Isabel Bayrakdarian, Soprano
A winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1997—the same year she graduated from the University of Toronto cum laude with that impressively nonmusical degree—Ms. Bayrakdarian thereafter found her career taking rapid wing. In 1999 she scored a notable success in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world premiere production of William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge; the following year, she walked away from Plácido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia competition with first prize. She launched 2002 with her San Francisco Opera debut, as Valencienne in The Merry Widow, and closed it with her Metropolitan Opera debut, in the New York premiere of Bolcom’s opera; a season later, she won plaudits (and hearts) as Teresa in the belated Met premiere of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini. Mozart became a specialty: Zerlina in Don Giovanni (New York, Houston, Salzburg), Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (Los Angeles, London), and Pamina in The Magic Flute (New York, Toronto). “How any man could not relent before the beautiful Isabel Bayrakdarian’s ardent Pamina was a mystery,” marveled the New York Times after her first Met Flute. But almost from the start, she’s refused to be hemmed in to a particular period or style. Her roles at her home-base theater, Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company, range from Gluck’s Euridice to Debussy’s Mélisande to Poulenc’s Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites; and away from home she’s shone as Monteverdi’s Poppea in Barcelona, Handel’s Romilda (Serse) in Dresden, and Janáček’s Vixen in New York, Florence, and the Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto, Japan.
Ms. Bayrakdarian sings on the Grammy® award-winning soundtrack of the blockbuster film The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, and her voice can also be heard in the multiple award-winning Canadian film Ararat. She has been honored with four Juno awards, Canada’s highest recording prize, most recently for her CD Mozart arie & duetti with fellow Canadians Russell Braun and Michael Schade. Expanding her vast discography, Ms. Bayrkdarian was a guest soloist with the Canadian band Delerium on their 2007 Grammy® nominated dance remix “Angelicus.”
Ms. Bayrakdarian is the subject of a CBC-TV film entitled A Long Journey Home that documents her first trip to Armenia; on another trip there she recorded a disc of songs by the country’s national composer, Gomidas Vartabed (1869-1935), with Serouj Kradjian and the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra which is available on the Nonesuch label and was a 2009 Grammy® nominee. Ms. Bayrakdarian has received many grants and other awards in addition to the First Prize in the Operalia: four Juno awards, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the 2005 Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Leonie Rysanek Award from the George London Foundation, and a Metropolitan Opera National Council Award in 1997.
Born in Lebanon of proud Armenian heritage and now a citizen of Canada, Ms. Bayrakdarian moved with her family to Toronto as a teenager. Her earliest singing experience was at church, which remains – along with her family – the central focus of her life.