Creating operas is a monumental task, and opera singers train like athletes for years in high-intensity environments. So in this article, we’re going to provide out list of the greatest female opera singers that we believe are absolutely amazing!
Female Opera Singers That You’ll Love
Let’s begin with the talented Montserrat Caballé.
Montserrat Caballé earned the nickname “La Superba” (The Superb One) through her exceptional vocal technique and artistry. Caballé was one of the true masters of the bel canto technique and she was famous for showing it off. With a massive voice, she could sing soft, floated high notes that sounded like she was only using half of a vocal fold.
And she could sustain these high notes for what felt like days.
You do not have to speak a word of Italian to understand the rich feeling when Caballé sings “Vissi d’Arte” from Tosca. Caballé also rocked the world with her genre-bending friendship with Freddie Mercury. Freddie dreamt of working with the soprano, and after the two met, they became fast friends, with Freddie calling Caballé “My Super Diva” and Caballé calling Freddie “My Number One.”
The two released an album together titled Barcelona that includes a song the two created that was featured at the 1992 Olympics. The spectacular song features Freddie Mercury’s intense belt with Caballé’s superb vocalism. It is truly a dream combination of art.
Joan Sutherland had a one-of-a-kind voice, unheard of in other singers. She trained as a Wagnerian soprano before changing course towards more bel canto and coloratura repertoire. The combination of a powerhouse voice with intense flexibility allowed her to sing anything she set her mind to. The result is an inexplicable sound.
Listening to Joan Sutherland is like tapping into something superhuman. It is no wonder that she earned the title “La Stupenda” for her incredible performances-singing running lines at a great pace with this power that shakes the very bones of the audience. Her “Mercè dilette amiche” is a perfect example of the power and flow that is yet unmatched in any other sopranos.
Leontyne Price, or shall I write Leon-TONE Price, has one of the most beautiful voices that has ever graced the operatic stage. Every single note that she sings is imbued with the very essence of her being.
The tone is rich, full of color, and deeply satisying—like eating a sumptuous dessert.
Leontyne Price faced great racism in her career. She often stated she was treated as the token black singer in a particular cast. Yet, she overcame and gave us some of the most memorable opera performances to ever grace the stage.
Listen to Leontyne Price’s “O Patria Mia” from Aida. It is one of her most famous pieces and she famously performed it at the Metropolitan Opera, bringing the house down. Listen to the attention she gives every note, and how velvety her tone is.
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Birgit Nilsson had a voice like a laser beam. It was brilliant and piercing and would cut straight over an orchestra directly to the audience, no matter which hall she was performing in. She performed primarily Wagnerian repertoire, but she also performed Italian roles like Tosca and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.
Hearing that piercing tone quality throughout her entire range is like watching a pole vaulter vault over an extremely high bar. She perfectly manages her low notes as well as her high notes, never restricting her signature shimmering presence. You can hear this especially well in her “Ozean, Du Ungeheuer” from Oberon.
Off of the stage, Nilsson was a spitfire, famous for her witty responses and sassy presence. She had a larger-than-life stage presence that made you believe you were seeing and hearing a Valkyrie.
Jessye Norman had another voice and stage presence that simply demanded your attention. It is impossible to ignore her voice when you hear it on recordings. She refused to be pinned down to any one kind of role, as she sang Wagnerian roles, Dido in Dido and Aeneas, Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, and more.
Norman also regularly performed art songs and African-American spirituals. The tone of her voice is luxurious in these settings, with a dark color that is almost as creamy as melted chocolate.
When she was not singing, Norman was a humanitarian who did work to improve the lives of everyone around her. She also founded several initiatives to help people of color advance. Her warm, open heart shines in every recorded performance.
Another dramatic soprano who brought down the house throughout her entire career was Kirsten Flagstad. Flagstad specialized in roles written by Richard Wagner. She also performed many art songs by Nordic composers like Sibelius and Grieg, helping further this lesser-performed repertoire.
Unlike many of her large-voiced counterparts in the opera world, Flagstad had an incredible limpidity to her voice. She could sing with great force and power without ever making you hear her work. Listen to her “Mild und Leise” from Tristan und Isolde, and you can hear how she always maintained a youthful tone to her voice throughout her career.
Diana Damrau is one of the greatest dramatic coloratura sopranos alive today. She brings in the crowds, and for a good reason. Her management of vocal acrobatics while maintaining a pure tone quality is superb. One of her most famous roles, the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute demonstrates this, as she hardly even seems to be trying to sing the notoriously difficult F#s.
In addition to her beautiful voice, Damrau has a phenomenal stage presence. She can go from a refined Countess to a lively Violetta to a vengeful Queen, and every single character contains all of her people.
Mirella Freni had a heart of gold that came out in every role she performed. Her roles ranged enormously throughout her career, beginning with Zerlina and Adina and eventually singing roles like Liu in Turandot and her famous Mimi in La Bohème.
There is something incredibly honest about Freni’s singing. You can hear that she means what she sings, and she can bring this sweet tenderness to every character. You want her to have a happy ending just from hearing her voice.
Eileen Farrell is another genre-busting opera diva whose voice and stage presence are simply world-shaking. Eileen Farrell sang bel canto Verdi roles, musical theatre, torch songs, Wagnerian opera, and more.
Her voice is like a shot of adrenaline put straight into your veins. It is velvety and warm but also piercing. It draws you in, and you just have to hear what she is singing next. There is something about it that is like a warm hug.
With her work in American musical theatre, you can trust that Eileen Farrell put every fiber of herself into every performance, and you can hear how she brings every character to life. Her “To This We’ve Come” from The Consul will bring you to tears (or sobs, if you are like me).
Elina Garanča is a show-stopping mezzo soprano. Her ability to capture a stage and make every single eye turn to her is why one of her greatest roles is Carmen. She has a beautiful expression and she can embody the sultry character in every way, down to the creaminess of her voice and the exquisite dancing she does on stage.
She is not afraid to go all the way in her characterization, even if it means she is rolling or crawling across the stage. Her incredible voice never suffers as she does this.
Watch her Habañera from Carmen and be fully transported away from your home and to Seville.
Another mezzo-soprano who is not afraid to put it all on the stage is Joyce DiDonato. Joyce sings all kinds of operas from baroque to contemporary works by Jake Heggie and everything in-between. She has tackled some roles that apply to both sopranos and mezzos like Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.
She has won multiple Grammys for her recordings because each recording is a treasure that shows off a different facet of what makes Joyce special. Her tour and recording In War and Peace featured a visual spectacle, a baroque orchestra, and the diva herself. It was like watching a live movie being filmed, and she is positively magnetic.
Carol Vaness is one of the premiere Mozart singers in the world. She did not stop at Mozart, though. Vaness also sang Iphigénie en Tauride, Tosca, Manon Lescaut, and more. Her voice is beautiful in every sense of the word. Every single note is carefully crafted to be exquisite. Her ability to sing with precision and beauty is what makes her such a Mozartian expert, as Mozart’s music is notoriously precise and difficult.
Her Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte is unparalleled. The leaps in “Come Scoglio,” which Mozart famously wrote to make the original soprano bob her head like a chicken, are no problem for Vaness. Her low notes in Vitellia from La Clemenza di Tito are both lush, rich, and envy-inducing for every other soprano who hears them.
Vaness is a prima donna in the best sense of the word. She is a commanding presence, with an exquisite posture that makes you feel like you are watching a queen on the stage.
Every single one of the female opera singers on this list was or is a trailblazer in the industry. Their voices awaken feelings that bring the audience to life and keep them coming back for more. Their performances are rich in beauty and character. Importantly, you can learn a little bit about who each singer was as a person simply by hearing their fantastic renditions of their signature roles.
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