Australia's reputation for producing great operatic talent was solidified with the emergence of Joan Sutherland. Now there's Grace Bawden, who with a voice of soft textures and a fluttering vibrato has brought hundreds of opera crazies all over her home country to their feet since the early 2010s, but she originally struck fame as a classical crossover artist when she was still in her teens during the 2008 season of the Australia's Got Talent competition. She became the Judge's Choice Grand Finalist on the show after her performance of the famous "Ebben? Ne andro Iontana" from Catalani's "La Wally," and, thus, was, well before deciding officially on a career in the music of Verdi, Puccini, and Arthur Sullivan, dubbed "Australia's Greatest Operatic Discovery." Covering three and a half octaves with little seeming difficulty, she has stunned listeners with her interpretations of several of opera's most iconic characters, including Puccini's Butterfly, a role to which, as it has been remarked, she's leant "an inspiring freshness." Indeed, standing ovations concluded nearly every performance of her tour as the tragic geisha with Co-Opera. Her Leonora (Trovatore) is of particular note in my mind as a demonstration of Grace's technical prowess and of great possibilities for her. Most recently her Yum-Yum (The Mikado) has excited her fans further and inspired a dedication to her art in some of opera's most casual listeners. I'm sure we buffs are in for great discoveries and surprises as the twenty-three-year-old continues to develop her widely praised soprano. Live recordings of her operatic accomplishments can be found on SoundCloud and YouTube.
Back when Oropesa was still known primarily for her vocal contribution to the Metropolitan's "The Enchanted Island," I had the privilege of being present at her highly acclaimed 2012 Arizona Opera performance of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and hearing exactly what has now created a great fuss in the opera world: her room-filling, head-rattling (in a good way) coloratura soprano. Some seasons before, I attended a performance of Verdi's "Aida," and while the lyrico spinto-ish wonder that was the soprano in the title role has left a permanent mark on my emotional centre, she didn't made my seat vibrate. Oropesa's sound, on the other hand, soaring with seeming ease from lithosphere to stratosphere, rings with incredible power at the top, power she has toned down a bit for her YouTube and SoundCloud recordings and for her Bach concerts. Her talents are not limited to great high notes, however. Of her role debut as Violetta in Opera Philadelphia's 2015 "La Traviata," David Shengold of Opera News wrote, "Lisette Oropesa bids fair to be among its great exponents in her generation... she just seemed to BE Violetta..." With interpretive talent like that, she's one for dedicated opera lovers to follow.
Currently soloist at the Voronezh State Opera, Ekaterina Gavrilova's rising star has been bright from the beginning. While still a student at the Veronezh Academy of Fine Arts, she made her official debut as Arsena in Strauss's "The Gypsy Baron," and in 2004, just after graduating from the Academy, she won the Russian Theatre Society's "Event of the Season" award for her performance as Caroline in Cimarosa's "Il Matrimonio Segreto." Now, having participated in master classes given by Joan Sutherland, Renata Scotto, and Ileana Cotrubas, she is well-prepared for everything the opera world has to throw at a soprano. Indeed, her repertoire encompasses all the great lyric coloratura soprano roles, and she has ventured into lieder, of which her successful debut album, "Oh! Quand je dors," is comprised. John Axelrod, Artistic and Music Director of the Royal Symphony Orchestra of Sevilla and Principal Guest Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Milan, G. Verdi, said of her talents: "Her voice was so bright, sparkling like champagne, and so engaging is her personality, that I found it difficult to accompany her. I wanted so much to only listen." You can find videos of her performances on YouTube and her album just about anywhere if you, too, desire to listen.
Sarah Tucker is one of the ideal Paminas of the modern day, and I don't only say that because I cried in my seat at the Phoenix Symphony Hall during her Act II "Lament." Mozart would be proud, I think, to know that his most popular work, "Die Zauberflotte," is in such capable hands. I'm not the only one to say that she is "the star of the show" (Opera Today) whenever she steps into the role, and I certainly share the opinion of the opera critic at the "Arizona Republic" that her high notes have "a radiant bloom." She has sung Norina in Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" to great acclaim and has already taken part in a world premiere as Memory I in Lembit Beecher's enthusiastically received "I Have No Stories to Tell You." Her vocal acting abilities and clarity have been captured in recordings on SoundCloud.
The high lyric baritone voice is back and happening, or so it would seem with Kurt Kanazawa on the opera scene. While it's difficult to find information on the current status of this already newsworthy Juilliard student, video footage of his performances in Thomas's "Hamlet" and Debussy's landmark "Pelleas et Melisande" can be found on YouTube, as can his rendition of the American National Anthem, which he performed at a 2010 Mets game in honor of Japanese Americans. His Tarquinius was described in "Opera News" as "hard to find fault with," propelling "villainy swathed in velvet." With a passionate presence and thorough interpretations of popular and somewhat neglected works, he gives us opera fans a lot to look forward to.
Everyone loves a good tenor, and this one has been to see just about everyone of special note in the opera world. He's amassed quite a collection of awards since his 2006 debut, which he made while still a student at Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts. One of the many is the 2009 Richard Tucker Award. Some of his most acclaimed roles are Rodolfo of "La Boheme," the Duke of Mantua of "Rigoletto," and Greenhorn of Jake Heggie's wild success, "Moby Dick," which he created. Lauren Smart of "The Observer" had this to write about him in February: "Opera is Costello's everything." Indeed, his dedication to his art is obvious by the way he uses his, in Smart's words, "pitch perfect pipes," so obvious that there's rarely a Costello night that doesn't end with thunder from an audience. He learned the tenor part of Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda" in seven days. If that doesn't spell "devoted," I don't know what does.
Daniel Smerdon performs alongside Grace Bawden as another favorite of Australian operagoers. His warm and silky baritone has earned him great acclaim as he's explored such roles as the Count Almaviva of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and Sean Ross and Modeste Ilyich Tchaikovsky in the well-received (and, might I add, quite beautiful) Sean Peter Ross opera, "Tchaikovsky, Angel of Music." His heartfelt stylings and elegantly rapid vibrato make him the perfect fit for a variety of roles that he hasn't taken yet, but I won't presumptuously state them here. If you're looking for the next big name in baritone opera music, you might want to give him a listen.
Are there any emerging talents you think should be on this list? Feel free to leave the name of any that you can come up with in your comments below. I know this feature was late in coming, but I hope it's been worth the wait. CIao, my friends, and happy operatic insanity!