“An absolute delight as Nedda, engagingly capturing the actress’s moods from clownish through spiteful, demonstrating a natural theatrical instinct. She also has a lovely voice.” Opera News
“A fantastic soprano” Opera Wire
Athlone Artists welcomes to its roster Venezuelan soprano María Brea. Brea’s most recent performance in Cav+Pag with New Camerata Opera brought praise from Opera News, who wrote, ” María Brea was an absolute delight as Nedda, engagingly capturing the actress’s moods from clownish through spiteful, demonstrating a natural theatrical instinct. She also has a lovely voice.”
Brea’s lovely voice will be heard this season in the role of Norina in Don Pasquale with The Barn Opera in Vermont, in the recital “Susanna: Evolution of the Ingenue” with the Metropolitan Opera Guild, and as the soprano soloist in Carmina Burana with the Cecilia Chorus of New York at Carnegie Hall. On October 20, 2021, Brea will headline the Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid’s “A Song for Venezuela” concert at the Corpus Christi Catholic Church in New York.
Rising above the competition, Brea was chosen as a finalist in the 2022 Paris Competition and sang for this year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. She previously won sixth prize in the Tenor Viñas Contest, where she also received a special award for “Best Interpreter of Zarzuela” and a contract to perform with the orchestra at Teatro Liceu de Barcelona. Recently Brea was awarded “Best Musical Actress” by the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors for her performance in the Zarzuela, El Barbaro De Sevilla with New Camerata Opera.
Growing up in what she describes was a “violent slum” in Caracas, Venezuela, Brea has had to rise above many challenges to make it to the operatic stage. Brea credits her love of music to her father, a Cuatro player and instructor at the nearby music school, La Academia Juan Sebastian Bach. “My dad taught me Venezuelan folk music from an early age,” María explains. “My roots are in folk and jazz and singing bossa nova. But it was through my dad that I first discovered the art of singing in a lyrical way.”
María’s passion for opera began at age eleven, when she was assigned a school project to profile a famous person in history. She asked her dad about Juan Sebastian Bach, for whom his music school was named. He, in turn, brought home a CD of Bach cantatas for her to explore. She listened once, and she was hooked. “That day, I decided that I wanted to become an opera singer.”
Her father and her mother, a medical doctor, encouraged her musical pursuits, sending her to the music conservatory when she turned fifteen. “It was the first music school in my country,” says María. “When I was there, the school was literally falling apart. There was flooding inside whenever it rained. There were tubes holding the roof together. But somehow I learned everything I needed to know there.”
With her country facing greater political and economic turmoil, María needed to find a way to make a life for herself and to further pursue her operatic training. She began researching music schools in the United States. Her uncle came over two times a week to teach her English so that she would be able to fill out college applications. It was around this time that journalist Beatriz Adrián got word of María and asked if she would be part of a TV special documenting her journey. “After the documentary aired,” recalls María, “so many people became interested in my story. All of my family and friends chipped in to help me get to the United States so that I could audition.”
María made it to New York, earning the Mae Zenke Orvis Scholarship and completing her bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance at the Manhattan School of Music. From there, she went on to receive a Kovner Fellowship and earn her master’s degree at the Juilliard School. Her successes continued as a studio artist with Wolf Trap Opera in 2016-17, an apprentice artist with Palm Beach Opera in 2017-18, and as the Eva and Marc Stern Fellow at Songfest in 2019. She has won awards in the Opera Cultura, Gerda Lissner, Giulio Gari, Mary Truman Art Song, and New York Lyric Opera Competitions, and received an encouragement award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Connecticut District Auditions. She was chosen to create the title role of Anton Coppola’s Lady Swanwhite with Opera Tampa. In 2020, Opera Wire raved about her “seemingly unfettered vocal abilities” when she performed the role of Olga in Giordano’s Fedora with the Teatro Grattacielo.
“There is always a team that helps you through life,” says María. The latest addition to her team is Miguel Rodriguez, founder of Athlone Artists. “Miguel is so kind and organized. As a part of the Latinx community, we begin with a strong connection, with similar values. I’m very excited and grateful to begin this next step.”
Reflecting on her journey thus far, María recounts her parents’ words that will always ring true. “We just want you to always tell your story. Never say that you don’t come from the barrio. Be proud of who you are and don’t forget where you came from. Yours is the story of all Venezuelans.”