While many non-opera fans are still hanging on to the long outdated image of screeching fat lady opera singers, today’s opera enthusiasts are reveling in the overabundance of gorgeously fit and smooth-singing operatic femme fatales sizzling up opera houses all over the world. To tell the truth, if opera doesn’t end until the fat lady sings, then most performances today would simply go on forever… There is just too severe a shortage of sufficiently heavy sopranos at the opera houses to fit the bill! To prove the point, here is a list of 10 extremely gorgeous and talented female opera singers performing on the stage today. It is hard to choose just 10 of the current crop of operatic eye-candy sirens, though, so my sincere apologies to those deserving others whom I must leave out:
1. Anna Netrebko: The dark-voiced soprano who started her career as a janitor at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia before rising to world stardom and magazine cover girl is, by all account, a real life Cinderella. The difference, though, is that Netrebko’s success came not through magic but hard work and her infectiously enthusiastic can-do attitude. Now naturalized as an Austrian and married with kids to bona fide barihunk Erwin Schrott, gorgeously glamorous Netrebko remains very approachable and unpretentious in person. Opera fans and pop lovers alike can’t get enough of her. Her solo CDs even top the German pop music chart! On this side of the pond, Netrebko keeps an apartment in New York and has been on many American television shows including Good Morning America and a segment of 60 Minutes news magazine.
2. Anja Harteros: A classical Grecian dark beauty in a stately German physique, Anja Harteros is one of the most sought after lyrico spinto coloratura sopranos in the business especially in roles like Handel’s magically seductive Alcina, Mozart’s Countess (in The Marriage of Figaro) and borderline batty Elettra (in “Idomeneo”), the title role in Verdi’s “La Traviata”, Mimi in Puccini’s “La Boheme”, and is slated to sing her first Marschallin in Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” at San Diego Opera in April 2011. Aside from her tendency to tower over her leading man (or cross-dressed mezzo), Harteros’ eye-friendly look is only overshadowed by her ear-friendly singing and a welcoming large stage presence.
3. Alexandrina Pendatchanska: The svelte young Bulgarian dramatic coloratura soprano from Sofia can bore a hole right through you with her almond brown eyes… And that is even before she opens her mouth and lets out any note of her molted espresso soprano voice! Pendatchanska studied piano and voice in college and made her operatic stage debut at the tender age of 17. By 19 she had won the prestigious Antonin Dvorak singing competition and has been in great demand ever since. Don’t be fooled by her petite and heart-melting physique, though. This young lady is especially known for her fiery interpretation in dramatically juicy Mozart and bel canto mad ladies like Vitellia in “La clemenza di Tito”, Elettra in “Idomeneo”, Fiorella in “Il turco in Italia”, and Rossini’s “Ermione”!
4. Patrizia Ciofi: The gorgeous Italian red-head lyric coloratura soprano is best known for her bel canto opera leading ladies such as Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”, .. On the stage she is witty and unerring in her dramatic instinct. A committed singing actress who can make you laugh or cry or even howl in horror at all the right musical moments. It is ironic that she didn’t even like opera as a young girl, telling Dominic McHugh in a 2007 interview that; “for a very long time – I thought it was only for fat people standing on stage shouting at each other, rather than something I’d like to do.” Once she really checked opera out, however, she found its combination of acting, theater, and singing highly appealing and very career-worthy. Ciofi sings mostly in Europe, though is scheduled to make a house debut at San Diego Opera as Sophie in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier in April 2011.
5. Nina Stemme: The Swedish soprano with a big and lustrous voice is currently staking her claims as the larger than life Wagnerian and Verdi super ladies. With a voice like hers (great Wagnerian sopranos really don’t grow on trees), it helps to also have a thoughtful brain. The young Stemme was probably one of the few singers who managed the will to turn down a contract at the Vienna State Opera to start off her career with. Instead she opted to go to a smaller opera house in Cologne to hone the craft that would enable her to survive the brighter spotlight on the bigger stages. That prudence has paid off with handsome interest and she regularly sells out houses as Isolde, Senta, Leonora (in “La forza del destino”), and Brünnhilde in Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”.
6. Elina Garanca: Tall, slender, and blonde with piercing blue eyes, the Latvian mezzo-soprano is at times a bit intimidating to look at (she occasionally reminds of a very frigid ice queen). She is reportedly much warmer than her look, however, especially when donning tight-fitting costume and long raven black wig as a walking and dancing (and singing) definition of opera’s favorite femme fatale at the Met – Carmen. Coming of age in ravenous post USSR Latvian, this talented singer waded confidently into the world of Central European opera without knowing a word of German and took the world by storm as Annio in Mozart’s “La clemenza di Tito” at the 2003 Salzburg Summer Festival. Since then she has reigned as the It Girl when it comes to leading lyric soprano roles in repertoire ranging from Vivaldi to Mozart, bel canto, Massenet, and Strauss. Her large and beautifully homogeneous voice seems most fit for the French drama queens, though it is also agile enough to beautifully navigate bel canto’s florid music. She may seem detached dramatically, but as a singing musician, this lass is an ace up the Met’s sleeves.
7. Waltraud Meier: She is 54 years old now, and still burning up the operatic stage like a ravenous California wild fire. Waltraud Meier, the red-headed German mezzo-soprano best known for her portrayal of dramatically traumatic roles (where she gets to cause a lot of trauma on other people) like Kundry (in Wagner’s “Parsifal”), Isolde (in “Tristan und Isolde”), and Ortrud (in “Lohengrin”). Physically graceful and arresting, Meier is a consummate stage animal with a knack for making it absurdly easy for her audiences to sympathize with her character no matter what murderous thing she seems intent on instigating.
8. Joyce DiDonato: No other operatic megastar exudes such stereotype-shattering personality than the as-wholesome-as-apple-pie American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. A thoughtful blond who makes saying and doing the right thing seems both natural and hip to do, the self-styled “Yankee Diva” is hard at work rehabilitating the long outdated naughty image associated with the A list opera singers. As pleasant to the eyes as this endlessly cheerful artist is, her fast-moving bright mezzo soprano voice is even more arresting in its versatility and musicality, telling convincing story without sacrificing the melodic current. Opera houses simply cannot book her often enough to play Rosina (in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville), Bellini’s Romeo and other bel canto heroes/heroines. And when the lass isn’t busy traveling, rehearsing, performing, or learning new music, she is a one-woman opera outreach to the non-snob audience! Check out her website, blog, youtube channel, and Facebook page for very up to date updates of DiDonato’s doings.
9. Kate Aldrich: Another wholesome American mezzo-soprano who is as witty and earthy as she sounds and looks. As fresh as the mountain wind from her home state of Maine, Aldrich is an adventurous virtuoso mezzo-soprano who practically sings everything (excellently) from Handel to Verdi and Strauss, though she is most in demand in bel canto roles like Rossini’s Rosina, Cenerentola (Cinderella), and Adalgisa in Bellini’s “Norma”. At only 37 years young this beautiful and talented artist still has a bright future ahead of her,
10. Vesselina Kasarova: Bulgarian mezzo-soprano has one of the unconventional faces and voices in the business. Truth be told, much of her fan base appear more mesmerized when she portrays a male character on stage versus female ones (though, if you had clicked on her name to see the sample Youtube clip you would see that she is no slouch as a girl on the stage either!). There is an intriguing androgeny to Kasarova that crosses gender boundary. Not that she is gay, mind you. The lass is happily married and as feminine as can be off the stage, but when she is on it she can make you believe whatever she wants! While she is best known for her onstage male-alter egos (Romeo in Bellini’s “The Capulets and the Montagues”, Gluck’s Orphee, Ruggiero in Handel’s “Alcina”, etc), Kasarova is equally delicious in wicked femme fatale roles like Handel’s Agrippina or the poisonous Princess de Bouillon in Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur”.
As you can see, being fat is no longer the norm in today’s crop of operatic stars! And as beautiful to behold as these 10 ladies and many more of their colleagues are, they have even more to offer in way of spectacular performances. Pretty face with nice figure comes and go, it takes real talents and a lot of hard work to stay on the top in this highly competitive art-form. If you have been denying yourselves access to these wonderful singers before, fix it now and catch them at the opera house near you (or look for them on opera CDs and DVDs)!
– Rosie Tomkins. Anna Netrebko: Russian Opera’s ‘Sexy Babe’. CNN 17 November 2010.
– Dominic McHugh. Nina Stemme On The Royal Opera’s New Production of Tristan und Isolde. MusicalCriticism.com 13 September 2009.
– Dominic McHugh. Patrizia Ciofi: “Gilda Is A Young Girl Who Hasn’t Seen The Real World”. MusicalCriticism.com 6 July 2007.
– Matthew Gurewitsch. A Mezzo Kicks Up Her Heel In High Style. New York Times 26 June 2009.
– Joyce DiDonato. Teachers Who Made A Difference. NPR 13 October 2010.
– Sestissimo. Kate Aldrich. Trying To Remain Opera-Tional. 30 March 2010.