10 Best Women Opera Singers
Who are the 10 best female opera singers? Opera has it all: life, love, loss, drama, beautiful divas and scandal. There are so many ways to judge an opera singer: on her voice alone, on ticket sales, or high praise from the critics. Here’s a guide to the ten best female opera singers.
- Deborah Voigt. This soprano may be the busiest and most versatile opera singer today. Unfortunately, she is most known outside of opera circles for the “Little Black Dress Scandal,” when she was replaced in 2004 for not being able to fit into a black dress the Royal Opera House in London has provided for her role as Ariadne.
- Joan Sutherland. The late Sutherland (1926-2010) was called “La Stupenda” (the stunning one) by Italian audiences and critics. Her good friend Luciano Pavarotti called her the voice of the century. Check out her Grammy Award-winning album “The Art of The Prima Donna” recorded in 1960.
- Patricia Racette. This American soprano is still in the prime of her career. Racette intended to be a jazz singer, but learned that she had a gift for opera. This beautiful, openly lesbian singer has been performing at the major opera houses around the world since 1988 and is a regular at San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.
- Renee Fleming. The London Times calls this full lyric soprano “The People’s Diva.” After paying for graduate school at Juilliard singing in jazz clubs, Fleming had her first operatic solo in 1986. Fleming also has a flair for pop culture, covering alt rock band Muse’s song “Endlessly” on Good Morning America, and singing on the “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack. This Grammy winner has appeared on Sesame Street, Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” and will be performing at the Metropolitan Opera in addition to opera houses in Europe for the 2010-2011 season. How’s that for range?
- Denyce Graves. USA Today calls American mezzo soprano Graves an “operatic superstar of the 21st century,” and it’s easy to see why. In addition to performing in opera houses and concert halls all over the world, she sang at the 55th presidential inauguration and at President Gerald Ford’s funeral. Her signature roles are the title roles of “Carmen” and “Samson et Dalila.”
- Maria Callas. No conversation about the best female opera singers is complete without mention of American-born Green Soprano Callas (1923-1977). Her personal life is as well known as her professional life, most notably as she embarked on a love affair with Aristotle Onassis which continued after he was married to Jackie O. Callas was hailed as “La Divina” by international opera fans. Although her talent and voice are controversial, she still stands as the most known female opera singer in history.
- Renata Tebaldi. Italian lirico-sprinto soprano Tebaldi (1922-2004) was called “voce de’angelo” by fans worldwide. Just a year older than Callas, their rivalry was legendary, but Tebaldi was best known and loved for her work. Her career skyrocketed after World War II and by her death in 2004 she had performed in over 1000 operas.
- Rosa Ponselle. Ponselle (1897-1981) was one of America’s early best female opera singers. Called “the greatest singer of us all” by Callas, Ponselle had an established career in vaudeville before singing opera. Although she made appearances in notable opera houses in Europe, the majority of her career was spent at the Metropolitan Opera. She retired early at age 40 in 1937.
- Kiri Te Kanawa. Te Kanawa is a New Zealand lyric soprano who was one of the leading opera singers in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She was a pop star in New Zealand in her early adulthood, then launched her opera career in London. Te Kanawa sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.
- Frederica Von Stade. American mezzo soprano Von Stade started her operatic career at the Metropolitan Opera in 1970. Her early career included a highly acclaimed performance with Kiri Te Kanawa, whom she still maintains a friendship with.