March 30, 2021
Spotlight on Tamara Wilson
There’s a very good reason why the early operas of Verdi aren’t done very often: there just aren’t enough outstanding singers around to sing them! That applies especially to sopranos. If you’re going to sing any of the leading-lady roles in early Verdi, you need absolutely everything: fabulously warm and beautiful sound over a huge range, terrific power, but also great finesse, stunning flexibility, passionate expression, a truly authoritative sense of style, and—last, not least—irresistible charisma onstage.
Fortunately, it looks like the early-Verdi heroines—actually, all the Verdi operas—will be in great shape for at least the next 20 years, now that Tamara Wilson’s star has risen internationally. The American soprano is really made for the most challenging roles in the Verdi canon. She debuted at Lyric in one of them in Lyric's 2018/19 Season, Leonora in Il trovatore, in which the Chicago Classical Review found her going “from strength to strength,” with her demanding last-act aria “magnificent…the vocal highlight of the night.”
Wilson was scheduled to return to the Lyric stage this season as Odabella in Attila, the twelfth Verdi heroine in her repertoire and among the most technically challenging roles for soprano in the entire Italian repertoire. That production was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but as of April 11, at lyricopera.org, you’ll be able to stream Attila: Highlights in Concert, with Wilson and other great Verdi singers, under the direction of Lyric Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola.
Arizona-born, Wilson grew up in Chicago. After being groomed for stardom at the Houston Grand Opera Studio, she came to prominence in 2016 as the recipient of the coveted Richard Tucker Award, given to a rising American opera singer on the “threshold of a major international career.” She’s also the former Grand Prize winner of one of Europe’s most prestigious competitions, the Francisco Viñas Competition in Barcelona. Audiences in many major houses have hailed Tamara’s voice and artistry, from Houston Grand Opera to the Met, and the Canadian Opera Company to La Scala in Milan, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, English National Opera in London, and the Zurich Opera House. Her elegant musicianship has made her a favorite of major conductors and orchestras around the world.
Wilson has a special interest in young singers and even hosted a Houston Grand Opera vocal competition. She speaks to them in various YouTube clips; one is her warm-up routine, which has had more than 56,000 views!
In everything Wilson sings, we hear someone who truly can do it all. Her voice floats with ethereal ease, and it also can sail in full flight through the largest opera house. She brings to her performances a special dedication, a brilliance, and an excitement that make her one of today’s most thrilling stars. It’s going to be a joy to hear her in music from Attila!
Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg, Kyle Flubacker