Best of 2022: OperaWire’s Top 11 Singers of 2022

By Francisco Salazar

After a bumpy 2021, which still had numerous COVID cancelations, 2022 saw opera companies almost return to normalcy. There were setbacks like cyberattacks, a war that has destroyed a country, and companies losing funds from government agencies.

But in all, it also showed how opera companies could unite through benefit concerts and through sheer artistry. And after releasing our favorite performances of 2022 and showcasing our rising stars of the year, it’s time for OperaWire’s annual tradition of naming our top 11 singers of the year.

So without further ado here are our standouts of 2022 in alphabetical order.

Benjamin Bernheim

For the past few years, tenor Benjamin Bernheim has slowly risen to stardom, showcasing his talents at every major opera house around the world.  And this year the tenor arrived on one of the biggest stages, the Metropolitan Opera. Following a postponement due to COVID-19, Bernheim made his Met debut in “Rigoletto” and he was an instant hit. Critics and audiences alike took notice, dishing out ovations and rave reviews. Regarding his Duke of Mantua, OperaWire wrote, “he was definitely worth the wait. From his opening ‘Questa o quella,’ he exuded vocal confidence, every note coming through crystal clear, every phrase elegantly thrown off, emphasizing the carefree nature of the Duke.”

That debut was also highlighted by the release of his award-winning album “Boulevard des Italiens,” which featured French arias by Italian composers. Additionally, he was nominated for the Opera Awards.

The year also saw Bernheim make his role debut as Edgardo in “Lucia di Lammermoor,” which he first performed at the Wiener Staatsoper (it was also broadcast). He also performed at the Opernhaus Zürich and at the Salzburg Festival in an acclaimed concert performance. For his first Edgardos, critics noted, “his bright tenor, full of enamel and the right amount of metal, was put at the service of a passionate, enthusiastic, reckless Edgardo.”

The tenor also made his role debut as “Werther” at the Opéra national de Bordeaux and also performed his signature role of Des Grieux in “Manon” at the Staatsoper Hamburg and Paris Opera. The tenor also finally brought his “Faust” to the Paris Opera and he also performed numerous recitals with Carrie-Ann Matheson.

In 2023, audiences already have much to look forward to as Bernheim will make his role debut as Roméo in “Roméo et Juliette;” he is scheduled to bring the role to Paris and the Met.

J’Nai Bridges

Hailed as the “Beyonce of opera,” Bridges has truly become opera royalty as one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her generation and in 2022 she continued to solidify her status on an international level.

The year began with Bridges winning a Grammy for her recording of “Ahknaten” from the Metropolitan Opera; that same recording was later nominated for the BBC Music Magazine awards. That was followed by the release of a new album, “Lord, How Come Me Here?” alongside Will Liverman and Paul Sanchez, which was also nominated for the 2023 Grammy Award. She was also nominated for her recording of “They Still Want to Kill us.”

Throughout the year Bridges appeared at the Kennedy Center Honors and paid tribute to Diane von Furstenberg when she receive the “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Women of Leadership Award.” The mezzo also received the Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award from the LA Opera which celebrates, supports, and propels the artistry of rising opera singers in the industry.

Bridges also demonstrated her tenacity for new music and her love of her culture and advocacy. She premiered “A Knee on the Neck” composed by Adolphus Hailstork and was featured as a key artist in the Black Music Month’s Tiny Desk series from NPR. She was also featured in the documentary, “Marian Anderson: The Whole World in her Hands” and celebrated the Washington National Opera’s 50th anniversary with the world premiere of “Written in Stone.”

And then there was “Carmen.” The mezzo brought her interpretation around the world starting with Palm Beach Opera where she sang her first staged opera after two years. Then came her Arena di Verona debut in the role followed by a production at the Dutch National Opera. She concluded her Carmen runs at the Canadian Opera Company, where she made her company debut and received raves with critics proclaiming, “Bridges, in particular, had a captivating stage presence as she fluttered effortlessly from scene to scene.”

Bridges also gave concerts in LA, Houston, Princeton, Caramoor, and New York, to name a few.

Eleonora Buratto

When Elenora Buratto made her debut as “Anna Bolena” this year, critics called her “the greatest Italian soprano of her generation” and “that she represents that great Italian tradition.” And indeed 2022 proved to be quite an exciting year for the soprano.

She took home the Premio Abbiatti award, one of the most important Italian critic’s prizes, and was named ambassador for the Renata Tebaldi 100 celebration for which she appeared in many concert performances and events celebrating the legendary singer. She was also named one of the most influential people on the Fortune Italian magazine and teamed up with the  Debra Südtirol – Alto Adige for a gala concert in helping children suffering from epidermolysis bullosa.

But it was on stage that Buratto proved why critics, audiences, and the most important opera houses are raving.

She started the year with a major success in her role debut as Cio-Cio San in “Madama Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera. She sang a total of 11 performances during the run and followed it up with another series of Mimìs, one of her signature roles, also at the Met.

That was followed up by a return to the Wiener Staatsoper as Alice Ford in “Falstaff.” In the summer, Buratto obtained praise for her Desdemona in Rossini’s “Otello.” Critics noted, “Soprano Eleonora Buratto presented an intense and emotional portrait of Desdemona,  in which her inner torment and strength were expertly captured.”

But it was her “Anna Bolena” that generated the most buzz and international attention. Considered one of the most demanding roles in the soprano repertoire, Buratto’s role debut at the Palau de lest Arts was among the most talked about. It was also the start of a Donizetti trilogy that the soprano will take on at the Valencia house in the coming seasons.

The year ended with her role debut as Elisabetta in “Don Carlo” at the Met as well as at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Buratto also recorded Rossini’s “Messa di Gloria” with Antonio Pappano. Unsurprisingly, she has received raves for this interpretation.

Allan Clayton

2022 was the year Allan Clayton “claimed his place among the Met Opera’s stars” as the New York Times declared. He made his house debut in the company premiere of Brett Dean’s “Hamlet” to widespread acclaim. It is a role that the tenor has performed since the world premiere in 2017 and his interpretation has deepened in the past five years. OperaWire called the tenor “a revelation” in his debut. His interpretation was broadcast on HD as part of the Met’s live in HD series.

A few months later the tenor returned for “Peter Grimes,” equally impressing and once again delivering on his Met debut promise. As noted, he was “a surefire singing actor.”He also made an acclaimed turn as Peter Grimes at the Royal Opera where he was again lauded for “his psychological heft” and “vocal imagination.”

Outside of his operatic commitments, the tenor made appearances at the BBC Proms and the Barbican and toured Schubert’s “Winterreise” in Australia.

For his revelatory work, Clayton was nominated for the Opera Award for Best Male Singer of the Year. There is no doubt that after conquering two of the great opera houses in the world, Clayton is just getting started.

Anthony Roth Costanzo

Anthony Roth Costanzo can be described in many ways as a pioneer, businessman, great singer, and one of the most influential people in opera. This year, the Countertenor began the year by releasing his album “Only an Octave Apart” alongside Justin Vivian Bond. He went on to tour with the album around New York and played it for a month in London to rave reviews and sold-out runs. It was also featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk series and was viewed 64,000 times.

Costanzo also took home the Grammy for his recording of “Ahknaten” from the Metropolitan Opera and reprised his acclaimed turn with the company to sold-out performances. That role caught the attention of Oxford University and the institution made the singer a visiting fellow at its Centre for the Humanities.

Other performances included “Rodelinda” at the Met, Amadigi in “Amadigi di Gaula” with Boston Baroque and Didymus in “Theodora” at Trinity Wall Street and Carmoor. He was also the artist in Residence with the New York Philharmonic and recorded the title role of the world premiere recording of John Corigliano’s “The Lord of Cries.” He also performed in BBC Proms and with Death of Classical.

Costanzo was also receive an Honorary Doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music and was awarded the New-York Historical Society’s “History Makers Award.”

In the mainstream, he appeared on Billboard’s Queer list for Pride month and for being a music Game-Changer. He also appeared on an M & M’s commercial that was broadcast in Times Square and was also featured on Jeopardy.

Freddie De Tommaso

At 29, Freddie De Tommaso is a major star of the opera world.

It all started at the end of 2021 when the British tenor saved a performance at the Royal Opera House. The tenor was in the opera house and quickly took over in the Second Act of “Tosca” for an ailing colleague. He instantly broke two significant records as he became the first British tenor to sing the role of Cavaradossi in “Tosca” at Covent Garden in almost 60 years, and the youngest tenor to ever take on the role at the Royal Opera House.

That set in motion the whirlwind that became 2022 where that debut suddenly thrust him into major spotlight. The year began with a revival of “Macbeth” at the Wiener Staatsoper followed by a nomination by the BBC Music Magazine for his debut album “Passione;” he subsequently won the award for Newcomer of the year.

He then made his Teatro alla Scala debut in a production of “Adriana Lecouvreur” and made an unexpected debut at the Berlin State Opera. He also performed a new production of “Madama Butterfly” at the Semperoper Dresden and a benefit concert for Ukraine at the Royal Opera House.

Then he returned to the Royal Opera House for “Madama Butterfly” “Tosca,” and “La Bohème’ and also made his Arena di Verona debut in “La Traviata.” He appeared at the Verbier Festival and at the the Southbank Show Sky Arts Awards as well as in concerts with Sonya Yoncheva and Lise Davidsen and at the BBC Proms Festival.

In June, De Tommaso released his album “Il Tenore” which instantly became a hit. The album topped the Classical Artist Chart and the Classical Specialist Chart, marking the second time that the tenor accomplished said feat.

De Tommaso’s rendition of “Nessun Dorma” had close to 1 million streams in just seven weeks and even outperformed Luciano Pavarotti’s reference recording of the iconic aria for Decca. De Tommaso was also featured as the soloist of the official “God Save the King” anthem.

He closes out the year at the Teatro La Fenice’s famed New Year’s concert which will be seen on worldwide television.

Amartuvshin Enkhbat

Amartuvshin Enkhbat is the Verdi baritone of his generation. Currently one of the most sought-after singers at the great houses of the world, the Mongolian baritone continues to conquer every Verdi role he is assigned with his lush tone. This year he began at the Royal Opera House for a revival of “Nabucco,” followed by his role debut as Miller in “Luisa Miller” at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

Then there was “Rigoletto.” The role has become a signature for the baritone as he has now sung it over 60 times. First, he sang it in Genoa and at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège. From there he took it to La Scala in a modernist production that was inspired by “Parasite.”

And then, two years after his La Scala debut, he returned to the iconic and historic venue to deliver this most iconic of Verdi roles. He was praised with many noting, “his voice is extremely well-suited to Verdi, strong and powerful, elegant in the phrasing, sweet in the mezza voce.” That production went on to be broadcast through

There was also a debut at the Staatsoper Hamburg in “Aida” and returns to the Arena di Verona for “Nabucco” and “Aida.” He also performed the Teatro Massimo di Palermo in “Tosca.”

The baritone also opened a new production of “La Forza del Destino” in Parma where he has become a revered guest for the Verdi Festival. For his performance as Don Carlo di Vargas OperaWire noted, “He is a true Verdi baritone with a booming tone, contrasted with silky legato phrasing.”

He also headlined a new production of “Il Trovatore” in Florence and a revival of “La Traviata” in Vienna.

The baritone also had two recordings released, first “La Forza del Destino” from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and then, “Gustavo III,” from the Verdi Festival.

And after appearing at the greatest theaters around the world, Enkhbat is set to debut with at the Metropolitan Opera in “La Traviata.”

Clay Hilley

Over the past two years, Clay Hilley has announced himself as the Wagnerian tenor.  After 2020 which saw many of his high-profile engagements canceled, 2021 was the start of many major debuts. However, it was in 2022 that Hilley made headlines.

It all started in the summer when he made his Bayreuth debut, replacing an ailing colleague. The debut happened on less than 24 hours’ notice and Hilley was flown from his vacation in Italy. The tenor performed the role of Siegfried for the premiere of Valentin Schwarz’s new production of “Götterdämmerung” under the baton of Cornelius Meister, receiving great reviews for the performance; The New York Times called him “impressive.”

And while that moment may have been the most headline-driven performance of his year, Hilley made many other impressive debuts at major opera houses, including the Tiroler Festspiele Erl as Siegmund in a new production of “Die Walküre.” At the Deutsche Oper Berlin he sang his first staged production of “Tristan und Isolde” and performed “Die Frau ohne Schatten” with Kirill Petrenko on the podium of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Next up the tenor continues his international debuts at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden reprising Der Kaiser in a new production of “Die Frau ohne Schatten.” He will also make his debut at the Royal Opera House in a production of “Wozzeck.”

Aleksandra Kurzak

Soprano Aleksandra Kurzak continues to surprise on stage with her powerful interpretations.

She is a singer on her own level that immerses herself into a character, making one forget the singer persona and completely give in to the character who has taken over. That was evident this year in her unforgettable Violetta at the Bayerische Staatsoper, followed by her highly anticipated role debut of “Tosca” at the Metropolitan Opera. OperaWire raved noting, “Kurzak delivered a fantastic turn as the starry diva.” She would deepen her interpretation in the fall, singing a second run at the same theater, with many noting that it was a major development from those first shows.

Kurzak also made her debut in Puerto Rico singing the role of Mimì in “La Bohème” and also sang that same Puccini opera at the Met, but as Musetta; it was the first time Kurzak sang Musetta in 16 years.

The Polish diva also made history at the Royal Opera House by becoming one of the first singers to perform both “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci” on the same evening. Critics noted, “Aleksandra Kurzak has her work cut out as both Santuzza and Nedda, but acquitted herself impressively.”

She also returned to the Arena di Verona for “La Traviata” and performed in concert in Poland and France.

Kurzak also released Arvo Part’s “Stabat Mater,” which toured to sold-out audiences. She also published a new cookbook “Dobrissimo,” which she has toured throughout the world.

Luca Salsi

The Italian baritone is one of the great Verdi exponents of his generation and he began his year receiving the prestigious Premio Piero Capuccilli and singing a revival production of “Macbeth” at the Wiener Staatsoper to great acclaim.

He followed that up with a revival production of “Rigoletto” at the Royal Opera House and later led a new production of “Una Ballo in Maschera” at the Teatro alla Scala, where he opened the 2021-22 season. He returned to the Bayerische Staatsoper and performed alongside Riccardo Muti in concert performances of “Un Ballo in Maschera.”

In the summer he was one of the headliners of the Teatro Real’s “Nabucco” production and returned to the Arena di Verona for productions of “Nabucco” and “La Traviata.” He also revived a production of “Aida” at the Salzburg Festival and toured in Japan with soprano Lisette Oropesa.

And in the fall, after cementing himself as a great baritone around the world, New York audiences finally got something of a Salsi festival at the Metropolitan Opera. He started off his season unexpectedly in “Tosca,” receiving raves, with OperaWire calling his performances “unforgettable.” He continued it with his unforgettable turn as Giorgio Germont in “La Traviata,” which was broadcast live in HD. And he will end the year with “Rigoletto.” He begins 2023 by ending his Met festival with “Aida” before returning to the Wiener Staatsoper for a star-studded “Aida.”

Outside of his performances, Salsi released a recording of “Cavalleria Rusticana” with Muti and participated in season presentations for the Teatro alla Scala and Arena di Verona. He was also one of the many voices that helped raise awareness when it came to saving Verdi’s house Villa saint’agata.

Corinne Winters

American soprano Corinne Winters has made her career on her own terms by redefining the word diva through her artistry and bold repertoire choices.

That began this year when she returned to the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and made history singing the company premiere of “Kát’a Kabanová” with the company. It became a role that defined her entire year, subsequently conquering the Salzburg Festival audience and garnering major ovations. Critics raved stating, ” Winters has a child’s volatile presence, and her live-wire voice conveys Kat’a’s wonder and vulnerability.” They also noted, “Vocally, Winters sails through Janáček’s lines with aplomb, enjoying ample elasticity in range, and the stamina required for the testing direction.” Her interpretation was immortalized as it was recorded and broadcast worldwide.

She returned to the role for production at the Janácek Brno International Festival and Grand Théâtre de Genève and also sang Janáček’s “Jenufa” in Genève, where she again stunned audiences and critics.

The soprano’s repertoire also expanded this season as she sang Giorgetta in “Il Tabarro” and the title role in “Suor Angelica” in Puccini’s “Il Trittico.”

Her year concluded with another tour de force as she opened the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. For her third appearance with the company, she made her role debut as Blanche de la Force in a new Emma Dante production of “Dialogues des Carmélites.” That production was also broadcast worldwide, giving audiences another chance to witness Winters’ artistry.


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