Best of 2018: 11 Singers Who Had A Year To Remember!

By Francisco Salazar

It’s that time of year during which we look back at the past 365-ish days and the big moments that defined them.

Every year, the opera world has its share of rising and breakout stars as well as opera singers who solidify or take their careers in new directions. Others make important debuts or create roles that audiences would have never expected. This is what makes a performer stick in an audience’s mind for the whole year and this year was a truly magnificent one for multiple performers. Like last year, OperaWire has put together a list of the Opera stars who made 2018 a year to remember.

But before we get to the main list there are a couple of singers that are worth mentioning who did not make this year’s top 11. Sonya Yoncheva made Metropolitan Opera history by being the first soprano to star in three HDs in a season and she celebrated her 50th role and won the Opera News Awards. Piotr Beczala won the European Culture award, the Opera Awards, and jumped in last minute at Bayreuth to make his house debut and open a highly anticipated “Lohengrin.” Meanwhile, Barbara Hannigan gave two stellar world premieres and won the Grammy.

Now onto this year’s list.

11. Christian Van Horn 

The American Bass-Baritone won the Richard Tucker Award and headlined the annual gala, which was seen worldwide on Medici. He opened the second annual Opera Philadelphia Festival in a highly acclaimed new production of “Lucia Di Lammermoor” and also opened a new production of “Faust” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He concluded the year with a return to the Metropolitan Opera in “La Bohème” and also took on his first title role with the company in “Mefistofele.”

10. Samantha Hankey

The National Council Audition winner is one of the brightest rising stars in the industry. She made her Geneve Opera debut in a new production of “Faust” and then went on to win the first annual World Cup Glyndebourne competition. In the summer, she went on to take home second prize at the prestigious Operalia competition, solidifying her status in the opera world. She was also involved in the world premiere of “The Rose Elf,” which premiered in New York and was recorded for release in 2019.

Hankey also covered the American premiere of “Marnie” and made her Metropolitan Opera debut in”Mefistofele.” She is set to be featured at the Met in a number of productions including an HD showcase of “Adriana Lecouvreur,” “Carmen” and The Ring Cycle.

9. Joyce El-Khoury

The Lebanese-Canadian soprano was the centerpiece of two world premieres in 2018.

First, she created the role of Countess Sylvia de Linares in Donizetti’s “L’Ange de Nisida” and then gave the world premiere of Liszt’s “Sardanapalo” in Germany, both of which will get world premiere recordings. The year also saw El-Khoury give her first performances of Imogene in Bellini’s “Il Pirata” in Switzerland and she made her role debut as Tatiana in “Eugene Onegin” at the Canadian Opera Company. She also brought Richard Jones’ “La Bohème” production to the Teatro Real.

8. Renée Fleming

The People’s diva may not have been on the opera stage throughout the year, but she definitely made her presence felt.

Fleming made her Broadway debut in “Carousel” and the success of the performances earned her a Tony Award nomination and Grammy nomination. To celebrate her success on Broadway she also released a studio album on Decca dedicated to the numerous Broadway hits. Fleming was also featured on two Oscar-winning films, including “The Shape of Water,” which won Best Picture and Best Score. She was also the voice of “Bel Canto,” which starred Julianne Moore. The soprano also enjoyed opening Carnegie Hall’s season and was featured in the 2018 A Capitol Fourth Independence Day telecast from the lawn of the U.S. Capitol with the National Symphony Orchestra on PBS. Fleming ended her year getting nominated for the Grammy for her “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Metropolitan Opera. Next year she is slated to make her London Theatre debut.

7. Javier Camarena

Javier Camarena continues to build his star power throughout the world with his radiant high notes and vocal charisma. And this year was no different. He started the year at the Metropolitan Opera with an HD performance of “Semiramide” followed by a role debut in “Maria Stuarda,” for which he won raves at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

But it was in the summer where Camarena’s year would take off. His performances of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the Teatro Madrid alongside Lisette Oropesa were hailed by critics and the OperaVision broadcast was seen worldwide. The performances got the attention of international audiences, especially as the broadcast included an encore of the sextet.

The Mexican tenor then went to the Salzburg Festival where he sang “The Pearl Fishers” and then opened the season of the Gran Teatre del Liceu with “I Puritani.” Critics raved and Camarena once again gave his audience an encore after the Act Three duet. Camarena ended his acclaimed year returning to New York to delight audiences at the Richard Tucker Gala and stole the show in a revival of “The Pearl Fishers.” He also made a number of high profile recitals and released his first solo album on Decca entitled “Contrabandista.”

6. Anna Netrebko

For the third straight year, Netrebko lands on this list but it’s not simply because of her superstar power. This year she began returning to her acclaimed interpretation as “Manon Lescaut” at the Bolshoi Theatre, followed by a highly anticipated return to the Royal Opera House. There she captivated audiences as Lady Macbeth, in a run which was seen in cinemas. She would later reprise the role in a highly acclaimed new production at the Staatsoper Berlin, which was also recorded in HD alongside Plácido Domingo. But perhaps her biggest headlining opera was her debut as “Tosca.” The soprano conquered the role at the Metropolitan Opera where she would later sing her second production of “Aida” and be featured on the HD series.

Netrebko also returned to Latin America after six years and headlined two World Cup gala concerts in Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre. The Metropolitan Opera Guild honored her at its annual luncheon and she recorded a new EP for Deutsche Grammophon. She also released a new compilation CD and Decca released her highly acclaimed “Giovanna d’Arco” on DVD. She ended the year making her long-delayed Carnegie Hall debut, went on a recital tour and will open the Met’s new “Adriana Lecourveur” on New Year’s Eve.

5. Aida Garifullina

The Russian soprano headlined the World Cup opening and closing ceremonies performing alongside Robbie Williams, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho. She was also featured on the World Cup Opera gala and celebrated France’s Bastille Day with the annual July 14th concert. Garifullina was later invited to perform for the Deutsche Grammophon 120th anniversary concert at the Forbidden City in Beijing, which was the first classical music concert in 20 years.

On the opera stage, she was featured in a new production of “Roméo et Juliette” at the Gran Theatre del Liceu, which was transmitted live in cinemas and was seen throughout the world. She also made her Salzburg Festival debut alongside Plácido Domingo, paid tribute to Dmitri Hvorostovsky at the Royal Opera’s Memorial concert, and led a revival of “Rigoletto” at the Wiener Staatsoper. Garifullina also recorded a single with Andrea Bocelli and was featured in his new record-breaking album.

Moreover, the soprano released her first cookbook, showing audiences one of her passions outside the musical world. Garifullina has obtained the biggest Instagram following of any opera singer and is set to make her Metropolitan Opera debut in January.

4. Plácido Domingo 

Domingo continues to be an influential player in the opera world showcasing his talent on and off the stage.

This year he broke even more career milestones singing his 150 and 151st role. First, he sang Miller in “Luisa Miller” at the Metropolitan Opera and then he made his role debut as Zurga in “The Pearl Fishers.” In between that, he reprised his acclaimed portrayal as Macbeth alongside Anna Netrebko at the Staatsoper Berlin. Both the “Macbeth” and “Luisa Miller” were recorded worldwide on HD.

He also opened the Los Angeles Opera as Rodrigo in “Don Carlo” and went on tour with Ana María Martinez and Arturo Chacón-Cruz to theaters in Verona, Oman, and Los Angeles among others. He also made his Bayreuth Festival debut conducting “Die Walküre” and celebrated his 50th anniversary at the Metropolitan Opera with “Gianni Schicchi,” his first comic role with the theater. His year also included a new recording with guitarist Pablo Sainz-Villegas entitled “Volver” for Sony Classical. Next year is yet another busy year for the legend at the Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, and LA Opera.

3. Mariella Devia

The reigning Bel Canto diva headlined two important productions this year.

The first came at the Teatro Regio di Parma as she said goodbye to her signature Elisabetta in “Roberto Devereux.” And then Devia returned to the Teatro La Fenice to say goodbye to staged opera. The Diva celebrated her debut 40-years-ago at La Fenice and was awarded the “Premio Una vita nella musica 2018,” honoring her for the contributions she has made to the opera world. She said goodbye to staged opera with “Norma” in a production which was later transmitted worldwide through Operavision.

Devia continues to give masterclasses and returned to the Donizetti Opera Festival to headline a gala, where she performed scenes from “Anna Bolena,” “Maria Stuarda,” and “Roberto Devereux.”

2. Joyce DiDonato

Last year, the American mezzo landed on our top spot and she followed it up with an equally memorable 2018.

DiDonato took home the Olivier Award for her work in the Royal Opera House’s production of “Semiramide” and was featured in the world premiere release of Jake Heggie’s “Great Scott,” which was nominated for the Grammy award. She also released a DVD of her successful world tour “In War and Peace” and also announced her upcoming solo album “Songplay.”  Her movie “Florence Foster Jenkins” was released on Amazon and she was also featured in the acclaimed documentary “Maria by Callas,” which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and New York Film Festival and opened nationwide. To top it off her Wigmore concert “Into the Fire” and her “Norma,” which opened the Metropolitan Opera’s 2017-18 season, were released on Erato.

On stage, DiDonato gave the Spanish and English premiere of “Dead Man Walking” and said goodbye to her signature “Cendrillon,” which was showcased on the Met’s Live in HD. She also went on tour with the Philadelphia Orchestra and was featured on the July 14th concert celebrating France’s independence. DiDonato made her stage role debut in “Les Troyens” and to top off her year she won the Gramophone Award and the Opus Klassik for her acclaimed “Les Troyens” recording.

1. Lisette Oropesa

The Cuban-American soprano has had a solid career to this point, but 2018 seemed to propel her to that next level of stardom.

On stage, Oropesa led some of the most acclaimed productions of the year, kicking things off with a return to the Metropolitan Opera in “Hansel and Gretel.” She then returned to the Bayerische Staatsoper and opened a new production of “Orfeo ed Euridice” at the LA Opera to enormous success.

But her major breakout came in the summer in a new production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the Teatro Real. The production was streamed worldwide to thousands of audiences and it featured the soprano’s first encore in any production.

Soon after that, she made her Pesaro debut in the title role of the rarely performed Rossini work “Adina.” Her successful summer came to an end at the Arena di Verona where she was featured in a Verdi Gala. Oropesa’s banner year continued as she was called to open the new production of “Les Huguenots” at the Opéra de Paris at the last minute. This production scored her rave reviews and was also featured in cinema.

Soon after her success in the production she was called to make her Teatro alla Scala debut, where she will open a new production of “I Masnadieri” next year. Her year concluded with her role debut as Adina in “L’Elisir d’Amore” and opening the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in a new production of “Rigoletto.” Oropesa also released her second solo album “Aux filles du désert.” And it is for all of these reasons that she landed on our top spot this year.

In your opinion, which artist had the most memorably 2018? We want to hear your opinions in the comments below!


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