Less than five years after making her professional operatic debut, substituting for an ill colleague as Elvira in Verdi's Ernani at the Metropolitan Opera, Angela Meade is fast becoming one of the world's top-billed interpreters of Verdi and Bellini. The soprano-winner of the 2011 Richard Tucker Award and the 2012 Beverly Sills Award from the Metropolitan Opera-has a number of notable "firsts" during the 2012-13 season, including a house debut at the Vienna Staatsoper as Elena in I vespri siciliani (Sept 9-18), Leonora in her first staged Il trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera (Jan 16), and her first staged Norma-the role that catapulted her to prominence at the 2010 Caramoor Festival-at Washington National Opera in a new production directed by Anne Bogart (March 9-24). More Bellini is in the offing for Meade at Carnegie Hall this season: a concert performance of Beatrice di Tenda with the Collegiate Chorale (Dec 5). The soprano also sings Mozart's Donna Anna in Don Giovanni for her debuts at Los Angeles Opera (Oct 11-14) and Cincinnati Opera (June 13-15). Noteworthy concert engagements in 2012-13 include Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs with the Ontario Philharmonic in Toronto (Jan 29), Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Pittsburgh Symphony under Manfred Honeck (April 26-28), and her recital debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (Nov 10).
Critics have been showering praise on Meade, calling her "a dramatic coloratura at last" (Opera Today) and speculating that she may just be "the next great Verdian soprano" (Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun). She is developing a passionate following among lovers of bel canto repertoire, with the New York Post hailing her as "a brilliant new interpreter of Norma." The New Yorker's Alex Ross called her 2011 Anna Bolena at the Metropolitan Opera "electrifying, as pure a display of vocal power as I've heard at the Met in the past few years. In her final moments, issuing a tractor beam of Wagnerian tone with her arms flung out, she was no longer an impeccable bel canto student but a full-on diva." In the August issue of Opera News, Meade was profiled as part of "Opera's Next Wave": "Audiences have hungered for a singer like Angela Meade for a long time. She's a genuine soprano drammatico d'agilità … there's no question that she has a voice to be reckoned with: it's beautiful, it's sizable, and it moves."
In August, Meade made two major festival debuts. The first, with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Festival, was a program with tenor Michael Fabiano of arias by Verdi, Puccini, and Donizetti. Cleveland Classical's Timothy Robson, reviewing the concert, wrote, "Ms. Meade poured out streams of richly produced and focused sound, full in the lower register and powerful in the upper part of her voice, but with the flexibility to float pianissimo high notes. Earlier in 2012 Ms. Meade won the prestigious Beverly Sills Award given by the Metropolitan Opera. In these performances, it is clear that the award was well deserved."
The second debut-an evening of Italian opera arias with tenor Bryan Hymel at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center-was with the Philadelphia Orchestra and its new music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. "In Verdi's 'Pace, pace, mio Dio!' soprano Meade fulfilled her considerable potential with voice, words, and meaning coming together in a fully realized operatic statement," wrote David PatRick Stearns in his review in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "During 'Ecco: respire appena' from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, she floated pianissimos worthy of Montserrat Caballé."