Drawing: Lise Davidsen

Autographed drawing of soprano Lise Davidsen

“It’s been a long time since a singer has generated as much buzz as the Norwegian soprano,” wrote the renowned Gramophone magazine in their review of Lise Davidsen’s self-titled debut album of Strauss and Wagner songs late last year. “A name you will want to remember and a voice, once heard, you won’t forget.” She is the first operatic soprano to debut at No 1 in the UK Classical Charts. “This album only reinforces the fact that she is one of the greatest vocal talents to have emerged in recent years, if not decades,” continued the Gramophone review, who awarded her Young Artist of the Year in 2018.

The Financial Times declared her ‘the real deal’. It was not alone with the Scandinavian lyric dramatic soprano gaining universal adoration and agreement that she ‘one of the greatest voices of her generation’.

Lise shot to prominence in the summer of 2015, winning the Queen Sonia Singing Competition in her homeland, before she ‘swept the board’, collecting the three top awards at the prestigious Operalia competition in London as well as being a triple winner at Amsterdam’s Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing contest. A series of acclaimed international Opera followed. Last year she debuted with the Metropolitan Opera in New York as the young, rich lover Lisa, in Tchaikovsky’s THE QUEEN OF SPADES, with the New York Time’s Zachary Woolf writing, ” Ms Davidsen’s voice is creamy in texture, but with a silvery shimmer that gives it a penetrating spine.” Her first appearance at the Royal Opera House was in Wagner RING CYCLE in 2018, returning this year alongside Jonas Kaufmann as the free-loving, cross-dressing, husband-rescuing heroine Lenore in Beethoven’s FIDELIO. The production sold out within 24 hours.

In his Backtrack review David Karlin wrote, “Covent Garden has seen many great role debuts over the years, but I doubt there have been many with quite the level of self-assurance.” Unfortunately the season was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which included a live screening to cinemas of the final performance on 17 March. Fortunately I managed to get Lise to sign my drawing of her in the Met role before the lockdown.

Drawing: Adrianne Pieczonka in Tosca

Autographed drawing of soprano Adrianne Pieczonka in Tosca at the Royal Opera House, London

Canadian soprano star Adrianne Pieczonka returned to London’s Covent Garden last month to play the title role in the Royal Opera’s production of Puccini’s TOSCA. This is Adrienne’s fourth appearance for the company, having debuted as Donna Anna in
Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI in 2002. She also played Floria Tosca in the 2009 film version directed by Frank Zamacona based on the San Francisco Opera production.

Adrienne was in the first of three casts for this season’s Royal Opera staging, conducted by Dan Ettinger and Placido Domingo. Describing her own vocal range as “somewhere between a lyric and a dramatic soprano,” Adrienne is able to include a wide variety of roles in her repertoire and has become internationally celebrated for her interpretations of Wagner, Strauss, Verdi and Puccini.

The German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ wrote,” Frenetic ovations greeted Adrienne Pieczonka for her supreme performance… clear, powerful with contoured high notes and precise dramatic gestures… the star of the evening.”

I left this sketch of her at the stage door and she not only signed and returned it, but included a nice note: ‘Dear Mark – I am so impressed with your drawing! Fantastic!’… so I guess she liked it.

Drawing: Sonya Yoncheva

Sonya Yoncheva

This is the second sketch I drew of Bulgarian opera soprano Sonya Yoncheva. The first one she signed at the Royal Opera House last summer when she performed Violetta in LA TRAVIATA. It was dedicated to me and signed with her shortened ‘Sonya’ sig. This one I mailed to her agent in Switzerland prior to that and it came back last week with a full autograph in silver sharpie no less.

Sonya is returning to Covent Garden this month to replace Anna Netrebko in the title role of Bellini’s masterpiece NORMA. It’s the second time she has replaced the Russian opera star, after stepping into the role of Marguerite in FAUST in 2014. Sonya will also extend her London season playing Antonia in LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN in November.

Drawing: Nicole Cabell in La traviata

Nicole Cabell

One often most sought-after lyric sopranos today, Nicole Cabell returned to Covent Garden this month for two performances as the lead Violetta in the Royal Opera House’s latest season of LA TRAVIATA, a role she previously played in the San Francisco production in 2014. With African American Korean and Caucasian ancestry, Nicole grew up in the Californian beach community of Ventura before gracing the world’s Opera stages. After winning the 2005 ‘BBC Singer of the World’ Competition in Cardiff, she made her London debut at THE PROMS the following year and for the Royal Opera in LA JUIVE at the Barbican.

Nichols signed this drawing I did of her as Violetta  at the ROH after her final performance on 19 March.

Drawing: Sonya Yoncheva

Sonya Yoncheva

According to VOGUE magazine, Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva is “Opera’s brightest star” after two remarkable performances at the Metropolitan in New York last winter. Both appearances were not originally scheduled, but fate intervened, propelling her onto one of the world’s most famous stages as a late replacement for both the role of Mimi in LA BOHEME, only five weeks after giving birth to her son and a month later, playing Violetta in Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.

“Her dizzingly swift and serendipitous ascent to Opera’s Most Buzzed About Soprano” is how VOGUE described her performances.

This was nothing new for Sonya. I first became aware of her prowess last April when she once again replaced the original singer-in this case none other than Anna Netrebko-in the role of Marguerite in Gounod’s FAUST at the Royal Opera House to rave reviews.

She returned to Covent Garden last month for a few performances  as Violetta  in LA TRAVIATA and signed this portrait study for me.

Drawing: Venera Gimadieva

Venera Gimadieva

Hailed as the star of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, young Russian opera singer Venera Gimadieva is one of the most sought after sopranos in Europe.

This sketch is based on Venera in the role of Violetta in Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata at Glyndebourne Opera House in East Sussex, England in July 2014. It followed her UK debut at the 2013 BBC Proms.

Guardian critic Andrew Clements wrote, “She is a soprano of huge presence, compelling to watch with a voice of thrilling security and a special quality to her quieter singing that makes you hang on every note.”

Venera joined conductor Guerassim Voronkov and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra for a celebration of recent works by composers from Tatarstan alongside masterpieces by Tatar descent Sergey Rachmaninoff at the Royal Festival Hall last week, where she took time to sign the drawing.