best opera singers in the world today – female persuasion

As promised, here are the female artists that a discriminating, opera-loving group of Twitterers suggested as the best women performing today. Now, as I mentioned when I posted the men’s list, I was seeking a list of opera greats who are not just living but are performing and can still “cut the mustard,” as Stephanie Brooke said.

So that’s why you don’t see opera great Jessye Norman on this list. Nor do you see promising up-and-comers such as Latonia Moore, Ailyn Pérez (whom I just saw in Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Romeo and Juliet and reviewed very favorably), and Amber Wagner.

Unable to find an already published list from which to draw, this USA Today article naming the best stars of the 1990’s was too old, I created my own, with a little help from my friends.

Anna Netrebko will sing Anna Bolena for the Met in 2011-12

Besides being recording favorites, some of the singers such as Cecelia Bartoli and Anne Sofie von Otter are frequently enjoyed in live recitals. For a wonderful write up of Anne Sofie von Otter’s New York recital, see this post at Opera Obsession. Others like Angela Gheorghiu might be has-beens next year if they keep pulling out of Met productions. (Was her nose bent out of shape because images of Anna Netrebko as Anna Bolena appeared to dominate the marketing collateral for the Met’s 2011-12 season?)

So, what do you think? Have I included your favorite(s) in the list below? If not, please feel free to include in the comments.

– Cecilia Bartoli, Italian mezzo-soprano

Olga Borodina

– Olga Borodina, Russian mezzo soprano

– Sarah Connolly, British mezzo soprano

Fiorenza Cedolins, Italian soprano

– Diane Damrau, German lyric coloratura soprano

Annette Dasch

– Annette Dasch, German soprano

– Natalie Dessay, French coloratura soprano

Mariella Devia, Italian soprano

Joyce DiDonato, American mezzo soprano

Renée Fleming, American soprano

– Angela Gheorghiu, Romanian soprano

Anja Harteros

Anja Harteros, German soprano

– Magdalena Kožená, Czech mezzo-soprano

– Aleksandra Kurzak, Polish coloratura soprano

– Waltraud Meier, German dramatic soprano

Anna Netrebko, Russian soprano

Patricia Racette

– Patricia Racette, American soprano

Sondra Radvanovsky, American soprano

– Dorothea Röschmann, German soprano

– Rinat Shaham, Israeli mezzo soprano

Nina Stemme

– Nina Stemme, Swedish soprano

Anne Sofie von Otter, Swedish mezzo-soprano

Don’t forget to check out the male singers identified as the best in the world today.

And thanks again to the lively informed Twitter “opera” community for their recommendations!


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Best of Operatoonity, Performers, Poll

68 Responses to best opera singers in the world today – female persuasion

  1. I really respect Isabel Barakdarien both for her voice, her choice of music and her strong real life character.

  2. I did not see Kallen Esperian on your list. She began singing as an American Mezzo-Soprano and turned herself into a dramatic Coloratura.
    Jeff Jacob

  3. Rainer Schandert

    Were the Russian sopranos Olga Peretyatko and Aida Garifullina, as well as the Swedish sopranos Camilla Tilling and Miah Persson ever considered?

  4. marta

    I love sumi jo, she is the only singer listening to whom i can get goose bumps all over my arms and legs. i think she is absolutely great.

  5. Olli

    Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski deserves a place on this list.

  6. Seamus O'Malley

    Laura Elizabeth Sheerin from Ireland, is recognised as an up and coming Maria Calais of the 21st Century

  7. Although Mirusia would be classified as classical/crossover rather than Opera. So she might not be considered worthy of a guernsey on this thread.

  8. Rose

    Hey what about Sumi Jo-lets forget about Renee Fleming very so so

  9. Frank

    I can listen (and look!) at Sissel Kykjebo all day…What a great voice!

  10. Nick

    Give me Jackie Evancho or give me nothing. She is an American child with an American talent who’s lived/living the American dream

    • Gale

      I heard Jackie Evancho on AGT this past season. She has no power. Her singing does not come from a natural place. She sounded as though she has already ruined her voice, sorry to say.

  11. trynna

    I would also add Mirusia Lowerse. Shes fantastic

    • So would I. I found Mirusia singing Ave Maria and La Virgine Degli Angeli in Maastricht with Andre’ Rieu on Youtube and fell in love with the later song. A song that I have never heard before. I think Mirusia is underrated. It was a very good performance.

  12. Daniel

    I suggest adding Italian contralto Sara Mingardo, whose voice is still superb at 50.

  13. Alexandra

    I can’t say I know enough about opera yet to say if someone is among the best, but I really like Susan Graham.

  14. Claire Toon

    What about Romanian singer Irina Lordachescu. She has a fabulous voice and could give anyone a run for their money

  15. JohnnieG

    No Granca? She should definitely be there. And no Canadians? What about Pieczonka and Radvanovsky?

    • Gale

      At the time that I put the list together, Radvanovsky was almost there. Having seen her in Tosca at the Met, when I revise this list in 2014, I will definitely add her to the list. Thanks for the feedback.

  16. I feel Nicole Cabell is among the best.

  17. Nikki Tripps

    Elina Garanča should also be there

  18. Sav

    Sumi Jo is not on the list?? shame.

  19. How is Tarja Turunen not on the list? Finnish soprano.

  20. Robert

    I have recently heard Seija Knight. Effortless, awesome singing which completely knocked me sideways. She has that rare quality of being able to hit high notes without increasing or decreasing her volume. I know it sounds over-the-top but the only other time I felt as emotional was the first time I heard Kathleen Ferrier.

  21. Tina

    Leslie Garrett and Sarah Brightman needs to be there!

  22. Penny

    Why did you take down my comment of praise about Liudmyla Monastryka? Don’t like opinions other than yours???????

    • Gale

      Penny, I didn’t take down your comment. I just hadn’t yet approved it–I have comment moderation. I have no objection to people posting their opinions, even if they differ from mine. I do, however, object to demanding people who rudely assume the worst of others and then use seven question marks to conclude their unfounded assumption.

  23. Penny

    Well…………..there’s a new kid on the block now, called Liudmyla Monastryka, (Ukranian) who is singing Aida at the Met this season and I reckon she is going to knock the socks off most of the sopranos singing today. Saw her singing Lady Macbeth (Royal Opera House – London)

  24. iz

    what do you think about Khibla Gerzmava?

  25. Drake Simon

    In my opinion, providing such a list does injustice to the best on the list, by implying that the distance in value among them is small. Has anybody seen the three recent operas & DVDs with Gheorghiu: Tosca 2011 ROH, Faust, 2011 ROH, and Adriana Lecouvreur 2010 ROH as well as Gheorghiu’s 2011 arias album “Hommage to Maria Callas”? In my opinion she clearly leads the pack of contemporary sopranos. Most sopranos of each generation will be forgotten within ten years of their retirement. I think Gheorghiu – who is routinely compared to Callas even by her enemies and critics – is the one most likely to join the pantheon of the best sopranos of all times (with Callas, Sutherland, Caballe, Price). She is criticized because of her ego and of her work ethic, but twenty years after her retirement these will become irrelevant and what will be remembered is her unique voice and her natural talent.

  26. Bob T

    No disagreement with anyone on this list, nicely done. I thought that Angela Meade’s performance at the Met in Ernani made her someone that I very much want to see again. Terrific duets with Marcelo Giordani and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

  27. Kevin D

    Ah, Elina Garanca – the lady who makes me cry and go weak at the knees!
    Renee Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, Diane Damrau, Magadalena Kozena.

  28. Linda

    Another beautiful voice is Kathleen Battle.

  29. veronica villarroel

  30. Neil

    Elina Garanca, surely??

  31. Brian

    Sonya Yoncheva needs to be on this list. She is incredible. Winner of the 2010 Operalia.

    • ian pickup

      What a fantastic voice Sonya Yoncheva has and when she sang Depuis Le Jour at the ROH with the other Operalia winners it was just so enchanting I think she has a great future ahead.

      • Gale

        I usually catch the Operalia competitions on YouTube. I have interviewed two previous Operalia winners for this blog: David Lomeli and Rene Barbera. I appreciate your letting me know about Sonya and will look her up. Cheers!

  32. Doru

    Angela Gheorghiu is the best. No doubt!

  33. Nathaniel

    Cecilia Bartoli is my favorite! What a superstar.

    Also, I agree with the commenter who said that Sumi Jo should be on this list!

  34. ira

    Edith Gruberova

  35. Amy

    Some nice names on the list, which I will never get to hear live in Dallas, as we are doomed, apparently, to a strict diet of eastern European peasants. Their voices are so heavy and slow the performances drag on for hours, they can’t act, they swallow their sound, and thank goodness for title projections: even if you speak the language or know the lyrics, you’d never catch one of these vocal cows shaping any. Oh, but, they’re LOUD, and, apparently, that’s all that matters these days, at least in the provinces. Or maybe that’s all we can afford, after shelling out millions for Jerry’s Kids.

  36. lee-Ann

    Where is charlotte church ??

  37. Silvita

    Danielle de Niese is a formidable soprano- it will be nice to include her!

  38. Jetta101

    I would also recommend French contralto Nathalie Stutzmann.

  39. Philippe Charpentier

    Why not include the extraordinary Korean soprano Sumi Jo?

  40. Kevin

    All very good and supportive comments. And John, its funny because I was about to say the same about Sarah, whom I have not heard, but Heather definitely needs to be on the list. Check her reviews and voice. Her distinct beauty shines on the outside, flourishes on the inside and then comes out again in her music. She is amazing. She is what this world needs more of.

  41. Chuck

    What about Susan Graham?!

  42. Roger


    I was at three performances of the same Magic Flute. Isabel was truly a shining star. She brought a new dimension to Pamina. Her voice has gotten so rich in the middle and impeccably colorful. Who said Pamina should only be a light soprano?
    While you might have your own taste, but I must disagree with you. She absolutely has the voice to tackle the Mozartean roles. The three performances my partner and I attended were a delight both visually and vocally. Bayrakdarian is a national treasure and we think she is a revelation in her new, slightly darker but much richer voice.

  43. asperia

    F.e. I like Waltraut Meier, Sondra Radvanovsky, Dorothea Roschmann, Veselina Kasarova, Anna Netrebko.

  44. Lucy

    You’ve left out soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. Spectacular voice, wonderful stage presence and a beautiful woman.

    • John

      I’m going to respectfully disagree. I would love for Isabel to be one of the world’s great sopranos but on current form she isn’t. Her voice has darkened and become heavier which isn’t a bad thing but it isn’t the right voice for the roles she’s been singing. Watching her and Michael Schade as Pamina and Tamino was very much mutton dressed as lamb! I hope she finds a repertoire that suits her voice as it is now and soon for I really enjoyed some of her early career roles, especially Cleopatra where she was superb in the rotten acoustics of the, then, Hummingbird Centre. No question about her beauty or stage presence though!

      I really hope her upcoming Euridice proves me wrong though!

  45. Thanks for the clarification. Someone said ‘Connolloy’–must have meant Sarah! Grazie!

  46. John

    Dunno about Heather Connolly because I’ve never heard her but Sarah Connolly needs to be on the list.

    • Kevin

      All very good and supportive comments. And John, its funny because I was about to say the same about Sarah Connolly, whom I have not heard, but Heather Connolly definitely needs to be on the list. Check her reviews and voice. Her distinct beauty shines on the outside, flourishes on the inside and then comes out again in her music. She is amazing. She is what this world needs more of.