Mary Plazas

Mary Plazas made her operatic debut in 1992 with English National Opera as the Heavenly Voice Don Carlos, and was a former company principal. Roles have included Cio-Cio San (ENO/Perth International Festival), Mimì (ENO/Opera North/Bregenz Festival/West Australian Opera/Royal Albert Hall), Anne Trulove (Bayerisches Staatsoper/New Israeli Opera), Donna Elvira (ENO/Glyndebourne on Tour/Valladolid), Nedda I Pagliacci, Fiordiligi, Dorabella, Leila, Adina, Nannetta, Micaëla, Marzelline Fidelio, Lauretta, Oscar and the title role in The Cunning Little Vixen (ENO), Juanita in Weill’s Kuhhandel, Salud La Vida Breve, Susanna Le Nozze di Figaro and Elisetta Il matrimonio segreto (Opera North), Italian Soprano Capriccio (Royal Opera House), Heavenly Voice (Royal Opera at the BBC Proms), Angelic Voice Palestrina (Royal Opera in London and New York), Duchess Powder Her Face (Almeida/Aldeburgh/Channel 4/LSO at the Barbican), Mum Greek (London Sinfonietta at the Barbican), Mrs Coyle Owen Wingrave (Concertgebouw), Alexina Le Roi Malgré Lui (Grange Park Opera) and Elisabetta Roberto Devereux, title role Lucrezia Borgia, Ismene in the Richard Strauss arrangement of Mozart’s Idomeneo and title role Maria di Rohan (Buxton) and Fidelia in the British premiere of the four act version of Puccini’s Edgar (New Sussex Opera).

She created two roles in operas by Jonathan Dove, Tina Flight (Glyndebourne) and Blue Fairy Pinocchio (Opera North). She sung Karin in the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Dublin), performed the title role in Peter Eötvös’s Lady Sarashina (Opéra National de Lyon at the Opéra Comique), sang the lead in the world premiere of Eleanor Alberga’s Letters of a Love Betrayed a joint commission from the Royal Opera House and Music Theatre Wales and created the role of Madame Piccard in Will Gregory’s Piccard in Space for the BBC at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Recordings include Mercadante’s Emma d’Antiocchia for Opera Rara’s 100 years of Italian Opera, Pacini’s Maria Regina d’Inghilterra with the Philharmonia under David Parry also for Opera Rara, and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges with the London Symphony Orchestra under André Previn for Deutsche Grammophon. For Chandos Records she has recorded Marguerite Faust, Adina, Zerlina, Liu Turandot and Micaëla.

Mary Plazas has given many recitals and concerts including solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, and the Karajan Centre in Vienna. She has also performed at the Aldeburgh, Bath, Brighton, Cheltenham, Chester and Brighton Festivals. Concert engagements include Mahler’s Symphony No 8 (RPO/Sinopoli), Mozart Requiem (Hallé/Skrowacewski), Brahms’ German Requiem (CBSO/Oramo), Shostakovich Symphony No 14 (Irish Chamber Orchestra/Maksymiuk), Schumann’s Paradies und die Peri (OAE/Elder), Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne (Hallé/Elder), Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 (BBC NOW/Daniel), Saint-Saens’ The Promised Land (BBC NOW/Hickox), Bach’s Magnificat (BBC Philharmonic/Noseda) Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass (Philharmonia/Fischer) and Britten’s Les Illuminations (Britten Sinfonia/Poppen). She sang in the first performance in St Petersburg of Tippett’s A Child of Our Time. Some recent performances include Britten’s Our Hunting Fathers (Philharmonia/Norfolk and Norwich Festival), Barber’s Andromiche’s Farewell (BBC Symphony Orchestra), Vaughan Williams’ Don Nobis Pacem (St Alban’s Festival) and Una poenitentium Mahler’s Symphony No 8 (Philharmonia/Three Choirs Festival).

Mary Plazas studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where she was awarded the Curtis Gold Medal, and at the National Opera Studio. She won the 1991 Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship and the NFMS/Esso Award for Young Singers, and has received support from the Peter Moores Foundation. She has worked for periods of intensive study on interpretation in Geneva with the Swiss tenor, Eric Tappy.

Gallery

Artist Videos

"Un Bel Di, Vedremo" - 2015 Perth International Arts Festival Launch
Interview about Madam Butterfly

POWDER HER FACE/NORTHERN IRELAND OPERA

“Antony McDonald’s stylishly self-designed production (set and costumes) is by a distance the most satisfactory of the five I have seen, mainly because at its centre is the spellbinding performance of the singing actress Mary Plazas, who flaunts all of the Duchess’s unattractive traits — snobbery, venality, entitled arrogance — yet, like Janacek’s Kostelnicka or Emilia Marty, retains the audience’s sympathy. This richly nuanced, warts-and-all portrait is outstandingly well sung by a soprano with plenty of form in the part. She even manages to play the notorious fellatio scene, performed on the so-called “headless man”— here, a hotel waiter — with dignity, no mean feat as her singing morphs into a gurgly hum. It’s funny, but oddly heroic….A triumph for McDonald, NI Opera and, above all, Plazas.” The Sunday Times

“At the epicentre, however, is Mary Plazas as the Duchess. In a truly great piece of operatic acting, she makes this paper monster of egocentricity absurd yet pitiable in her delusions and humiliation, thus making moral and emotional sense of the entire opera. “ The Telegraph

“Mary Plazas was the most compelling Duchess I’ve seen, sexually needy and repulsively self-centred, yet also conveying a hollow loneliness.” The Times

“But the dramatic climax arrives in the final scene when Plazas crafts a long moment of breathless despair, rendering the ageing Margaret a pathetic figure, resorting to her familiar tricks in a desperate effort to avoid eviction from her opulent hotel suite as the bills go unpaid.” The Stage

“At the epicentre is Adés’ Duchess played by the superb Mary Plazas, whose fitful charisma and powerful singing voice easily keeps the audience engaged for the two hour run time. The opera spans decades, but Plazas convincingly embodies the young, naive and sex-fuelled mid-20th century socialite as well as the somberly reflective and somewhat eccentric divorcée of the 1970s and ‘90s.” Culture Northern Ireland

“Plazas is sensational at bringing to life the loftiness and arrogance of the Duchess that on a coin flip becomes earth shattering vulnerability, fear and mental distress. By the close of the piece she is reduced to a barely clothed, slightly hunched, distressed shadow. The line: ‘the only people who were good to me, were paid for it’ is a devastating blow.” The Reviews Hub

MADAMA BUTTERFLY/PERTH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL

“Plazas was mesmerising: delicate but (when necessary) forceful and even sharply etched in voice. At times she reminded me of the great Renata Scotto (whom another famous Cio-Cio San, Maria Callas, once gave a standing ovation in defiance of hecklers). This was a mature Butterfly who knew her own mind and was fully conscious of her fate: the maturity of the singer’s voice, face and characterisation lending added pathos to her tiny body and deliberately doll-like gestures.” Daily Review, February 2015

“Plazas captures the fragility and playfulness of the fifteen-year old Cio-Cio-San with such grace.” ABC Perth, February 2015

CAPRICCIO/ROYAL OPERA HOUSE

“Special praise is also due to Barry Banks and Mary Plazas as the farcical Italian singers…” Telegraph, July 2013

“…Mary Plazas and Barry Banks as the Italian singers, added further panache.” Financial Times, July 2013

“…the duet of a Neapolitan tenor and soprano, hilariously over the top in the hands of golden-voiced Barry Banks and Mary Plazas, friends reunited some years after their perfect partnership in the English National Opera production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.” The Arts Desk, July 2013

EDGAR/NEW SUSSEX OPERA

“Mary Plazas gave an affecting portrayal of the gentle Fidelia, her soprano soaring easily to the highest demands of the role, her beautifully shapes singing expressive of her love for Edgar and her grief when he is supposed to be dead in battle; her ravishing fourth-act solo was a vocal peak.” Opera Magazine, January 2013

“Mary Plazas’s tender Fidelia, and Gweneth-Ann Jeffers’s seductive Tigrana were the stars.” Observer, October 2012

MADAM BUTTERFLY/ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA

“At the centre of this visual splendour is the diminutive figure of Mary Plazas,great of heart and great of voice,returning to the role of Cio-Cio San. She sings,moves and lives with a strength and authenticity of emotion which is given time and space to express itself-both in the stage direction and in the sensitive and perceptive conducting of Oleg Caetani. When Butterfly speaks of her hurt passing ‘like shadows of clouds upon the ocean’, for the forst time perhaps, we hear this image living with the orchestra too.” The Times, May 2012

“Butterfly, meanwhile, is a role Mary Plazas was born to play; hers is a sensitive and detailed reading of great emotional weight.” London Evening Standard, May 2012

“Ms Plazas’ size made it rather more realistic than usual that she could be 15 – ‘so very tiny’ as the translation says – vulnerable, infatuated, disillusioned and despairing by turns, hers was a performance of considerable accomplishment and the depth of her character’s vulnerability and despair was plain to see.” Seen and Heard, May 2012

MARIA DI ROHAN/BUXTON FESTIVAL

“The part of Maria is demanding a requires vocal stamina of a rare kind. Mary Plazas, who has become a leading exponent of such roles, triumphed yet again…” Opera Magazine, September 2011

“Mary Plazas has great presence in the title role…Maria’s every moment is tracked by Plazas with dignity and great vocal eloquence.” The Times July 2011

“…there was some fine singing, especially from Mary Plazas as the put-upon Maria.” Sunday Times, July 2011

LETTERS OF A LOVE BETRAYED/MUSIC THEATRE WALES AT THE LINBURY

“The undisputed star of the show is Mary Plazas as Analia, as usual acting and singing her socks off. I don’t know what the woman is on, but it certainly works.” Opera Now, October 2009

“The unstoppable Mary Plazas flings herself into the role of Analia with her usual fierce commitment.” Telegraph, October 2009

“Mary Plazas is excellent as the dreamy girl with the inner strength to seize back her life and land in a macho society.” The Times, October 2009

“…especially in the vocally resilient and dramatically assured presentation of Anilía by soprano Mary Plazas.” The Guardian, October 2009

LUCREZIA BORGIA/BUXTON FESTIVAL

“All the principals distinguished themselves. Mary Plazas…ending as mistress of all she surveyed in a searing cabaletta.” Opera Magazine, August 2009

“Mary Plazas gave a titanic performance in the title role, negotiating Donizetti’s coloratura sweeps with heroic abandon.” Financial Times, June 2009

“But the performance’s greatest virtue is a well-matched, well-integrated cast, led by the remarkable Mary Plazas in the title-role…she simply got better and better, rising to tragic heights in the tremendous last scene. Despite her tiny bodily frame, Plazas has extraordinary vocal endurance, and her vivid facial features make her an arrestingly expressive actress.” Telegraph, June 2009

“…in her final virtuoso aria, Plazas …yield[ed] a truly magnificent tour de force of Donizettian bel canto.” The Times, June 2009

“By the finale she was in quite magnificent estate, and whilst in this variation Lucrezia takes poison herself, we were not denied a superb acted and vocal conclusion from her that was justifiably applauded to the rafters.” Seen and Heard International, June 2009

Opera Repertoire

COMPOSER OPERA ROLE
Adès Powder Her Face Duchess
Barry The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant Karin
Bizet Carmen Micaela
Britten Owen Wingrave Mrs Coyle
De Falla La Vida Breve Salud
Dove Flight Tina
Dove Pinocchio Blue Fairy
Donizetti Lucrezia Borgia Lucrezia Borgia
Donizetti Maria di Rohan Maria
Donizetti Maria Stuarda Maria Stuarda
Donizetti Roberto Devereux Elisabetta
Eötvös Lady Sarashina Lady Sarashina
Gounod Faust Marguerite
Leoncavallo I Pagliacci Nedda
Mozart Così fan tutte Fiordiligi/Dorabella/Despina
Mozart Don Giovanni Donna Elvira
Mozart Idomeneo Elettra
Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro Susanna
Puccini Edgar Fidelia
Puccini La Bohème Mimì
Puccini Madama Butterfly Cio-Cio San
Strauss, Richard Capriccio Italian Soprano
Stravinksy The Rake's Progress Anne Trulove
Turnage Greek Mum

Concert Repertoire

COMPOSER WORK
Barber Andromiche's Farewell
Brahms German Requiem
Britten Les Illuminations
Britten Our Hunting Fathers
Canteloube Songs of the Auvergne
Janacek Glagolitic Mass
Mahler Symphony No 8 (Una poenitentium)
Shostakovich Symphony No 14
Tippett A Child of Our Time
Vaughan Williams Don Nobis Pacem
TITLE COMPOSER RECORD COMPANY DISC NUMBER
Powder Her Face Adès
Digital Classics (DVD) B000BM3K2W
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant Barry
RTÉ B00XLKFAK6
Carmen Bizet
Chandos B001MVAHYU
The Adventures of Pinocchio (DVD) Dove
Opus Arte OA1005D
The Elixir of Love Donizetti
Chandos B001MV3EDG
Flight Dove
Chandos B001MVUTJI
La Naissance de Venus Fauré
Chandos B001MV2U9A
Faust Gounod
Chandos B00000IM62
Don Giovanni Mozart
Chandos B001LZL318
Maria regina d'Inghilterra Pacini
Opera Rara B002XZ0NPC
Turandot Puccini
Chandos B001MVALQ4
Dido and Aeneas Purcell
Chandos B002XCHX4O
L'Enfant et les sortilèges Ravel
Deutsche Grammophon B00000JLFX