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18 to Watch: Amber Wagner

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Amber Wagner as Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer at the Met, 2017
© Johan Elbers

AMPLE ... POWERFUL … voluptuous … house-filling: these are among the adjectives regularly invoked to capture the rich, enveloping sound of Amber Wagner. Her sizeable soprano, of striking dramatic cast, has made her a coveted exponent of Wagner, Verdi, Puccini and Strauss. This season, she takes on a new challenge—Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, in the Metropolitan Opera’s Trittico.

The California native was raised in Oregon and attended Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. After graduation, Wagner made her first big splash in 2007, when she won the Metropolitan National Council auditions, then went straight into a stint at Lyric Opera’s Ryan Center. Since then, she has plotted her path carefully, telling the Chicago Tribune,“I have chosen longevity … over making money.” 

For all its heft, Wagner’s sound is marked by an Italianate sheen and spin. Having established her credentials in weighty German repertoire, with rapturously received performances as Wagner’s Elisabeth, Elsa, Senta and Sieglinde (a favorite role) in such venues as Lyric Opera of Chicago, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opera Australia and the Met, she has recently added iconic Verdi and Puccini heroines, including Aida and Turandot, which she sings for Opera Australia this season. 

A down-to-earth diva, Wagner comes across in interviews as refreshingly straightforward, a quality that translates into open and uninhibited characterizations onstage. Her wide-eyed, youthful energy and engagement provide a breath of fresh air in roles that are often given more stolid and statuesque portrayals. “If I give my best every night,” she said in a recent interview with Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini, “I will fly home beaming with a smile on my face.” —L.T.G.



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