Brenda Rae
Soprano

“Brenda Rae turns Zerbinetta’s show-stopping second-act aria into the evening’s highlight, with consummate musicality and killer technique.”(Shirley Apthorp. Financial Times, June 2015)

Contacts

Ian Stones +44 (0)20 3725 9104
Georgina Wheatley +44 (0)20 3725 9185

Biography

American soprano Brenda Rae’s outstanding qualities in the lyric coloratura repertoire have been acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Now a regular guest at the Bayerische Staatsoper, her distinguished roles include Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Aminta (Die schweigsame Frau), and Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte) on tour to Japan. Further debuts include Lucia di Lammermoor at the Wiener Staatsoper, Zerbinetta in both Hamburg and Berlin, Anne Trulove (The Rake’s Progress) at Opéra national de Paris and, in new repertoire for English National Opera, Berg’s Lulu

American soprano Brenda Rae’s outstanding qualities in the lyric coloratura repertoire have been acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Now a regular guest at the Bayerische Staatsoper, her distinguished roles include Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Aminta (Die schweigsame Frau), and Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte) on tour to Japan. Further debuts include Lucia di Lammermoor at the Wiener Staatsoper, Zerbinetta in both Hamburg and Berlin, Anne Trulove (The Rake’s Progress) at Opéra national de Paris and, in new repertoire for English National Opera, Berg’s Lulu

This season includes her debut in concert at Teatro alla Scala, Amina (La sonnambula) and Gilda (Rigoletto) at Oper Frankfurt, and Cunegonde (Candide) for Santa Fe Opera, where she has had a long-standing relationship over several seasons. 

Brenda Rae appears as Armida in Handel’s Rinaldo on Opus Arte DVD from the Glyndebourne Festival, and sings Zerbinetta on the Oehms label CD release, recorded live from Oper Frankfurt. Future projects include debuts with the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opernhaus Zürich.

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Contacts

Ian Stones +44 (0)20 3725 9104
Georgina Wheatley +44 (0)20 3725 9185

Reviews

“At the head of the cast is soprano Brenda Rae. She displayed fine musical sensitivities, fluent technique and dramatic flair in her depiction of the [Lucia]…She held the audience rapt in the palm of her bloody hand.” (Santa Fe New Mexican, July 2017)

“her mad scene makes this production…she both acts and sings this exceptionally difficult aria with a theatrical sense of insanity quite stunning in its depth of expression.” (Albuquerque Journal, July 2017)

“Soprano Brenda Rae, a discover for many, became a constant source of vocal allure with the kind of dramatic instincts that turn a flashy cadenza into an intense character study.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2017)

“At the head of the cast is soprano Brenda Rae. She displayed fine musical sensitivities, fluent technique and dramatic flair in her depiction of the [Lucia]…She held the audience rapt in the palm of her bloody hand.” (Santa Fe New Mexican, July 2017)

“her mad scene makes this production…she both acts and sings this exceptionally difficult aria with a theatrical sense of insanity quite stunning in its depth of expression.” (Albuquerque Journal, July 2017)

“Soprano Brenda Rae, a discover for many, became a constant source of vocal allure with the kind of dramatic instincts that turn a flashy cadenza into an intense character study.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2017)

“A stellar performance by soprano Brenda Rae, in both her company and role debut as Amenaide, affirms her consummate mastery of Rossini’s elaborate ornamentations and her engaging acting skills, as she constantly astonishes with pure mellifluous voice, flawless executive of extended passages of coloratura, and profound emotional commitment to the compelling role of an honourable woman who would sooner give up her own life than betray her true love.” (DC Metro Theater Arts, February 2017)

“Brenda Rae’s Lulu, tirelessly busy and vocally spot-on, is the enigmatic centre of it all, very much the blank slate on which men can project their own fantasies, almost oblivious to her own allure.” (Andrew Clements, Guardian, November 2016)

“Brenda Rae in the title role is less of a rapacious flirt than conventionally played, but this is also her strength, enabling us to see the character as a flesh-and-blood woman; her singing of the part is a tour de force.” (Evening Standard, November 2016)

“English National Opera has assembled a superb cast, led by soprano Brenda Rae, making her ENO and role debut as the charismatic Lulu. Athletic and seductive, innocent and predatory, Rae captures the facets of the woman who exploits and is exploited by the men in her life.” (Express, November 2016)

“Excellent Brenda Rae makes a suitably capricious femme fatale” (Express, November 2016)

“Brenda Rae makes a sensational house debut in the title role, one of the most challenging in the repertoire. The American soprano husbands her resources early on, mindful of the extremes that lie ahead; yet she never undersings and her characterisation is dynamite. Fearless, probing and compelling, radiant of voice and beauty, she is the complete Lulu.” (What’s On Stage, November 2016)

“I doubt that Brenda Rae’s Aminta could be bettered in any theatre today. Just as sure of note and line as the orchestra and with greater, contrasting warmth, especially at those wonderful revelations, through the disguise of Timidia, of the fundamental humanity of Aminta, this was a performance to savour.” (Opera Today, July 2015)

“Brenda Rae was a fantastic Aminta, vocally and dramatically stunning in her self-control.” (Bachtrack, September 2014)

“Brenda Rae turns Zerbinetta’s show-stopping second-act aria into the evening’s highlight, with consummate musicality and killer technique.” (Shirley Apthorp. Financial Times, June 2015)

“Brenda Rae embodies the life-loving seductive comedian [Zerbinetta]. From her first entrance, she offers supple and sensual coloratura fireworks.” (Klassik Info, June 2015)

“Brenda Rae’s Zerbinetta mastered her coloratura perfectly” (Der Tagesspiegel, June 2015)

“In the title role, Brenda Rae sounds glorious in both her dreamy slow arias and her acrobatic showpieces. In “Oh, sleep, why dost though leave me?” and “My racking thoughts,” the orchestra is pared down to just a few instruments; with Rae’s sweetness of tone, the result is an enrapturing chamber-music intimacy I wouldn’t have thought possible in a hall of McCaw’s size. And her allegros will leave you dazzled.” (Seattle Weekly, March 2015)

“Brenda Rae triumphed vocally and theatrically in the title role, unafraid to push Semele’s hedonism to sensual extermes and yet still conveying vulnerability in her final, Elsa-like confrontation with her lover-god. She added giddily over-the-top – and pinpoint accurate – ornamentations to “Myself I shall adore” but also floated the most delicate trills and messa di voce notes in her lovely high range.” (Bachtrack, February 2015)

“Brenda Rae sings a very youthful, almost childish, delicate and therefore fragile Amina. She finely chisels the contours of the highly virtuoso soprano part. But the lyrical expanses are also there” Deutschland Radio, December 2014

“The American soprano Brenda Rae, who also sings coloratura roles, has a more tightly focused sound than that of many a Donna Anna. But it is a handsome one that rings out thrillingly when she recognises Giovanni as her father’s murderer, and Ms Rae invests the aria “Non mir dir” with a rare delicacy.” New York Times, May 2014

“but it was Brenda Rae as the Princess who sang everyone else off stage. This young American laughed, wept, danced and leapt through her music in a tireless, golden soprano.” Hilary Finch, Times, December 2013

“the real vocal honours belonged to Brenda Rae’s spectacularly sung Elsbeth” Tim Ashley, Guardian, December 2013

“Opera Rara fielded an excellent cast, with Brenda Rae a sparkling Elsbeth possessed of a good trill.” John Allison, Telegraph, December 2013

“Only once was the music interrupted: at the end of Zerbinetta’s bravura aria, sung by Brenda Rae, who was rewarded with thunderous applause…Brenda Rae’s Zerbinetta can actually join the ranks of Diana Damrau and Gruberova. She masters the coloratura quite easily with her bright and clear timbre and moves about remarkably during the difficult passages of her perilous aria.” Friedeon Rosén, Der Neue Merker, October 2013

“The ‘Traviata’ was especially effective, with moving performances from Brenda Rae, as Violetta, and Michael Fabiano, as Alfredo…The naturalism carried through to the final scene, where Violetta looked a wreck, as a woman dying of consumption might, but sang gorgeously. Dying slowly, of course: Ms. Raqe made Violetta’s bursts of renewed energy and song, so often the butt of jokes as believable dramatically as they could possibly be. Ms. Rae soared beautifully in the early going, but it was in her pianissimo singing that she really shone. Her assurance to Alfredo’s father that she would step aside from her romance with his son to protect the honour of the Germont family was ineffably touching, her death scene even more so.” (James R. Oestreich, New York Times, August 2013)

“What made this revival memorable was the Violetta of Santa Fe debutante Brenda Rae. An American still at the start of her career, Rae is already making waves in Europe…Rae’s soprano is contained, well-focused and flexible; “Sempre libera”, whose coloratura she mastered with ease, was musically a showstopper and dramatically a frightening display of emotional abandon…There have been more pathos-laden Violettas, but few so centered on the process of physical decay or acted with such mastery.” (Simon Williams, Opera News, November 2013)

“Making her Santa Fe debut as Violetta, Brenda Rae has a lyrical soprano that resonated wonderfully. She is an engaging Violetta, her soft phrases exquisitely delicate and bell-llike. She masterfully evolved from the belle of a rowdy party scene in Act I to a seemingly innocent country girl in Act II, to a dying Violetta in Act III. Her ‘Addio del passato’, in which she says goodbye to all her dreams, was very moving.” (Mary Helen Klare, El Paso Times, August 2013)

“as the courtesan Violetta Valéry, soprano Brenda Rae, whose engaging voice and scrupulously constructed technique propelled her through a role that has sunk many a contender…The most involving expanse of the evening came in the last act, when Rae sang ‘Addio del passato’ with carefully calibrated dynamics and heart-rending poignancy.” (James M. Keller, The New Mexican, July 2013)

“[Rae makes] her ‘Addio del passato’ a wonder of subtle messa di voce pathos and control.” (John Stege, Santa Fe Reporter, July 2013)

“The young American Brenda Rae replaced an ailing Diana Damrau…From her very first scene with her servant Alisa she impressed with her brilliant coloratura technique and her touching characterisation. And in the course of the performance, she grew from strength to strength until an impressive mad scene.” (Volkmar Parschalk, Kronen Zeitung, June 2012)

“A ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ with a new face was just what the Viennese needed right before the summer break…The American Brenda Rae had her baptism by fire at the Staatsoper [ replacing Diana Damrau] and made it through with honours. She offered melodious lyricism in a role that is usually torn between love and duty, and made tenderness and fragility her own in a mad scene in which she was fully invested.” (Daniel Wagner, Wiener Zeitung, June 2012)

“After several cancellations due to illness, it was the American Brenda Rae’s turn to ‘go mad’. The member of the Frankfurt Opera ensemble captivated us in her house debut with her natural acting skills and her supreme vocal ease; the feminine lightness of her sweet soprano voice was especially attractive.” (Stefan Ender, Der Standard, June 2012)

“those who witnessed this debut seemed impressed enough to accord Vienna’s new Lucia with a standing ovation…This is evidently a characterisation which has been well thought through and rehearsed into the voice. Whether intelligently shading her tone to effect, spanning Donizetti’s fioriture, or fearlessly crowning a phrase with a top Eb – there was no question as to the vocal, technical and musical attributes here on offer. Lithe and rather willowy in physique, this is a soprano who ideally requires a partner of Piotr Beczala’s stature, and indeed they turned out to be an exciting couple – well matched in every respect.” (Moore Parker, Opera Critic, June 2012)

“As Armida, Brenda Rae displayed a sparkling and elegant soprano to match her supermodel figure.” (Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph, July 2011)

“Brenda Rae’s leather-clad sorceress Armida has brilliant top notes.” (Richard Fairman, Financial Times, July 2011)

“The singing and acting, however, as always at Glyndebourne were magnificent…Brenda Rae (Armida) and Luca Pisaroni (Argante) were a wonderful pair of villains, with Rae looking like something straight out of a comic book in her voluptuous leather outfit.” (Williams Hartston, Daily Express, July 2011)

“Rae shows all the signs of a really outstanding voice in the making; her sorceress was a worthy match for Luca Pisaroni’s Argante.” (Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, July 2011)

“Brenda Rae, an ensemble member since 2008, delivered a stunning Konstanze. It’s hard to believe that she sang this important role in this revival for the first time ever.” (Matthias Gerhart, Frankfurter Neue Presse, March 2011)

“The sensation of the evening was without doubt the very young Brenda Rae as Zerbinetta. Not only does she sing the extremely difficult role perfectly and is an excellent actress, she looks ideal. One must especially stress that not only does her coloratura sparkle with bell-like clarity, but she also has an unusually pleasant lyric soprano, as once Rita Streich had.” (ilhelm Guschlbauer, Der Neue Merker, March 2011)

Discography

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