OPERA NEWS - Sound Bites: Samantha Hankey
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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Samantha Hankey

The Massachusetts native sings Rossini’s Rosina this month in Oslo.
by F. Paul Driscoll

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Mezzo Samantha Hankey, fresh from Juilliard, bows at Carnegie Hall next month in Messiah.
Photograph by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik for Tom Ford Beauty
Sound Bites Samantha Hankey sm 1117
© Dario Acosta

SAMANTHA HANKEY DELIVERED a star-quality performance as Handel’s Agrippina at Juilliard last season. Her luscious, amber-toned mezzo zipped through the evil queen’s machinations with a dazzling combination of assurance and glamour, but Hankey chuckles when complimented on her performance. “She’s not me, that’s for sure. I’m a pretty private person. That’s why I enjoy being onstage—I get to completely open up and express all those things I can’t in everyday life. Agrippina is so evil, but the character has such substance and richness that it was fun to explore her. The music is fantastic—it’s so chromatic, which is unusual for Handel. I absolutely loved it. And I loved doing it in the [Rosemary and Meredith Willson] black-box theater, where the audience is right on top of the singers. In Agrippina,I tried to direct lines to individual audience members—including them in her asides, as if to say, ‘Now you know what I’m plotting, too, and we are in this together. Got it?’ I know that made some audience members uncomfortable, because it was so intimate. But inclusion was one of the goals of that show—to take down the invisible wall between the audience and the opera!”

A native of Marshfield, on the south shore of Massachusetts, Hankey attended Walnut Hill School before entering Juilliard, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The mezzo is hard-pressed to choose her favorite Juilliard production but says both Agrippina and Cavalli’s Calisto, in which she sang the dual role of Diana and Giove, were “really, really fun. Working with [director/choreographer] Zack Winokur on Calisto was a huge highlight. He is brilliant. Itwas a very physical show, and that was a big challenge—I have two left feet—but it was so cool.” 

Other Hankey credits include four summers at Aspen, a win in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, the world premiere of David Hertzberg’s Rose Elf at Opera Philadelphia and the title role in La Cenerentola at the Merola Program in San Francisco this past summer. 

“I know I’ve sung a wide range of repertoire, but in the beginning, we were trying to figure out what my voice could do. I’m still trying to figure that out! Right now, the Rosinas, the Dorabellas, the Sestos, the Siébels are all healthy and age-appropriate. Down the road, maybe, in a few years, Charlotte, Octavian, the Composer, Marguerite in the Berlioz. My two crazy dream roles are Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle and Jocasta in Oedipus Rex. I don’t know if those will work out, but we’ll see.” spacer

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