Best Of 2022: OperaWire’s Top 10 Rising Stars Of 2022

By Francisco Salazar

After two years of lockdowns, cancelations, and COVID, 2022 seemed like it would be an easier year. But alas it wasn’t as the world was struck with a war, human rights violations that were met with worldwide protests, and governments that threatened to rewind time and take away rights.

There were also major cuts in funding for opera that has left one of the most important companies for young stars in limbo.

But despite all this, it was music that kept the world together. Opera companies continued to bring light into the world, giving audiences new productions and creating new programs. Audiences also got a glimpse of new stars on the rise. Whether it was through competitions, festivals, or in some major production, there were many singers that distinguished themselves and signaled major careers.

So without further ado, here are OperaWire’s 10 rising stars for 2022 (in alphabetical order).

SeokJong Baek

The South Korean tenor began his career as a baritone, during which time studying as an Adler Fellow, a member of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Programme, and a Resident Artist at the Lyric Opera of Kansas. With San Francisco, he performed in various productions including “Carmen,” “Romeo et Juliette,” Manon Lescaut,” “Rusalka,” and Le Nozze di Figaro.”

However, he moved into the tenor repertoire over the past two years slowly building his career. In 2021 he received the third prize at the Tenor Viñas Competition as well as the Plácido Domingo prize, Public prize, and Teatro Real de Madrid prize. He was also the first place winner of the 2021 Loren L. Zachary Society National Vocal Competition, First Prize, Audience Award, and Enrico Caruso Award winner of the 2021 Vincero World Singing Competition.

But it was in 2022 that the tenor broke out and made an unprecedented debut at the Royal Opera House in a new production of “Samson et Dalila;” this also represented a role debut and his highest-profile assignment to date. OperaWire raved about the tenor noting he “may well be the outstanding voice of the cast.” The debut was even filmed in HD and presented in cinemas.

That was followed by more performances at the Royal Opera in “Cavalleria Rusticana,” where the tenor was once again praised and subsequently signed with Intermusica for General Management.

Up next, the tenor will return to the Royal Opera House for “Aida,” make his Prague State Opera debut, and will also make his Arizona Opera debut. He is also set to join the Metropolitan Opera’s roster.

Juliana Grigoryan

Grigoryan seemed to be the favorite singer of the competition circuit this year. The soprano not only took home the top prize at the  International Stanislaw Moniuszko Vocal Competition Grand Prize but also won the Operalia Competition’s first prize and audience award. She also received the Marcella Sembrich-Kochańska Prize for the youngest finalist and The Katowice City Of Gardens – Krystyna Bochenek Cultural Institution Prize this year as well as prizes in Italy and Toulouse. In 2023, she will receive a Partecipazione Gratuita alla Puccini Festival Academy, among other important international prizes.

Over the past years, the Armenian soprano has performed with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, and the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia. She recently signed with Askonas Holt and is set to perform under the baton of Riccardo Muti this December.

With high-profile competition wins, the soprano’s upcoming season already looks promising with debuts at the Dutch National Opera, Teatro Alighieri, Teatro alla Scala, and Ravenna Festival.

Jongwon Han

The Korean-born bass-baritone received a Bachelor of Music Degree from Seoul National University, his master’s degree at the Mannes School of Music, and studied at The Juilliard School in the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies program.

Over the past years, he has competed in numerous competitions and was named one of the Grand Finalist in the 2021 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, receiving the Pamela Craven Award. In 2021, he was the recipient of the Stephen De Maio Memorial Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation and also received prizes at the Gerda Lissner Lieder Competition, Suri Competition, Opera at Florham Violetta International Competition, and Fiorenza Cossotto International Competition in Bologna, Italy.

This year he won the Vero Beach Opera Rising Stars and received third place and the audience choice award winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition. He also raised headlines when he won the Third Prize at the 2022 Operalia World Opera Competition.

Having been a Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Artist in 2022 and having performed in Italy, Japan, South Korea, and New York City, he has already performed a variety of repertoire and is set to make become an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera this season. Han will also make debuts with the Dayton Opera and the Palm Beach Opera.

Anthony León

American-born, Cuban and Colombian tenor received a Bachelor of Music from La Sierra University and a Master of Music degree concentrating in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Over the years, he has received numerous honors including winning the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition in the Los Angeles District in 2022 and receiving a Career Development Grant from the Sullivan Foundation.

He has performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, France, Arsenal Theater in Metz, France, and Victoria Hall in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also made a big debut at the Opera Theatre St. Louis and was an Apprentice Artist at Santa Fe Opera during the 2021 season.

This past October, León had a big break when he took home the top prize at the Operalia Competition. He also took home the Don Plácido Domingo Ferrer Prize of Zarzuela. He joined the LA Opera as a Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist where he performed in a production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” as Normanno and is currently starring in the company’s “Tosca” production as Spoletta. León recently signed with Askonas Holt for General Management and 2023 already looks busy with a new album set for release.

Roberta Mantegna

At the age of 34, the Italian soprano seems to be one of the most in-demand Italian sopranos of her generation. Mantegna, who began singing at the age of eight, graduated in piano in 2009 and opera singing in 2010 at the Conservatory “V. Bellini” in Palermo.

She later worked as a choir artist at the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari and in 2015 she made an auspicious debut in Mayr’s “Medea in Corinto” at the Festival of Valle d’Itria. In 2016 she joined “La Fabbrica”, the Young Artist Program of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, and remained with the company until 2018. Four years later she has now performed as a leading artist with the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, the Festival Verdi, Teatro alla Scala, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro Real de Madrid, and Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, among others. She has also become a fixture as a Verdi and Donizetti soprano.

Of her latest performances of “Simon Boccanegra,” OperaWire noted, that the Mantegna “brought a youthful and pure quality.” Upcoming performances include her U.S. debut with teh Washington Concert Opera in “Roberto Devereux” as well as performances in Tokyo and Australia.

Nina Minasyan

The Armenian soprano became a soloist at the Yerevan Conservatory Opera Studio in 2010 and won the Tatevik Sazandaryan and Pavel Lisitsian singing competition in 2011. She later studied under Elena Obraztsova, Evgeny Nesterenko, and Diane Zola, before making her stage debut at the Bolshoi Theatre. There she went on to sing in numerous productions and in 2015 made her Deutsche Oper Berlin debut. Since then she has sung at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Paris Opera, La Monnaie in Brussels, the Teatro Real de Madrid, and Semperoper Dresden.

This year, the soprano’s profile rose when she headlined the Arena di Verona’s “La Traviata” where she made an auspicious role debut. The production was televised through Rai. She also made her highly anticipated Wiener Staastoper debut in March and then opened the 2022-23 season in an unplanned production of “La Bohème.” That production was also broadcast and was sold out. Minasyan also had another surprise production in 2022 when she filled in for an ill colleague in a new production of “La Traviata” at the Semperoper Dresden. 

Hailed for her “beautiful soprano voice,” Minasyan next sings at the Theater Dortmund and the Royal Opera Muscat.

Marina Monzó

The Spanish soprano studied piano, flute, and singing at the Conservatory of Music “Joaquín Rodrigo. In 2016, she made her operatic debut at the Bilbao Opera in the title role in “La sonnambula” and continued her studies at the Accademia Rossini in Pesaro under the direction of Alberto Zedda, singing for several years at the Rossini Opera Festival. A year before however, she shared the stage with Juan Pons, Gregory Kunde, Carlos Álvarez, and Isabel Rey in a gala performance at the Teatro Real.

Throughout her young career, she has attended masterclasses with the likes of Mariella Devia, Renata Scotto, Daniela Dessì, Juan Diego Flórez, and Raúl Giménez.

Over the past years, she has specialized in Bellini, Donizetti, Mozart, Rossini, and Verdi and has performed at such theaters as Welsh National Opera, Teatro Colón in La Coruña, Teatro de la Zarzuela, Teatro Filarmonico in Verona, Teatro Real, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and Bayerische Staatsoper. She has also performed with major artists including Elina Garanča, Jonathan Tetelman, Angela Gheorghiu, Juan Diego Flórez, and Saioa Hernández.

The soprano has been praised by critics noting, “the soprano has a beautiful timbre and great phrasing that combines expressive singing with great acting.” At just 28, it seems Monzó is just getting started and upcoming engagements include performances at the Ópera de las Palmas and the Palau de les Arts in Valencia.

Carles Pachon

The Spanish baritone was trained at the Municipal Music School of his village and later joined the Polifònica de Puig-reig Choir.

Over the years Pachon has competed in numerous vocal competitions winging several including the Tenor Viñas Competition 2017, Alfredo Kraus International Singing Competition 2017, Francisco Araiza Competition in Mexico 2017, and Manuel Ausensi Prize at the Les Corts 2016 Competition in Barcelona, among others. He was also selected for the Accademia Rossiniana, Alberto Zedda in 2018.

Recently he was selected as a member of the Opernstudio Staatsoper Unter den Linden, in Berlin and has performed a range of repertoire from Puccini, Rossini, Verdi to Strauss, among others.

This year, Pachon’s status as a rising star rose when he took home the first prize at the Neue Stimmen Competition, a singing competition that is held every two years and saw over 1400 applicants from over 60 nations this year. Recently, he also returned to the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” garnering critical acclaim and is set to end his year at the Staatsoper Berlin in “La Bohème.”

Francesca Pia Vitale

Italian-born soprano, Vitale began her musical studies in piano and singing at a young age and in 2010 began studying at the Conservatory Domenico Cimarosa in Avellino. In 2018, she graduated from Opera Singing and shortly after won first Prize and Audience Prize at the Concorso Lirico Internazionale Ottavio Ziino, Prix La Sonnambula 27ème International Concours de Chant de Clermont-Ferrand, and the first Prize Premio A. Affinita Teatro San Carlo di Napoli.

During the 2020-21 season, she made debuts at the Teatro alla Scala debut, Clermont Auvergne Opera|Opera de Vichy, Teatro degli Arcimboldi Milano, and Arena di Verona. Her repertoire includes the music of Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti, and Verdi.

This year, the soprano took home the top prize at the Neue Stimmen Competition, making her a star to look out for and this upcoming year will bring the soprano many leading roles at the Teatro alla Scala in a production of “Li zite ‘ngalera” and at the Teatro Petruzzelli in “La Boheme.”

Nombulelo Yende

Nombulelo Yende may be following in the footsteps of her sister Pretty Yende but the two sisters are very different when it comes to repertoire and voice type. A graduate of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Opera School, Nombulelo Yende turned heads in 2018 when she took top honors at the 2018 International Competition of Belcanto Vincenzo Bellini in France.

But years before, the soprano conquered many competitions including the Tbilisi International Voice Competition (where she was a finalist), the 2017 Schock Foundation Prize for Singing (where she was the winner), the 2016 Heidelberg Scholarship Prize, and the 2015 Ruth Ormond Prize.

In 2019, she competed as a finalist at the renowned Neue Stimmen Competition and during the 2020-21 season she joined Oper Frankfurt’s Opera Studio, making her European debut singing the Guardian of the Temple’s Threshold / Falcon in “Die Frau ohne Schatten.” With the company, she has performed in numerous productions, and this season she is set to take on roles in “Hansel and Gretel” and most notably the role of Tatiana in “Eugene Onegin.”

This year has seen the soprano’s profile grow as she won the first prize in the category of female voices at the 11th International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition and was named one of the Opera Awards Foundation’s Bursary Recipients. Yende’s career is sure to continue to flourish in the coming years.


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