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

Sound Bites: Briana Hunter

A Manhattan School of Music alumna makes music as a mezzo—and as an artistic director.
By F. Paul Driscoll

Sound Bites Briana Hunter hdl 219
Mezzo Briana Hunter, set for a world premiere at Glimmerglass next summer
© Dario Acosta
Sound Bites Briana Hunter sm 219
Photograph by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik

BRIANA HUNTER has an impressive list of credits as a mezzo, including the title role in Carmen at Music Academy of the West, Gertrude Stein in 27 at Michigan Opera Theatre and Private Stanton in the world premiere of An American Soldier at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Last November, wrapped in a slinky python-print afternoon dress, Hunter was an imposing Ottavia in POPPEA, a modern-dress adaptation of Monteverdi’s masterpiece at Manhattan’s Bare Opera, where the mezzo also serves as co-artistic director. Bare Opera, a company with an all-female leadership team, aims to offer its audiences “the bare essentials of opera,” in productions cast with up-and-coming talent, a concept Hunter is passionate about. 

“I enjoy turning off the ‘singer brain’ that is obsessing over a note, or a point of vocal technique, and shifting focus and tackling the details of the artistic-director job,” she says. “It’s nice to work on something that’s bigger than me. As singers, we’re all little mini-entrepreneurs working for ourselves. I love the aspect of collaboration, the team effort that creates a stage for emerging artists. New York City is overrun with great talent—amazing, driven, incredible artists who don’t have opportunities they need to perform full roles with an orchestra, get reviewed, get seen—whatever it is. My hope is that Bare Opera will fill that void and let those artists begin to live out their dreams.”

This summer, Hunter returns to the Glimmerglass Festival, where she was a young artist in 2017, to sing the Mother in the world premiere of Blue, an opera by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson about the violent death of a young black man. Hunter calls Blue “incredibly and painfully relevant. It is amazing to be a part of this—Blue gives me a way, as a woman of color, to express my pain and hurt over the years of seeing the shooting of unarmed black men happen over and over again.

“After the first read-through of the score with Jeanine, I just broke down and cried for at least ten minutes. I just sat there with her and thanked her repeatedly for taking on this project—for someone with her name and her reputation to do this. The way that she and Tazewell have structured it is so masterful and poignant. I can’t—I’m sorry, I don’t have enough great words to say about it. It means so much to me.” spacer



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