Nadine Sierra, 2018 winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Beverly Sills Artist Award, has made her first album for Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Gold, having signed an exclusive contract with the labels last year. Recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Robert Spano, There’s a Place for Us is scheduled for international release on 24 August 2018, in time to mark the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth the following day. The album presents the soprano’s stunning vocal abilities in an eclectic choice of American classical music – as well as works by Bernstein, the repertoire ranges from Stephen Foster and Douglas Moore to Stravinsky and Villa-Lobos, and on again to Ricky Ian Gordon, Osvaldo Golijov and Christopher Theofanidis, with texts in Spanish and Portuguese as well as English. After singing the role of Norina (Don Pasquale) at the Paris Opéra in June and July, Nadine Sierra will perform music from the album at this summer’s major US festivals, including an appearance at Tanglewood’s star-studded Bernstein Centennial Celebration.
America’s founding colonists were sustained by the belief that they were building “a city on the hill”, a place that would serve as a model to all mankind. Countless migrants have journeyed there since to share the American dream. Nadine Sierra’s story stands for the stories of millions whose families have made a fresh start in the United States. The critically acclaimed lyric soprano and Fort Lauderdale native, who celebrated her 30th birthday in May, understands the essential contribution made by migrants to the nation’s growth. Her mother is Portuguese, while her father’s family hails from Puerto Rico and Italy. There’s a Place for Us, Sierra’s Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Gold debut album, pays tribute to the diverse backgrounds and creative energy of America’s classical composers. It also presents a timely reminder of unity and equality, of integration and optimism, at a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric is increasing, and fault-lines are widening between divided communities in the US and beyond.
Nadine Sierra, recently named as winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s thirteenth annual Beverly Sills Award, believes that opera and classical music hold the power to draw people together and promote universal values. The point is underlined by this new recording, which mines rich seams of American opera, song and musical theatre. The album’s programme cultivates a sense that there’s a place for all, not in some future Utopia but right here, right now. Her choice of Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story speaks directly to the immigrant experience while reinforcing hopes that peace will prevail over conflict. Sierra wants the message to be heard by those who fuel fear and stoke hatred of the other. The populist narrative of them-and-us, she notes, must be challenged. “I feel like this really needs to change, and I don’t think I’m the only one.”
There’s a Place for Us embraces America’s multicultural, multi-ethnic mix, with its eclectic choice of arias and songs. “I wanted to send an alternative message of positivity, unification, acceptance of all people no matter what race, no matter what sexuality, no matter what religion, no matter what anything,” comments Nadine Sierra. “I feel deep down that we can make a change in the right direction and that the right direction is about uniting people.”
There’s room in Sierra’s musical melting-pot for works by Leonard Bernstein, the son of Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants, and Stephen Foster, whose openhearted songs drew from his Scots-Irish heritage. The tracklist also includes compositions by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov, Loyola Professor of Music at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Christopher Theofanidis, American-born son of a Greek pianist and composer who travelled to New York on a Fulbright Scholarship in the early 1950s. Igor Stravinsky, who lived in Los Angeles for almost three decades, and Heitor Villa-Lobos, a frequent visitor to the United States, are part of the mix too. Sierra embraces the virtuosic demands of Anne Trulove’s aria from Stravinsky’s opera The Rake’s Progress, together with the lyrical flow of Villa-Lobos’s fifth Bachianas Brasileiras, a distinctly Brazilian take on the musical language of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the sensuality of Canção do Amor, which began life as music for the 1959 Hollywood film Green Mansions. Homegrown works by Douglas Moore and Ricky Ian Gordon complete the soprano’s survey of American music.
Nadine Sierra discovered opera as a child and became hooked after her mother borrowed a video of La bohème from the local library. That first encounter with Puccini’s music proved life-changing. She found she could touch listeners through song, a gift enhanced when she joined the chorus of Palm Beach Opera in her early teens. Her voice moved a mass audience soon after when she delivered a spellbinding performance of Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” on National Public Radio’s From the Top talent contest. She made her solo debut with Palm Beach Opera at the age of 16 and progressed from high school to a place at Mannes College of Music in New York City and further studies with Marilyn Horne. Her apprenticeship continued under the care of prestigious artist development programmes at the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera.
Sierra’s career skyrocketed after she won the Veronica Dunne, Montserrat Caballé and Neue Stimme international singing competitions in 2013. Recent credits include Mozart’s Susanna at the Met and her role debut as Nannetta in a new production of Verdi’s Falstaff at the Staatsoper Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Despite critical acclaim and audience ovations, the singer remains refreshingly grounded. Conforming to the snobbish stereotype of the operatic diva is not for her; rather, she aims to present opera as an artform open to all. “I never want to lose this feeling of being humble,” she confesses. “I am not the genius behind any work of music I perform. Someone else created it; somebody else composed it. I’m just a vocal vessel for that piece – and that’s it!”
Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon, has welcomed Nadine Sierra to the yellow label. “She sings in a way that reaches out to audiences old and new,” he said. “We have followed Nadine’s spectacular success on both sides of the Atlantic in recent seasons and been enchanted by her performances.”
Graham Parker, President of Universal Music Classics, USA, Universal Music Group, praised the soprano’s expressive power and vitality, adding, “I am thrilled that Nadine, one of the most remarkable performers of her generation, will record for Decca Gold and join our roster of the finest American classical artists.”