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Rising Stars Rae hdl 1015
Rae appears in recital at Alice Tully Hall on May 9.
© Dario Acosta

BRENDA RAE , who sings Zerbinetta this month in Paris and Munich, once dreamed of being a rock star like Tori Amos. But the soprano’s first exposure to La Sonnambula during her undergraduate days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison changed her career path. Rae went to Juilliard, where she earned her master’s degree and an artist diploma before beginning a fest contract in 2008 at Oper Frankfurt, the theater where, she says, “I found my artistic self.” In Frankfurt, Rae’s roles included Anne Trulove, Handel’s Cleopatra, and Mozart’s Fiordiligi and Donna Anna; within a few years of moving to Europe, Rae made debuts in Munich, Vienna, Glyndebourne, Bordeaux and Hamburg and was established as one of the most exciting young singers in Europe. Now thirty-three, Rae is an electric presence onstage, seemingly fearless but never reckless — the type of performer whose keen focus brings up everyone’s game. She was a sensational Violetta in Santa Fe Opera’s 2013 revival of La Traviata, partying through Act I like a hedonistic rock star but still able to break hearts with a luminous account of “Addio, del passato,” her death scene charged with an ear-catching warmth that few coloratura virtuosos have. Rae has the reputation of being a prodigious worker. In a Seattle Opera interview during her run as Handel’s Semele, Rae revealed her technique: “I want to have [these arias] so practiced in my voice and in my body that when I am onstage I can feel the freedom to be moved by an impulse.” A YouTube clip shows what an inventive comedienne Rae is; in the mirror aria, her Semele is so extravagantly self-obsessed that she seems almost goofy, but the high notes and the laugh lines in a very complicated piece are hit dead on, with the accuracy of a champion.

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