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Rising Stars Sierra lg 1015
As a young singer in competitions, Sierra’s winning aria was often “Caro nome.”
Photograph by Dario Acosta
© Dario Acosta

S oprano NADINE SIERRA’s career so far is a study in uninterrupted ambition and hard work. As a child growing up in south Florida, she was an avid swimmer who quickly developed excellent breath control, which she now puts to good use as a musician. Nothing other than singing ever really suggested itself as a career; she was ten when she decided that she wanted to make her life in opera, and by fourteen she was a chorister at Palm Beach Opera.

Sierra, now twenty-seven, studied with Ruth Falcon at Mannes College of Music, then moved west, where she did an apprenticeship with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program. “That was the equivalent of a master’s program,” she says. “I wanted to be out there doing it. In San Francisco, I encountered so many people I had looked up to from age ten. Age wasn’t a concern. We weren’t treated like little nobodies who didn’t know anything. We were treated like colleagues, and that made a big difference for us. I don’t think I would ever have gotten that experience in a master’s program. It made me grow up a lot faster in this field.”

Sierra has placed first in the Neue Stimmen, Montserrat Caballé and Veronica Dunne International Singing Competitions. Being a professional from such an early age meant that competitions didn’t faze her. “This is what I’ve been trained to do and what I was born to do,” she says with easy confidence but no trace of hubris. “So why go into something and have fears and doubts? Whatever judges decide, they decide. I carried that with me throughout all of the competitions I did, not even hoping to win. What mattered was that I got the exposure, the experience, and met the judges — because some of them are casting directors. That was the winning ticket — just being able to sing for them.”

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