THE MOST FAMOUS AMERICAN OPERA SINGERS
From the time that the first opera was performed in the United States to the present day, there have been many talented American-born opera singers, who have made their mark on history and continue to do so.
In the early 20th century, Vaudeville-turned opera star, Rosa Ponselle, made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918, remarkably with no prior formal voice training. She was described by other renowned opera singers as being “the greatest singer of all” and having a “voice of ultimate perfection.” African American singer Marian Anderson, who triumphed over prejudice, is best remembered for her performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 and later went on to become the first black person to perform at the Met. Maria Callas, who made her debut in 1942, was called by Leornard Bernstein the “Bible of Opera” and known for her vocal range and ability to sing a number of different opera styles. More than thirty years after her death her music continues to be a best seller. Another great voice of the Metropolitan opera, Richard Tucker, an orthodox Jew who was also one of the best cantors who ever lived, made his debut in 1945 and was described as one of the greatest American tenors n the history of the Met.
Most famous in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Leontyne Price, another African American opera singer who crossed barriers, won numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and nineteen Grammy awards. Beverly Sills, called by Time Magazine, “America’s Queen of Opera” had a career which spanned four decades from the 1940’s to the 1980’s.
Present-day opera singers Renee Fleming and Lawrence Brownlee are each successful in their own right. Known as the “people’s diva”, Renee Fleming was rated as the number one female singer in 2010 by Salzburger Festspiele Magazine and has been the recipient of two Grammy’s along with many other awards. Performing at the world’s leading opera houses her extensive repertory spans 1978 to the present day. Ohio-born tenor, Lawrence Brownlee, was Seattle Opera’s Artist of the Year in 2008 and received the Marian Anderson and Richard Tucker awards. A regular performer at the Met and La Scala in Milan, he continues to add to his lengthy repertoire of performances.
Opera in America continues to grow in popularity as gifted and talented American opera singers have proven time and again that they can take this traditionally dominated European genre and make it all their own.