Artist of the Week: Isabel Leonard Conquers Italian Audiences as Charlotte in Massenet’s ‘Werther’

By Francisco Salazar

Isabel Leonard is recognized as one of the brightest stars in the opera world for her vocal beauty and vocal fireworks. After years of exploring Mozart and the baroque repertoire, Leonard is moving into new territory this season. She recently made her role debut as Adalgisa in Bellini’s “Norma” and last week she made her role debut as Charlotte in Massenet’s “Werther.”

Charlotte, which one of the pinnacle roles of the French repertoire, is best known for her letter scene, but the role requires vocal power and expression. Leonard who has all the skills for the role is currently singing her first performances at the Teatro Communale di Bologna. It is never easy to make a role debut in Italy as the audiences are unpredictable and harsh.

However, Leonard’s artistry proved invincible. Not only did she receive cheers from the audience but critics were also enthusiastic and they noted that she was the “true surprise of the evening.”

With such a strong reception, Leonard may have paved the way for more engagements in Italy and other European houses.

For her performances as Charlotte, she shares the stage with Juan Diego Florez and Celso Albelo and she will later take on the role at the Metropolitan Opera alongside Vittorio Grigolo.  

A Richard Tucker Award and Grammy award-winner, Leonard has delighted audiences around the world with her interpretations of Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” and Rosina in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” She has also made a signature out of Cherubino in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Dorabella in Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte.” She was also a heartbreaking Blanche de la Force in Poulenc’s “Dialogues Des Carmelites” at the Metropolitan Opera.

Leonard is also a recognized recitalist who has showcased Spanish music alongside lieder. The American singing-actress has also been also been an advocate for modern music as she headlined the world premiere of Higdon’s opera “Cold Mountain,” which was recently nominated for two Grammy awards and also performed in Ades’ “The Tempest.”

She has also been an advocate for education and outreach as she was featured on Sesame Street and she was also featured in the Met’s English language production of Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville.”

In the next few months Leonard returns to the Met Opera for Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and she will also be featured in the company 50th Anniversary Gala.  


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