40 Under 40: A New Generation of Superb Opera Singers
Curtains are going up in opera houses around the world as companies start their 2018–19 seasons. Big stars and experienced singers will perform, but there will also be younger, less familiar artists who are just making their way in their chosen profession. Who are the ones to watch and listen to?
In 2014 and 2016, I published articles describing outstanding young singers who merit attention (2014 Part One and Part Two; 2016 Part One and Part Two). Some had already achieved fame while most were not known outside of the tight-knit world of opera.

The purpose of these articles was to answer one of the complaints I hear most often: "There are no good opera singers anymore!" This could not be further from the truth. The problem is that many opera houses and management companies don't do a good job of making both young and seasoned singers well-known to the public. Often, opera titles and theatrical values are promoted over everything else, and I have seen some companies announce repertory without saying who will sing. Opera is first and foremost about singing!

I have heard from established singers who say that nowadays, younger artists are often favored when casting is done because they don't command high fees, and also because their youthfulness is considered more marketable. Please make a point of hearing as many of young artists as possible, but do not ignore the extraordinary veteran singers of every age who are the heart and soul of opera. Give the young singers a decade or two to fully mature as artists and people who will then give more depth to their interpretations.

The intention of this article and the previous ones is not to name the best singers, as that is arbitrary and serves no good purpose. If you think I have left someone out, first read the previous articles. Your favorites might be mentioned there. And if there is someone under the age of 40 who has not made any of these lists, please name that artist in the comments section below and, if possible, provide a YouTube link of that person singing.

Angel Azzarra, a soprano from Mississippi, was a standout as Donna Anna in Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's Don Giovanni in August. She has sung with quality and distinction in numerous venues.
Heifetz 2017 Grand Finale: At The River / Shenandoah | Angel Azzarra & The Heifetz Band
René Barbera, a bel canto tenor from Texas, has a season of appearances in many European opera capitals after appearing in Montréal as the Duke in Rigoletto. He then sings in Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Milan, where he made his La Scala debut last May.

Mikaela Bennett, Canadian soprano, is a recent graduate of Juilliard who has attracted attention in both classical and Broadway repertory. She has appeared with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Michael Tilson Thomas and is a protegée of Steven Blier, leader of the estimable New York Festival of Song.

Aaron Blake is a stylish and versatile tenor from California who made a sensation in the world premiere of Fellow Travelers, and has sung numerous roles in North America and Europe ranging from Don Ottavio to Rinuccio to Candide. He is now singing Rossini's Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Tulsa, a role he will present in various theaters in coming seasons. Next is Tamino in Die Zauberflöte in the famous Barrie Kosky production as Berlin's Komische Oper tours Australia and New Zealand.

"Tombe degli avi miei"
Angel Blue, a soprano from California, just sang Bess at Seattle Opera and returns to the Met, where she made a major debut last season as Mimì. This time she will sing Musetta (Sept. 25–Dec. 13) before heading to London in January to sing Violetta at the Royal Opera House.

Michelle Bradley, a soprano from Houston, sang two small roles at the Met (the High Priestess in Aïda and Clotilde in Norma) that often showcase singers who go on to great things. Her Clotilde in particular made a very strong impression even as she shared the stage with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato. Bradley has already sung Aïda, the Forza Leonora, Donna Anna and other big roles in major theaters abroad, and has plans for important roles in North America as well.

Samuel Barber Hermit Songs Michelle Bradley Soprano, Valeria Polunina Piano
Angela Brower is a mezzo from Arizona with a major career in Europe, especially at Munich's Bavarian State Opera. When that company appeared in March at Carnegie Hall with a concert Der Rosenkavalier, Brower sang the title role. She makes her U.S. staged opera debut in October as Idamante in Idomeneo at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as part of a very strong cast.

Nicole Car is a fast-rising Australian soprano who has made Mimì in La Bohème a calling-card role. She performed it in Sydney, Paris and London, and will make her Met debut in the part on Sept. 25. She has also sung Micaela, Luisa Miller, Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, Pamina and Fiordiligi. She made her U.S. debut at Dallas Opera as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro in 2014 and her European debut the next year as Tatiana in Berlin.

Rihab Chaieb, a Tunisian-Canadian mezzo, has been quietly but steadily gaining attention as a Lindemann young artist at the Met in operas such as L'Italiana in Algeri, Idomeneo, Cavalleria Rusticana and Hansel und Gretel, and will be heard at the Met this season as Zerlina, on Feb. 20.

Peixin Chen, a bass from China, graduated from Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music. He was an outstanding Sarastro in Philadelphia in 2017. He will appear as Masetto in Don Giovanni at the Met Feb. 20.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, a countertenor from Brooklyn, showed astonishing artistry as a 23-year-old when he was one of the six winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Finals in 2017. In January 2019 he will release a solo album of music by Handel, Vivaldi and Gluck. He will sing Ottone in Agrippina in Houston Nov. 16 and 18.

Emily D'Angelo, a mezzo from Canada, won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Finals and has just won four prizes (including top female singer) in the finals of the Operalia competition. In the coming season she will make debuts at Santa Fe, the Met and Berlin. Her future is very bright.

Jennifer Davis, a young Irish soprano, stepped into the huge role of Elsa in Lohengrin at London's Royal Opera House this summer, replacing a colleague. She sang opposite Klaus Florian Vogt and Christine Goerke, scoring a great success as she gave a confident, assured performance. Watch for her in Wagnerian and other roles requiring vocal and dramatic imperative.

Sunnyboy Dladla, a tenor di grazia from South Africa, has a major career in Europe, especially Germany, and has sung at prestigious festivals such as Glyndebourne and the Rossini Festival in Pesaro.
Sunnyboy Dladla-Ecco Ridente-Il barbiere di siviglia-G.Rossini
Joyce El-Khoury, a Lebanese-Canadian lyric soprano with room to expand to spinto roles, is a popular artist in the United Kingdom and continental Europe. She returns to North America to sing Tatiana in Robert Carsen's production of Eugene Onegin when Canadian Opera Company opens its season on Sept. 30.

Rosa Feola is a soprano from Southern Italy who has had considerable success in her native country, including appearances in leading roles at La Scala as well as Rome, Turin and Venice. She has also sung at the Bavarian State Opera, Zurich, Salzburg, Berlin and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She makes her Met debut as Gilda on Apr. 26, 2019.

Aida Garifullina, an award-winning Russian soprano, attracted worldwide attention this summer when she sang at the soccer world cup in Moscow. She has sung frequently at the Vienna State Opera and makes her Met debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni on Jan. 30, 2019.

Venera Gimadieva, a Russian soprano, will sing Violetta at the Washington National Opera in October. The role brought her rapturous attention when she sang it in 2014 in Glyndebourne. The Guardian described her as "a soprano of huge presence, compelling to watch, with a voice of thrilling security and range, and a special quality to her quieter singing that makes you hang on every note. It's a remarkable, touching Glyndebourne debut."

AJ Glueckert, an American tenor, made a strong debut at the Met in 2017 replacing a colleague as Erik in Der fliegende Hölländer. He has sung Bacchus in Glyndebourne and appeared in major roles in festivals as well as in Minneapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and San Francisco, where he studied. In the coming season he will be a resident artist at Oper Frankfurt.

Tobias Greenhalgh, This American baritone excelled as Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at the Aix-en-Provence Festival this summer. He studied at Juilliard and in Vienna. His upcoming season includes Don Giovanni in Virginia and Maryland, Dr. Malatesta in Montpellier (France) and Dr. Falke in Palm Beach. He sings the lead role of Tom Joad in Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie's The Grapes of Wrath at Michigan Opera Theatre in May 2019.

Samantha Hankey, a mezzo from Massachusetts, starred as The Elf in The Rose Elf, by David Hertzberg, produced by Unison Media at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn in June. It was one of the most important opera events of the year. Hankey has won various prizes and excelled in every performance I saw her do at Juilliard. She joins the Met this season and will perform in six operas.

Theo Hoffman, baritone from New York. Juilliard-trained, and a participant in the Los Angeles Opera Young Artist program, he has begun to sing roles at regional American companies as well as in Europe. I heard Plácido Domingo admire Hoffman's "excellent artistry" and depth for such a young singer, and I agree.

John Holiday, countertenor from Texas, was described in 2016 by Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times as, "an exceptional vocalist with a strong voice, even in its highest range." He will sing Nero in Agrippina in Houston Nov. 16 and 18.

Patricia Janečková, a Slovak coloratura soprano, has been performing publicly since she was a teenager and is a familiar face and voice in her home country. With some study and maturing she could have a major career.
Patricia JANEČKOVÁ: "Frühlingsstimmen" (Johann Strauss II)
Alisa Jordheim, soprano from Wisconsin, appeared as The Girl in The Rose Elf opposite Samantha Hankey (see above). Her fierce, no-holds-barred performance was as impressive musically as it was dramatically. She has a series of concerts coming up, some reflecting her interest in Scandinavian music. She will be Gilda in Rigoletto at San Diego Opera in February 2019.

Kathryn Lewek, American coloratura soprano, is the Queen of the Night of the moment, having sung the role at the Met and the Aix-en-Provence festival, among the many companies that have sought her. She could almost live on this Mozart role alone, but has also excelled in Handel, Donizetti, Massenet and as Cunegonde in Bernstein's Candide.

Ryan McKinny, a bass-baritone from California, has sung a wide range of roles from Mozart to Stanley Kowalski (opposite Renée Fleming's Blanche DuBois in Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire), J. Robert Oppenheim (Dr. Atomic) and Richard Nixon, but has marked himself out as one of the foremost interpreters of Wagner. He has already sung acclaimed performances as Amfortas (in Parsifal) and the title character in Der fliegende Hölländer, as well as smaller roles in the Ring Cycle, the Herald (Lohengrin) and Melot (Tristan und Isolde).

Ronnita Nicole Miller is an outstanding mezzo from Florida who was a superb Erda in the San Francisco Opera Ring Cycle last June. She is a member of the permanent ensemble at Deutsche Oper Berlin, where she sings a wide range of roles to great acclaim. She will sing Erda in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Siegfried in November.

Naomi O'Connell, a mezzo-soprano from Ireland, studied at Juilliard and has been acclaimed for her sensitivity to the meaning and sound of words and how they connect to music. It makes her a very engaging and charismatic singer.
Naomi O' Connell, Mezzo-soprano (Rossini)
Jakub Józef Orliński, a Polish countertenor, made quite a splash while still at Juilliard and already has a new recording called Anima Sacra, which comes out Oct. 26. It is rare nowadays that a 27-year-old singer will get to record an album, especially with unusual repertory. It contains rediscovered sacred arias from the 18th century, and he is joined by the period orchestra Il Pomo d'oro. Not only is he an exciting singer, but a fearless breakdancer, as this German-language video reveals.

Hyesang Park, a Korean soprano, has seen her voice evolve from high coloratura to a more lyric instrument. She has been part of the Lindemann program at the Met and studied at Juilliard. Her calendar includes Musetta in La Bohème and Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

Pavel Petrov, tenor from Belarus, was a first prize winner at the Plácido Domingo Operalia competition earlier this month. He spends much of his time at Opera Graz in Austria, but his recent accomplishments will surely lead to invitations to larger places.

Pavel Petrov, Leoncavallo - Mattinata
Nicholas Phan, tenor, is one of the most gifted and thoughtful recitalists of his generation, singing classics by Schubert, Brahms and Vaughan Williams, as well as new works by living composers who are inspired by his artistry. He also excels in opera, especially Handel, and adds Jeptha to his repertory this season. He will also sing Candide in Israel. Phan recently performed live in the Greene Space at New York Public Radio.

Sean Michael Plumb, baritone from California, has racked up a string of honors that have propelled him to leading roles at the Bavarian State Opera, where he will spend most of the upcoming season. Audiences in Louisville can hear him as Papageno on Sept. 21 and 23.

Jessica Pratt, British-born and Australian-raised soprano, has been based in Italy for most of her career. I have heard her there in famous as well as small theaters, and she fully captures the special feeling of opera in the nation where it was born. Her most famous role is Lucia, which she has sung in more than 30 productions in Italy and elsewhere, including the Met. But she also sings Rossini and other bel canto roles, including Olympia in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and imbues her performances with palpable music and dramatic excitement.

JESSICA PRATT as Lucia - mad scene
Golda Schultz, South African soprano, has a rapturously beautiful voice and compelling stage presence that, so far, have found their most congenial pairings with Mozart. She was an unforgettable Pamina in her Met debut last season, and returns as Nanetta in a very strong cast of Verdi's Falstaff, starting Feb. 22.

Siobhan Stagg, an Australian soprano, has had a series of impressive debuts in major European opera capitals since 2013. She will make her American debut in the title role of Cendrillon at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Dec. 1.

Elena Stikhina, a Russian spinto soprano, has a beautiful voice and appearance and has already sung Salome (led by Valéry Gergiev at the Mariinsky in 2017) and Senta, as well as heavy Italian repertoire (Tosca, Aïdaand Il Trovatore). If her voice and career are carefully managed, she might just be the next big star. She makes her Met debut as Suor Angelica on Dec. 12.

Christian Van Horn turns 40 this year, but is included on this list because bass voices often mature later, and because 2018 is really his year. The New Yorker is the recipient of the prestigious Richard Tucker award, which will be celebrated in a gala concert at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 21. Van Horn then will appear in the title role of Boito's Mefistofele at the Met along with Angela Meade and Michael Fabiano, starting on Nov. 8, returning later in the season in La Bohème and La Clemenza di Tito.

Adela Zaharia is a Romanian coloratura soprano who has had a sudden rise. She swept Operalia in 2017 and made her North American debut as Gilda in Rigoletto at the Los Angeles Opera. Her quick substitution (for Diana Damrau on two days' notice) as Lucia in Munich caused a sensation, and led to her being invited for the company's new Orlando Paladino. Future roles on both sides of the Atlantic include Violetta and Maria Stuarda.
16 September / 2018

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