From: Huntsville, Alabama. LA Opera: soloist in After Hours recital Songs of Protest (2021).
Versatile, dynamic, and mesmerizing, soprano Brandie Sutton has garnered accolades and devoted fans around the globe, thanks to an impressive array of recitals, operatic roles, and concert performances with acclaimed orchestras. Hailed by Opera News for her “sumptuous, mid-weight soprano,” and by The New York Times for her “warm, ample voice,” “ravishing performance” and “distinctive earthy coloring,” Ms. Sutton’s is one of the classical world’s most impressive new stars.
Born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Sutton did not begin formal training as a vocalist until she was in college. While pursuing a pre-med program at Huntsville’s Oakwood University, an instructor happened to hear her perform with the college choir. “I started taking voice lessons because the choir director was also a voice teacher who eventually convinced me to pursue music because she heard ‘the gift,’” Sutton recalls. “So, I dropped biology and studied music.” Sutton then completed a Master of Arts in Vocal Performance from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. During this time, Sutton sang in internationally renowned competitions and was also engaged for stage productions in the U.S. and abroad. She made her solo recital debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; appeared at Merkin Concert Hall in Lincoln Center; and made her concert debut at Carnegie Hall.
After graduation, the young soprano headed to the arts center of New York City to pursue her career. She was soon accepted into the Martina Arroyo Foundation’s six-week intensive program for young artists, called Prelude to Performance. The program proved to be an important training ground for the fledgling performer, fine-tuning not only vocal but acting skills. Sutton then made her operatic debut as the lead in the New York City Opera’s 2017 production of Respighi’s La Campana Sommersa, portraying the elf princess Rautendelein. It was the first production of the magical work since 1929 and earned positive reviews. “It was a difficult role, so a lot of people were impressed,” Sutton explains. “That’s how I got my agent and my manager. And my first Metropolitan Opera contract came shortly thereafter.”
Having the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera come calling was a definite coup for the rising vocal star, whose contract was for a vital role in the company as “cover” for some of the world’s best-known sopranos. While a cover at the Met, she was also able to pursue other performance opportunities. She has been blessed to perform with the National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Orpheus Symphony Orchestra in Moscow and the Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared on opera stages such as Semperoper Dresden, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Grand Théâtre de Genève and Alter Oper Frankfurt. Along the way, Sutton has deepened her repertoire and expanded her audiences, also performing folk, jazz, pop, and classical material from established and contemporary composers. Meanwhile, Sutton’s impeccable work landed her a featured role in a Met production scheduled for the 2020/21 season, as Franquita in Bizet’s Carmen; the COVID-19 pandemic later led the Met to cancel the season.
However, early in 2020, Sutton came out from under “cover” when the Met extended its celebrated revival of Porgy and Bess. Sutton was able to get a coveted feature role of Clara in the production’s first show of its extended run, singing the incomparable Gershwin ballad “Summertime.” Says Sutton, “That’s how my debut happened because that was the first time in Metropolitan Opera history that they have ever added shows to a run. I was ecstatic. And right after that, I had to go to Opera Birmingham to perform a dream role, which is the Fairy Godmother in Cendrillon (Massenet's operatic version of Cinderella),” she says. “That got canceled due to COVID.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the performance season of many U.S. theatrical venues, including the Met, Sutton continues to expand her art and share her gifts. She was invited to Vienna, Austria, in mid-2020 to perform Clara in Porgy and Bess at the Theatre an der Wien through October. And as the climate shifts and theaters learn ways to safely stage new production, Sutton will sing her dream role of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, and abridged version of Massenet’s Cendrillon, at the Met during the 2021 holiday season.
Dedicated to social justice, Sutton has participated in several events with the Equal Justice Initiative. During the April 2018 opening weekend for the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (formerly the National Lynching Memorial) in Montgomery, Alabama, Sutton performed in a concert that also featured John Legend, Andra Day, and BeBe Winans. Even more significantly, a hologram of Sutton is a permanent part of the memorial’s Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration. Portraying an enslaved person, Sutton sings the spiritual “Lord, How Come Me Here” in a museum exhibit. The Equal Justice Initiative also invited Sutton to perform during their 30th-anniversary festivities, held in New York City in 2019.
Citing inspirations that include opera greats Kathleen Battle, Renee Fleming, Leontyne Price, Montserrat Caballé, Beverly Sills, and Joan Sutherland, as well as elegant jazz-pop singer Nancy Wilson, Sutton says she looks forward to taking on ever more challenging operatic roles, particularly those within the bel canto repertoire.
Fans of the dynamic vocal star can also look forward to her debut solo recording in 2021. “I just want people to hear what I love to do,” says Sutton. “It’s going to be arias, art songs, spirituals, maybe some hymns, some jazz, maybe some musical theater, and some Disney pieces.” The independent release will be the perfect vehicle for her eclectic taste and captivating delivery.
Learn more at BrandieSuttonSoprano.com.