The San Francisco Chronicle praised Romanian-American soprano Esther Tonea for her “powerful, gleaming tone, effortless precision and expressive immediacy” in her rendition of Imogene’s mad scene from Bellini’s Il pirata, where she displayed the “sublime assurance of an established diva.” Ms. Tonea is a 2022 winner of the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, a Presser Scholar, and recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant. She is a recent graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Adler Program. This season, she joins Wolf Trap Opera as a Filene Artist for the title role of Semele, as well as the Richmond Symphony for Orff’s Carmina Burana. Among her engagements next season include her company and role debut as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Portland Opera. While in her Adler tenure at San Francisco Opera, she performed the roles of Sister Antoine in Dialogues des Carmélites and Flower in Dream of the Red Chamber, while also being responsible for leading roles such as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Blanche de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, and Marzelline in Fidelio. She was also engaged by San Francisco Opera to sing Giovanna in Ernani, cover Chrisann in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, and cover Mimì in La bohème, all of which were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She has also performed excerpts from Turandot (Liù), Ariadne auf Naxos (Prima Donna), Idomeneo (Elettra), Don Giovanni (Donna Anna), Roméo et Juliette (Juliette), and Il pirata (Imogene) with the San Francisco Opera and Metropolitan Opera orchestras.
A frequent collaborator with composer-librettist duo Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, Tonea premiered the role of Diana in If I Were You with the Merola Opera Program and workshopped Intelligence as Callie Van Lew with Houston Grand Opera. She has performed Fiordiligi with “gleaming tones and impeccable dynamic control” and continues to sing Mozart heroines such as Donna Anna and Contessa. On the concert stage, Tonea has appeared as soprano soloist in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and Symphony No. 4, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Haydn’s The Creation and Missa in Angustiis, Mozart’s Requiem in D minor and Exsultate, jubilate, and Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio.
Because of her passion for increasing accessibility to classical music and opera, Tonea appears as guest artist in elementary school outreach programs across the United States. She has also curated recitals in more intimate casual venues, namely in-home salons and outdoor festivals. This season she works with pianist Andrew King and the Shoshana Foundation in a free public recital and continues a series of recitals centered around various topics such as her Romanian heritage and increased awareness of domestic violence. Continuing her work in higher education, she served as resident artist at Tennessee Wesleyan University where she gave a recital, taught lessons, and held a masterclass for undergraduate students. She also performs in collaboration with pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg and Roots of Peace, an organization based in Napa Valley whose mission it is to replace land mines with vineyards in war-torn countries such as Ukraine and Croatia.
She holds a Master of Music in Voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees in Vocal Performance and Cello Performance from the University of Georgia.
Esther Tonea’s Website
Photo Credit: Victor Xie
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