“Flawless” “Exquisite” “Magical” “Perfect” Reviewers use these words praising mezzo-soprano Clara O’Brien. From her first appearance, audiences and critics alike have warmed to the American mezzo-soprano, “an absolutely graceful creature” (Stuttgarter Zeitung). She is equally admired for her “exquisite Mezzo timbre and flawless vocal technique” (Opernwelt) as for her “towering acting ability” (Die Welt). The elegance and grace with which she has impressed the public has an “unaffected quality which makes even the most difficult art seem effortless” (Die Badisch Neueste Nachrichten).
Clara O’Brien is a mezzo-soprano with an unusually large vocal and stylistic range. As Rosina, she has an “ease in intonation and flexible coloratura” (Opernwelt) which is “a practical example of proper Rossini ornamentation” (Stuttgarter Zeitung). In lyric roles her “well-supported lower range and securely master highs … [leave] no wish unfulfilled” (Opernglas). Her repertoire includes all the standard operatic roles for mezzo-soprano as well as Baroque opera: “the perfect Handel soloist”. (Die Rheinpfalz)
Clara O’Brien’s international career began with the awarding of the Sonderpreis des Badischen Staatstheaters, an award specifically created for her at the first International Coloratura Composition, Sylvia Geszty. She had arrived in Germany on a Fulbright Grant a few months before following studies at the Eastman School of Music, the Curtis School and a year’s residency with the Chicago Lyric Opera Center for American Artists. Within a year, Clara O’Brien was regularly appearing in starring roles throughout Germany, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland. For many years, she was engaged as soloist at the State Theater of Baden and based her career from Germany. She is regularly seen and heard on the stages of such opera houses Chicago, Dallas, Berlin, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Dresden, Leipzig and Frankfurt and many others.
Her operatic repertoire includes Octavian, Komponist, Adalgisa, Mignon, Dorabella, Donna Elvira, Elisabetta (Maria Stuarda), Rosina, Cenerentola, Musetta, Hélène (La Belle Hélène), Fenena (Nabucco). Numerous appearances at the International Händel Festspiel and lauded performances of contemporary opera testify to the extent of her musical versatility. Among her concert repertoire are the Verdi and Mozart; orchestral works from Berlioz, Mahler, Brahms and Beethoven; Handel and Bach oratorios, masses, and passions. Recordings include releases on the Bella Musica and Albany Records labels, and she has been recorded and broadcast on Southwest German Radio and Television and National Public Radio in the U.S.
Clara O’Brien is also an award-winning interpreter of art song. In France, she was awarded the Grand Prix Paul Derenne, International Concours de chant de Paris for her interpretation of fin de siècle French mélodie. In Germany, her performances of late-Romantic and Modernist German Lieder garnered critical praise. Her repertoire in recital ranges from mediaeval chanson to premieres from living composers.
In 2003, an offer to teach brought Clara O’Brien back to the U.S. and she is presently Associate Professor of Voice at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She continues to perform regularly as well as giving masterclasses throughout the country and Europe. She also appears locally with various concert, oratorio, operatic and new music ensembles.