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Operatic All-Stars

Today’s superstars come from many countries and many backgrounds. Here are short biographies on some of today’s most prominent stars in the opera world.

Cecilia Bartoli
Her parents were both professional singers, and Bartoli has continued the family tradition, becoming one of the new opera superstars of today. She was born in Rome and attended the Music Conservatory of Santa Cecilia. Her talents were first noticed when she appeared in an Italian television program introducing young talent and “rediscovered” in 1988 during a French telecast dedicated to the memory of the late Maria Callas. Immediately thereafter, Bartoli was sought by two famous conductors and her international career was launched.

Andrea Bocelli
An ex-lawyer and piano-bar singer, Bocelli learned the great operas by ear and by heart. Born in rural Tuscany, he was fascinated with the great Italian tenors as a child—especially his idol, Franco Corelli—and dreamed of becoming a great tenor. Not sure that dream would come true, he first became a lawyer, then sang in piano bars at night while studying under Corelli. International fame for Bocelli came with “Time To Say Goodbye,” a duet arrangement with Sarah Brightman. His debut international album, Romanza, went platinum and has brought many new fans to the world of opera.

José Carreras
Born in Barcelona, Carreras’ true first name is Josép, the Catalan version of José. He loved to sing as a child and started voice and piano lessons with the mother of one of his childhood friends. His first major role was singing with Montserrat Caballe in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia. By the age of 28, when many opera singers are just starting to make their mark, Carreras had already sung the tenor lead in 24 different operas in both Europe and North America and had made his debuts at the world’s four great opera houses. In 1987, at the height of his success, Carreras was diagnosed with acute leukemia. He recovered and gradually returned to the opera. He is often known as one of the “three tenors” for his concerts with Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

Plácido Domingo
Born in Madrid, Domingo is one of the world’s leading lyrics because of his unique combination of vocal techniques and acting abilities. Best known for his roles in works by Puccini and Verdi, he has made numerous recordings and film versions of operas. Domingo is a tenor who made his debut as a baritone in 1959. He first sang in New York City in 1966, at La Scala in 1969, and at Covent Garden in 1971. His first role as a tenor came in 1960. He studied piano and conducting at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City.

Denyce Graves
This American mezzo-soprano is best known for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. The young singer opened the 1997-98 Metropolitan Opera season as Carmen, the same role in which she made her Met debut in 1995. Graves has sung her signature role of Carmen in major opera houses around the world and is often considered the definitive Carmen by opera fans and critics. USA Today identified her as one of the “singers most likely to be an operatic superstar of the 21st century.”

Jessye Norman
A soprano, Norman made her operatic debut in 1969 at the Deutxhce Opera Berlin as Elisabeth in Tannhaeuser. She made her American debut at the Hollywood Bowl in 1972. Unlike many opera stars, Norman actually prefers recording in a studio to performing on stage.

Luciano Pavarotti
Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy, and his voice reflects his heritage. He is a traditional and powerful Italian tenor. Internationally known as a concert performer, he also has a large popular following through his recordings and television appearances. He appeared in the film Yes, Giorgio in 1981 and published an autobiography the same year. Pavarotti won the international competition at the Teatro Reggio Emilia in 1961, making his operatic debut there in La Bohème that same year. He made his U.S. debut in 1968.

Frederica von Stade
Von Stade is endowed with a supple mezzo-soprano voice of shining radiance and a presence distinguished by its genuine warmth and elegance.

Past Great Opera Stars

Marian Anderson
Anderson, born around 1900, overcame prejudice to become the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

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 Last Updated: Thursday, 21-Aug-2014 10:35:21 Eastern Daylight Time