40 Under 40: The Next Generation of Great Opera Singers – Part Two

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Following last week's survey of gifted male singers under the age of 40 in the opera field comes this look at promising young divas.

Maria Agresta, soprano, captured attention in New York singing Rossini in the 2013 Mostly Mozart Festival. She was excellent in I Puritani at the Paris Opera in the same year and, in other performances (including Amelia in Simon Boccanegra under Riccardo Muti), brought a lovely voice, sensitivity to text, and a beguiling stage presence. With Agresta on the scene, it may be too soon to declare that the great line of Italian sopranos has come to an end.

Meredith Arwady, contralto, made a vivid impression as a Native American in Dr. Atomic at the Met and has since excelled as Erda and Mistress Quickly in Frankfurt.

Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano, winner of the super-prestigious Cardiff "Singer of the World" competition in 2013, is much in demand and is adding roles and song literature to meet it. A major artist is about to take wing.

Julia Bullock, soprano, is still at Juilliard. Based on her recent performance in Cendrillon and other appearances, she seems destined for a fine career.

Karen Cargill, mezzo from Scotland, has a round lustrous voice and compelling stage presence that serve her well in hard-to-cast operas by Wagner and Berlioz, as well as works of Beethoven and Verdi. She has just released an album of Lieder by Alma and Gustav Mahler.

Layla Claire, soprano, will be Donna Anna at Glyndebourne this summer, the Governess in Turn of the Screw in Zurich (November), Blanche in Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Washington National Opera in February/March 2015 and Anne Truelove in The Rake’s Progress at the Met (May 2015).

Lucy Crowe, soprano, excelled as Sophie in a Munich Rosenkavalier and in a Met Clemenza di Tito as Servilia. She is a popular presence at London’s Royal Opera in her native Britain.

Sasha Cooke, mezzo, is one of my favorites among rising singers. When quite young, she stepped into the Met premiere of Dr. Atomic as Kitty Oppenheimer and more than held her own with Gerald Finley and Eric Owens. She was the title character of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s work at San Francisco Opera. Cooke is a superb recitalist and has the sovereign artistry of singers from another golden age, though she is in every way ideal for opera today.


Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano

Leah Crocetto, soprano, has a particularly warm sound that makes her a very appealing performer of Verdi characters such as Desdemona and Alice Ford and Liù in Puccini’s Turandot, a role I gather she will sing at the Met in the 2015-2016 season. She is also scheduled for Madame Lidoine in Carmelites in Washington during winter 2015.

Ellie Dehn, soprano, specializes in the girlfriend roles (and occasionally wronged women) by Mozart, Puccini, Gounod, Offenbach and others. The Minnesota-born singer also has good comic timing and is a frequent guest on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show.

Danielle de Niese, soprano, began as a teenager in the Met’s young artist program and made an early impression as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, an opera in which she is now a clever Susanna. She has delighted audiences as Handel’s Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, Despina in Così fan tutte and, above all, her wonderful turn as Ariel in The Enchanted Island. She is also a favorite at Glyndebourne and theaters in Europe.

Elizabeth DeShong, mezzo. Collegial though she is, DeShong usually winds up stealing scenes due to a beautiful voice, great acting and musicianship. Her Met appearances have included The Enchanted Island, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Madama Butterfly. She also has a fascinating blog including many of her photos that evokes the pleasures and challenges of an opera singer’s itinerant life.

Oksana Dyka, soprano from the Ukraine, made a stunning Met debut this year as Yaroslavna in Prince Igor and returns next season as Aïda.

Tara Erraught, a young Irish mezzo, has received glowing notices for her singing in Munich, Glyndebourne, New York and elsewhere in Mozart, Rossini and Strauss. 

Elina Garanca, mezzo. Beauty, intelligence, charisma and musicality are but a few attributes of this Latvian singer who captured attention as Carmen at the Met but whom I loved just as much as Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito (I hope that video will be released). The birth of her second child in January meant she cancelled Octavian and Charlotte (Werther) at the Met. She would be wonderful as Massenet’s Cleopatre and a sensational Eboli in Don Carlo.

Elina Garanca (Gabo/DG)

Anita Hartig, soprano from Romania, sings with such soulfulness and earnestness that she reminds you that the opera characters we most love are the ones with genuine humanity.

Angela Meade, soprano, has had so many notable successes that it seems like she has been an established star for a decade. But she is still quite young and sings a carefully chosen repertory of Bellini, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini that were favorites of her idol Montserrat Caballé at the same age. Initially the cover for other artists, Meade often stepped in with little rehearsal and was a hit musically but had little time to prepare the role theatrically. But, in new productions such as Falstaff at the Met and William Tell in Turin, she has shown dramatic gifts as well.

Latonia Moore, soprano, had a blazing success as a last-minute Aïda at the Met a couple of seasons ago and returns in that role (December 26-January 10). I hope to hear her lush voice in other Verdi and Puccini roles.

Kristine Opolais, soprano, made news this season by stepping into a Met HD broadcast of La Bohéme the afternoon after singing Madama Butterfly. One of several talented Latvians rising in opera, she is the wife of the brilliant conductor Andris Nelsons, who now heads the Boston Symphony.

Lisette Oropesa, soprano, began at the Met in her early twenties and soon sang major roles such as Susanna and Gilda while still performing smaller parts. This experience gave her versatility but has kept her a bit under the radar with audiences who should know her better. This past season she shone as Nannetta in Falstaff and Sophie in Werther.

Ailyn Pérez, soprano, recently had a big success in London as Violetta opposite the Alfredo of her husband, Stephen Costello. She has established a major career in a repertory that combines favorite roles of Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko and is popular with audiences.


Ailyn Pérez, soprano

Anita Rachvelishvili, mezzo from the Republic of Georgia, was a protegée of Daniel Barenboim at La Scala and had a precocious success as Carmen, but excels in other sultry roles as well, including Dulcinée in Don Quichotte. Don’t let her good looks distract you from real performing ability.

Marina Rebeka, soprano, is yet another beautiful, talented, well-trained Latvian with a great stage presence who can sing roles that require acting, emotion and superb musicianship.

Desirée Rancatore, soprano. The Sicilian coloratura has a notable following in Europe for bel canto roles, especially Gilda. She also performs in French and German and was Kostanze in an unconventional production of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail from Hangar 7 of Salzburg’s Mozart airport that was telecast live all over the continent.

Elza van den Heever, soprano from South Africa, made a thrilling debut at the Met as Queen Elizabeth I opposite the Maria Stuarda of Joyce DiDonato, shaving her head for more dramatic effect. Had she not done that, it still would have been an amazing night. She sings a range of roles from Handel through Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner and Britten that require generous amounts of voice and emotion. I can’t wait for her Donna Anna next season at the Met.

Amber Wagner, soprano, must be asked all the time if she is related to the composer. To hear her one would think so from her glorious sound in his music, but she also impresses in Verdi (the Ballo Amelia), Strauss (Ariadne) and more.

Pretty Yende, soprano. It has often been remarked that the first name of this South African artist is truth in advertising, but I would add that she is also a talented and is a charismatic singer. She was trained in La Scala’s young artist program and had a huge success stepping in for a colleague in Le Comte Ory at the Met.

And remember, there are at least 200 fabulous singers over the age of 40 who have plenty of voice, talent, experience and a lot to offer. I just saw the superb 90-year old Franz Mazura in Elektra at La Scala and I am glad I did!


Pretty Yende, soprano