Opera News • 2019
Energy Source

Soprano Brenda Rae delivers a dash of daring to all her roles.
— By Alexandra Svokos

When she was growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin, Brenda Rae sang both jazz and classical, not quite sold on one or the other. This continued into her undergraduate years, when her voice teachers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison tactfully gave her both genres in assignments, feeling out where her voice would develop. When one of her teachers nonchalantly assigned Rae a scene from Bellini’s Sonnambula, she says, “Something just clicked. The music of bel canto, I felt like ‘This is me’—that was who I was as an operatic singer. 

“I don’t know if it was the dreamy quality of it—I mean, it’s the most heartbreakingly beautiful music ever—but also the fact that I could find ornaments then for the second part of the cabaletta. I just grew obsessed. I listened to every recording I could find,” she says of Sonnambula. The joy she found in writing ornaments was her “springboard” to other operatic styles, including Handel, Mozart and middle-period Verdi.


Cap Times • 2018
Rae returns to Madison for Opera in the Park

Soprano Brenda Rae wants opera novices to know that the art form isn't just "braids, breastplates and horns.”

“There’s so much more to opera than that, and you just have to come with an open mind because opera can really surprise people. It really has a way of touching people,” Rae said. “I think most people who say they don’t like opera haven’t really gotten to experience it."


Limelight Magazine • 2017

“This is actually my first time singing French Baroque. It’s because of the conductor Benjamin Bayl that we’ve decided to do this whole programme. He’s passionate about the music and I love learning new styles. Glories of the French Baroque will focus on the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau. He wrote so much over a long period of time, so it’s fascinating to see how his style changed. Early pieces seem straightforward, but then you get to the later work and you hear he’s matured. It’s a little more ‘original’, but you can always tell it’s Rameau. He was finding his own style and putting his stamp on the music, and the more you know, the more you can experiment. He wrote dances as well, which are great fun to listen to! Sometimes I just put some on a playlist and dance around the kitchen: ‘Rameau has a really good beat!’”


Frankfurter Neue Presse • 2017
You can never really say that brenda rae is leaving the opera

After nine years, she says goodbye to Frankfurt, leaving the opera ensemble. But not quite the opera house itself. Next year, the American soprano Brenda Rae, who started here nine years ago, will be back in the house at Willy-Brandt-Platz – but as a guest. "Most of all, I'll miss the people. It's a strange feeling, because it’s the end of an era," says the opera singer. As a member of the ensemble, you are closer to everything than as a guest. But she does not regret her decision. "It's the right step." She has many offers around the world, and in the ensemble she had to "always ask" if she could accept other offers. "This is the right thing for my life," she said, before she went to her farewell party. However, this mother of a young son does not have much time to celebrate, because she has to to fly to New Mexico, where the rehearsals for the next piece begin. She does not want to completely tear down her bridges to Frankfurt. "We are going to keep our flat here, but we are looking for a house in Minnesota." Firstly, because there is an international airport there, and second, because her twin brother also lives there and her parents and parents-in-law are not too far away.


Broadway World • 2017

She has a sound reminiscent of molten silver, a wide range, and a great deal of flexibility.
— by Maria Nockin

Q: Where did you grow up?

BR: I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin. Thankfully our school system had a great music program, so I've had music classes since the first grade, and I definitely developed a greater love of music during those classes. There's also a wonderful music conservatory at Lawrence University in Appleton, so I was exposed to very high quality music through attending performances there. I have a twin brother and he is very musical, but he decided not to go into music professionally. We used to sing together all the time, performing at coffee houses and such, with him playing the guitar as well.

I started studying piano when I was nine years old. My parents didn't want to put me into lessons until I specifically asked for them. I love the piano, but I was always nervous to play in front of people. That doesn't happen when I sing! I don't have a piano currently, but I dream of the day when I can have one, since I would love to pick it up again. My fingers are so clumsy now! But it helps to have some ability to play since that means I can prepare roles on my own.


Schmopera • 2017
talking with singers

American soprano Brenda Rae is used to spending her time high above the staff; currently, she’s pairing high singing with the heights of Santa Fe, as she takes on the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor at The Santa Fe Opera. We first heard Rae as Lulu at English National Opera in 2016, so it was a treat to chat with her about Mad Scenes, women who aren’t weak, and one-of-a-kind performance spaces.

What do you find are some common misconceptions about the character of Lucia di Lammermoor?

I can imagine that people might view Lucia as a weak character, but I think that’s a mistake… It takes some strength and bravery to continue her relationship with a man who’s in the “wrong” political party, and the only reason she’s convinced to marry Arturo is because her brother tricks her (as well as Raimondo pressuring her by bringing up her dead family, especially her mother). Lucia is certainly a victim, but she’s not weak in my opinion.


Frankfurter Allgemeine • 2016
I need more Traviata in my life

For Brenda Rae, the Frankfurt Opera was the start of a world career. A conversation about fast role changes, German and American opera and the Frankfurt audience.

As a kid, you wanted to be a rock star. Today you are a famous opera singer. How did you come to classical music?

The jump was not that big. I used to study classical music. At fifteen, I started singing lessons. My teacher knew that I wanted to sing jazz and pop and rock. My favorite stars were Tori Amos and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. But I was actually a very good kid. I just looked a bit tough, just like the music I listened to. Once I rehearsed a scene from Bellini's Sonnambula, and from that moment on, I was totally in love with classical music.

You studied at the Juilliard School in New York, which is known for producing the best of the best. How does the competitive pressure affect friendships and collegial interaction?

We were lucky. There was not too much competition in my class. We sopranos were all good friends. You had more competition with yourself. Maybe it’s that you feel the competitive pressure only if you are unsure of yourself. Life is better if you allow things to happen more easily.


Opera News • 2016
Take 5

Soprano Brenda Rae, who this season sings Amenaide in Opera Philadelphia performances of Tancredi and Lucia di Lammermoor in Santa Fe, answers five questions from the editors of Opera News.


WQXR • 2016
Forty Under Forty: The Next Generation of Great Opera Singers

Brenda Rae, an American coloratura soprano, combines excellent technique with a high-flying voice and an irresistibly scintillating stage presence. I have heard her in Germany in Mozart, Strauss and Donizetti — often in complicated konzept productions — and hope she will have a higher profile in her homeland.


Opera News • 2015

Rae is an electric presence onstage, seemingly fearless but never reckless — the type of performer whose keen focus brings up everyone’s game.

Brenda Rae, who sings Zerbinetta this month in Paris and Munich, once dreamed of being a rock star like Tori Amos. But the soprano’s first exposure to La Sonnambula during her undergraduate days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison changed her career path. Rae went to Juilliard, where she earned her master’s degree and an artist diploma before beginning a fest contract in 2008 at Oper Frankfurt, the theater where, she says, “I found my artistic self.” In Frankfurt, Rae’s roles included Anne Trulove, Handel’s Cleopatra, and Mozart’s Fiordiligi and Donna Anna; within a few years of moving to Europe, Rae made debuts in Munich, Vienna, Glyndebourne, Bordeaux and Hamburg and was established as one of the most exciting young singers in Europe. Now thirty-three, Rae is an electric presence onstage, seemingly fearless but never reckless — the type of performer whose keen focus brings up everyone’s game.