on to Vienna where she trained with Irina Gavrilovici.
When she left Austria for the United States, Garanča was studying with Virginia Zeani. After all of this training, all that was left was to become a professional opera singer, which Garanča did when she joined Südthüringisches Staatstheater, a theater located in Meiningen, Austria. From there she moved on to the Frankfurt Opera, based in Germany. Her star quickly rose when she was awarded the Mirjam Helin Singing Competition in 1999, which is held annually in Helsinki.
It was in 2003, at the Salzburger Festspiele, one of the most prestigious music festivals in the world, when the opera world began to take notice of Garanča. She took on a major role in La Clemenza di Tito, a Mozart work. She quickly went on to perform in Werther in the role of Charlotte and sang as Dorabella in Così fan Tutte for the Vienna State Opera.
2. Pretty Yende
Hailing from South Africa, this contemporary soprano has amazed audiences from Italy to the United States with her vocal styling. She was born in Piet Retief, Mpumalanga, a village that sits in a province known for the growing timber. When she was 16 years old, Yende saw opera for the first time in a television commercial. This experience inspired her to seek out training at the South African College of Music.
While attending, Yende studied under Virginia Davids and earned the title of cum laude for her class. From there she moved to Milan, Italy to take up training at the Accademia Teatro alla Scala. In 2009, she was awarded the first prize in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition. The next year she won the Vincenzo Bellini International Competition and the year after that she won Operalia, The World Opera Competition. This young soprano was taking the competitions by storm!
Professionally, Yende began at La Scala in Milan where she performed in La Bohéme by Puccini in the role of Musetta. That was in 2012. In 2013, she sang for the first time in the United States with the Metropolitan Opera in Le Comte Ory, a Rossini work, in the role of Adèle. More recently, in 2015, Yende took on another role in a Mozart piece, The Marriage of Figaro, which she performed with the Los Angeles Opera. Last year, for the Paris Opera, this wonderful soprano starred as Rosina in The Barber of Seville as well as the lead part in Lucia di Lammermoor.
3. Lucy Crowe
This next soprano was born in Staffordshire. Her studies began in London at the Royal Academy of Music and while attending there, earned the 2002 Royal Overseas Gold Medal, which is supported by the Royal Over-Seas League, a non-profit that supports the music arts. A few years later, Crowe came in second for the Kathleen Ferrier Award, which is an annual London competition.
This talented woman has worked with The King’s Consort, Les Musiciens du Louvre, The Sixteen, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Some of the roles she has taken on include Requiem by Mozart, which she sang with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She also sang The Creation and The Seasons by Haydn.
Rolando Villazon sang alongside Crowe in 2010 at Wigmore Hall, a prominent opera venue in London in a production conducted by Paul McCreesh. Two years later Crowe took on Resurrection Symphony on tour with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a festival tour.
Crowe first performed with the Scottish Opera in Der Rosenkavalier in the role of Sophie. She joined up with the English National Opera in 2007 in The Coronation of Poppea in the role of Drusilla. That same year she sang in Agrippina, which was produced by David McVicar. It was in 2012 with the Royal Opera when Crowe sang as Gilda in Rigoletto and the next year she performed at the Glyndebourne Festival in The Cunning Little Vixen.
In 2013, Crowe joined the Opera Berlin, which was conducted by Roberto Rizzi Brignoli, in the same role in Rigoletto. The next year she was back with the Royal Opera as Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore by Donizetti.
4. Tara Erraught
Next, we have a soprano who was born in Dublin, Ireland, who studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She was the winner of the Pro Meritis Scientiae et Litterarum award for her time singing with the Bavarian State Opera, which is in Munich, Germany. In 2011, Erraught was quick to learn the part of Romeo for the Bayerische Staatsoper in I Capuleti e I Montecchi by Bellini. For this, her name was now known in opera circles around the world.
She has taken on the role of Carlotta in Die Schweigsame Frau by Strauss, Despina in Così fan Tutte, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Prince Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus, and Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel. Her tendency to take on male roles has not escaped controversy. In 2014, Erraught took on the part of Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, yet certain critics felt that she was obviously a woman and trying to pass her off as a “young” man was “implausible.”
Other awards for Erraught include Dublin’s National Concert Hall’s Rising Star Award in 2010, the Czech Republic’s Jakub Pustina International Singing Competition, and the 2008 Zdar nad Sazavou Audience Prize.
5. Jamie Barton
Our final opera singer for this list is the winner of the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. A mezzo-soprano, this Georgian operatic vocalist began her professional singing career at the Armuchee Elementary School in Peter Pan in 1954. She earned several degrees in vocal performance, a B.A. from Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, and an M.A. from Indiana University.
Her professional life got its kick start when she sang in Verdi’s La Traviata in the role of Annina in St. Louis, Missouri for the Opera Theatre in 2007 and the next year she performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Hansel and Gretel. Her performance was said to “steal…the show.” She studied for some time with the Houston Grand Opera Studio and, upon graduation, took on prominent roles with the Houston Opera.