Opera’s ‘coolest soprano’ reaches out

The The New York Times described her voice as “seductive enough to woo gods as well as mortals” and called her “opera’s coolest soprano.”

Danielle de Niese’s extraordinary mix of potent charisma, powerful stage presence and a phenomenal operatic voice has made her an international megastar. She is considered a highly-prized personality on stage, on TV and radio and with the world’s press who have called her the “Beyoncé of classical music” and “the most sought-after singer on the planet.”

Yet, despite commanding audiences of thousands to her performances on the biggest stages in the world, Danielle loves reaching out to smaller audiences and is looking forward to coming to Dumfries on Saturday, 13 August, to give a concert which she says will be “fun.”

She said: “Walking onto stage at the Met I have to project to 4,500 people, all of whom I need to engage in the drama of an opera. The same thing applies to the Royal Albert Hall: last week the audience for my Barber of Seville at the Proms was over 6,000.

“So for me it’s a great treat to sing to a small intimate audience and be able to be much more reflective in a performance.”

Danielle is an excellent ambassador for classical music. She believes the genre should not just be an experience for the privileged and has taken on the mission to make it available to all.

She said: “My personal challenge is to convince people every time I sing that classical music is a wonderful culture and to make it as accessible as possible to as many people as possible from all different walks of life.”

Born in Melbourne to Sri Lankan/Dutch parents, Danielle grew up in Los Angeles where she made her professional debut at the age of 15. At 18, she became the youngest ever singer to enter the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

At the age of 19, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut under James Levine, as Barbarina in Jonathan Miller’s acclaimed new production of Mozart Le nozze di Figaro. On the strength of her performance, Danielle went on to make major debuts at the Opéra National de Paris, Saito Kinen Festival and Netherlands Opera. In 2005 she made her Glyndebourne Festival debut as Cleopatra in David McVicar’s production of Handel Cleopatra and was catapulted to international fame. She has since reprised the role in the 2009 Glyndebourne revival, and in 2013 at the Metropolitan Opera, always to critical praise.

Danielle, who  is a passionate and active advocate for children’s rights, studied under Dame Kiri Te Kanawa who she said is “a wonderful teacher and a huge inspiration.” Danielle is also inspiring a whole new generation of young classical musicians.

“I do a huge amount of work for kids from varying backgrounds,” she said, “and this to me is some of the most rewarding work I do.  If I can switch on even one child to music, I feel this is worth it.”

Danielle’s advice to young people seeking a career in classical music is to take up opportunities and challenges when they arise.

She said: “It’s hugely difficult to achieve success. When you start out, the challenge is to get noticed, to do good work, and somehow to start building a name.  But there are also breaks, and opportunities.  The key is to be able to really grasp the moment when it comes and rise to the challenge.

“I think with any artist, the most important thing is to seek authenticity.  I always tell students, be true to yourself.  Anything less won’t do, and won’t be convincing to your audience.  This applies in any artistic field, but especially to singers because we connect with our voices. This is incredibly important.”

Danielle will be making a rare appearance in the Easterbrook Hall’s Duncan Rooms, Dumfries, on Saturday, 13 August, at 7.30pm, as part of the International Musicians Platform concert series.

Accompanying her on stage will be internationally-acclaimed artists: tenor Nicky Spence and Simon Lepper on piano. The programme includes music by Gounod, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Berlioz, Puccini, Lehar, Gershwin and Bernstein.

Tickets are £20 but, as part of Absolute Classic’s mission to make quality classical music available to all and attract young audiences, the concert is free to anyone aged 26 and under.