Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Michelle Bradley

The rising American soprano sings Donna Anna in Santiago, Chile, next month.
By Louise T. Guinther 

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Photograph by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik

© Dario Acosta
   
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Soprano Michelle Bradley, set to sing Donna Anna next month in Santiago
© Dario Acosta

MICHELLE BRADLEY refers to herself as a “country bumpkin,” but to opera fans, she’s an international star in the making. Growing up in Versailles, Kentucky, she taught herself piano on the demo keyboards at Kmart while her mother shopped, then took up the organ at the Baptist church where her father was a deacon. By age eleven, she was accompanying the choirs there.

Bradley was so shy that she would creep into a closet when she wanted to sing—often emulating her idol, Whitney Houston. But after her younger brother revealed her secret, there was nowhere to hide. Before long, she was singing at weddings in church and pep rallies at school. Eventually, she won a scholarship to Kentucky State, where her voice teacher introduced her to opera.

“He had this picture of Leontyne Price, looking so majestic, and the way it sat on his shelf, it looked like she was staring right at me. I didn’t know who that woman was until he gave me her Prima Donna album. I heard Leontyne, and I was like, ‘I can do this. This is where my voice belongs.’ I never gave that CD back.” Like her illustrious predecessor’s, Bradley’s voluminous voice maintains impressive flexibility and surprising lightness in a wide range of repertory, from its rich, warm, vibrant middle and lower registers to its bright, full, thrilling top.

After grad school at Bowling Green, Bradley took a spot in the chorus at Houston Grand Opera, where she met Lois Alba, the teacher she credits with “shining me up.” A stint at Music Academy of the West led to an invitation to join the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist program, culminating in her engagement this season as Clotilde in Norma

“Working with Sir David McVicar’s been amazing!” she says. “He made me a real part of everything. Sometimes all you need is permission. Clotilde loves Norma to a point that Norma is everything to her. Each night I get onstage, I feel the power that I have—that I’m strong, and I love hard—and I see that in myself as Michelle. I am Clotilde in a way—I will go to any lengths for someone that I care about.

“In the duet scene, where I’m on the bed with Joyce and Sondra, I try to stay in character, but at the same time, I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m sitting here with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato, and they sound awesome!’ Sometimes,” she adds with a laugh, “I’m tempted to pop in between them and give a third harmony!” spacer 



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