Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Nadine Sierra
Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Makeup and hair by Affan Malik / Gown by Marchesa
© Dario Acosta 2014
Nadine Sierra, who sings Gilda in Boston Lyric Opera's Rigoletto this month, believes that the jester's daughter is a "misunderstood" character. "Some people call Gilda stupid, which is such a mean thing to say. She's completely ignorant and naïve, because of the way her father has raised her. But she's very young and curious. I believe that the man she sees in church — the Duke — piques her interest because on some level she sees him as a way out of the prison she lives in at home. The moment she sings 'Caro nome' is the happiest moment of her entire life — she's finally made contact with another human being. Gilda is a very courageous woman, because she is so selfless — look at what she does for love. Even though she knows who and what the Duke really is, she forgives him. She even asks her father, as she is dying, to forgive him and let go. She's very wise, because she is able to achieve forgiveness and pity at such a young age. She is a wonderful character — she's a heroine."
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sierra decided to be an opera singer at age ten and realized her ambition within a few years. She attended the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in Palm Beach, a performing-arts school that is within walking distance of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, home to Palm Beach Opera. The company's chorus master, Kamal Khan, who had begun working as Sierra's vocal coach when she was fourteen, recommended that she "cross the street" to audition for the Palm Beach chorus. She was accepted and sang with the chorus for the four years she was in high school, along the way picking up small roles, such as the Sandman in Hansel and Gretel and the First Spirit in The Magic Flute. "All my friends thought it was just really strange — until they found out I was getting paid. By my junior year, I had a few friends from school in the opera chorus with me."
At fifteen, Sierra sang "O mio babbino caro" on the syndicated radio program From the Top.("That was surreal — I was kind of stunned when it was over!") Within a few years, she had scored a number of high-profile competition wins, including a victory in the 2009 Met National Council auditions a few months before her twenty-first birthday. After appearances with Gotham Chamber Opera, Palm Beach Opera and Boston Lyric Opera, Sierra spent two seasons as an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, making her company debut as Juliet in the 2011 world premiere of Heart of a Soldier.
The BLO production will be Sierra's fourth Rigoletto. She calls Gilda her favorite role "for a while now. I would love to sing Mimì, for sure. I know that won't happen until years away from now — but I can wait."
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
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