By Sebastian Spreng, Visual Artist and Classical Music Writer
She’s only 23, her name is Nadine Sierra, and she is a rising star in the operatic universe. That was the final impression of those who attended her Miami recital, the last concert of this year’s Sunday Afternoons of Music at UM Maurice Gusman Hall, which was dedicated to the memory of her benefactor Donald Carlin. The Fort Lauderdale soprano of Latin descent (Portuguese on her mother’s side and half Puerto Rican on her father’s) is joining the group of young opera singers who were born (or raised) in South Florida and are gaining international recognition.
A recipient of the Marilyn Horne Award (the great mezzo-soprano took her under her wing at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West) and the 2009 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Sierra delivered Juliette’s arias from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette (she certainly has her looks) and Gilda’s in Verdi’s Rigoletto with remarkable naturalness, adding roulades, legato, staccatos and trills like a consummate virtuoso.
The wide range of songs in the program confirmed her versatility: an idiomatic version of Edvard Grieg’s Ein Traum, Debussy’s Quatre chansons de jeunesse (she sang a perky Pierrot and an exquisite Claire de lune) and Rodrigo’s Madrigales amatorios, delivered with the right dose of playfulness and youthful grace. Her rendition of Villa-Lobo’s Bachianas brasileiras n° 5 was rightly accompanied by Tarra Guerra on the guitar, while the rest of the program enjoyed the also capable accompaniment of Gordon Roberts on the piano.
The soprano performed two encores – O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Vilja from Lehar’s The Merry Widow – and the audience, alerted by indefatigable impresario Doreen Marx, answered back with a rousing Happy Birthday. It was a doubly happy ending to cherish this new South Florida ambassador. For the record, Sierra is currently an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera, scheduled to perform in the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier, an opera about the September 11th attacks composed for baritone Thomas Hampson, and to make her debut at Milan’s legendary Teatro alla Scala as Nanetta in the upcoming production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Last but not least, Robert Heuer – General Director of Florida Grand Opera – who atended the recital, confirmed he hired Ms.Sierra for FGO Rigoletto next January. The unmissable chance to see a rising young star.