Interview: Nadine Sierra In Full Bloom

Soprano On Her Burgeoning Careering, Opening the Festival Napa Valley, & Her Favorite Roles

By David Salazar

Soprano Nadine Sierra is having a 2018 to remember.

The Florida-born artist, who turned 30 this past May, recently announced her first-ever solo album, is performing at the top theaters on the planet, has been garnering a plethora of accolades, and is set to perform in the opening night gala of the Festival Napa Valley, a leading performing arts organization that has transformed Napa into a cultural destination, showcasing free concerts to a host of world premieres, debuts and exclusive engagements through its summer event.

This year, the festival will celebrate its 13th season which will be dedicated to the first responders who saved lives, homes and properties in the recent Wine Country wildfires and for its opening night concert, the company will showcase Sierra alongside tenor Bryan Hymel.

“I first became involved with the festival when it was still called Festival del Sole a few years ago,” Sierra told OperaWire regarding her involvement in this year’s opening night performance, scheduled for July 20, 2018. “I fell in love with the festival because it celebrates and supports all existing art forms in combination with appreciative audiences and incredibly generous sponsors. This is what the classical arts need and the Festival Napa Valley gives it just that.”

Succeeding For Others

The soprano is currently in the midst of performing the role of Norina in “Don Pasquale” at the Opéra National de Paris, a role for which she has garnered tremendous reviews.

“She has a beautiful voice, perfectly managed in its authoritative high notes,” stated ResMusica in its review.

“Her agile voice travels with an apparent ease, especially in fine and well-projected high notes,” added Olyrix’s review.

Sierra is undeniably enjoying herself, as she noted that she identifies with Norina quite well.

“She’s quite a sassy individual and definitely knows what she wants,” the  2017 Richard Tucker Award winner noted. “But more than that, she’s not afraid to stick up for what she believes in from the love she shares with Ernesto.”

Sierra noted that this was the key to her interpretation of Norina. While some might see her as self-interested in some respects, the American soprano noted that she connects with the Donizetti heroine’s selfless nature.

“From my side, I believe that is what I share very much with Norina; I’ve always known what I wanted in life, but don’t necessarily try to get it for myself alone,” she noted. “I’ve always wanted to share those treasures I’ve received in life with others; that’s what makes those achievements so special in the end.”

That said, she doesn’t see Norina as any sort of angel, or even try to overlook her major shortcomings.

“I do believe Norina takes it too far when she physically hurts Don Pasquale by giving him a slap across the face during a small fight in the last act,” she explained. “However, she does understand what she did was wrong and that her passion got the best of her. I like that when Norina does push her aggression too far, she’s the first one to admit it to herself and show remorse. That’s my kind of character!”

Carrying A Torch

After “Don Pasquale” and the gala concert at the Festival Napa, Sierra heads to Ravinia and Tanglewood for a series of concerts before appearing in the Richard Tucker gala in late October alongside other recent winners such as Christine Goerke, Angela Meade, Stephanie Blythe, and Michael Fabiano, and other international stars that include Anna Netrebko, Javier Camarena, and Yusif Eyvazov.

Sierra, of course, took home the award in 2017 and was the centerpiece of her own gala back in December of that same year.

“The Richard Tucker Foundation had always supported me from when I was a much younger singer, so I felt like I was being given a very generous gift from a family member rather than a prestigious foundation,” she noted.

The Richard Tucker Award was just the latest of a series of major accolades for the soprano. She had already become the youngest person to win the Marilyn Horne Foundation Award and was also the youngest winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions at age 21. Add the first prize at the George London Competition in 2010, the first prize at the Gerda Lissner Foundation International Competition, and the top prize at the Loren L. Zachary Society Vocal Competition, and you start to wonder just how much more there is for Sierra to win at this level.

And yet, just a few months back, she was announced as the 2018 recipient of the Beverly Sills Award, which is given to extraordinarily gifted singers between the ages of 25 and 40 who have already appeared in featured solo roles at the Met.

“It felt more like I was being passed the ‘opera torch,’ so to speak,” Sierra noted regarding her Beverly Sills Award. “A torch which represents the continuation of this special artform, what that means to so many people, and having the courage to share it with somebody completely new.

“Receiving both the Beverly Sills Award and Richard Tucker Award was a total surprise and an incredible honor. But more than just feeling honored, I feel incredibly humbled by these beautiful gifts commemorating the careers of these two great artists, because they believed in something that I stand up for today: the spreading and sharing of opera to all people around the world no matter what age, race, background or education. Awards are wonderful, but the meanings behind them should be what is treasured the most.”

Retaining Childhood Illusions

Among the upcoming slate of performances Sierra will take in the 2018-19 season is the role of Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” which has become a signature role for the soprano. She made her Met debut in the role back in 2015 and her run of performances in 2019 will be her first at the Met since her debut. Since that auspicious debut, she has appeared in the role in a handful of productions at La Scala, Paris, and the Chorégies d’Orange. She also famously recorded the role with the late baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in his final recording before passing away in late 2017.

“I learned Gilda when I was quite young, so my association with her always brings me back to my childhood; how I was at her age and how much we shared in common,” she noted of her affinity for the role. “I too was innocent, ignorant of most things in life, and definitely dreamed about being with the perfect partner someday.”

And while her outlook has matured with experience and a still-blossoming career, Sierra noted that she still holds on to some of those early experiences with the role.

“As a woman now officially in her 30’s, my outlook on this topic has changed significantly, but I can’t deny that I still have some of those same fantasies every so often,” she explained. “So today, I can still relate to Gilda’s dreams and hopes about her own existence because I still hold on to some of the same ones in the present moment.

“I don’t believe that the child in us ever vanishes with age, but that we’re able to suppress that child within all of us a bit better with experience. However, that child does come out sometimes and it can be a beautiful experience. My inner child definitely comes out each time I play Gilda on stage and it’s always a joy to have the freedom to do that through a character like her.”



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