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/Northern Ireland Opera/Irish National Opera/Nevill Holt Opera), 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), and the title role in Rossini’s Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra (English Touring 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.

She recently sang the Duchess Powder Her Face for Semper Oper in Dresden.


Letters of a Love Betrayed (ROH2)
Cio-Cio San (English National Opera)
Maria di Rohan (Buxton Festival)
Anne Trulove (Israel Opera)
Blue Fairy in Pinocchio (Opera North)
Duchess in Powder Her Face (Nevill Holt)
Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra (English Touring Opera)

Artist Videos

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


“The English soprano, Mary Plazas, displayed the multiple facets of this woman, the morally calculating femme fatale, the unapproachable high priestess of beauty, her sexual freedom and her loneliness. With her warm, seductive vocal colour….she awakened compassion for the lonely, bitter and desperate woman.” IOCO, Kultur im Netz, October 2023

“Mary Plazas is a Duchess with a unanimous strength and truth. Familiar with this role which she has performed under the direction of the composer, she takes an obvious pleasure in playing as much as singing.” (Le Magazine du Monde Lyrique) October 2023


“…but the true star of the evening was Mary Plazas, who made a plucky Elisabetta, able to negotiate many of the challenges Rossini set for Colbran. It’s not the largest of voices but she tucked into the coloratura resolutely, moving around the stage in haughty fashion…..Plazas’s finely spun legato made her closing aria the highlight of the lengthy evening.” Opera Magazine, May 2019

“Mary Plazas is a classy artist who, as Elisabeth, presents a figure of natural authority on stage and is kitted out to kill as she rails against Leicester’s faithlessness.” Sunday Times, March 2019

“Mary Plazas admirably captures Elizabeth’s loneliness of soul and crises of conscience in singing of refined beauty.” Guardian, March 2019

“….one character who really comes alive — Mary Plazas’s red-headed Elizabeth, a plausible mix of regal authority, human desires and wily glances.” The Times, March 2019

“Mary Plazas as Elizabeth expresses the whole gamut of her character’s unhappy emotions.” Independent, March 2019

“Elizabeth herself is exceptionally well sung by Mary Plazas.” Daily Mail, March 2019

“Central to this was the stunning performance of Mary Plazas as the aging Queen Elizabeth I. This is the diva role, she gets to close the show with a bravura Rondo. If you can ignore the libretto’s historical solecisms then the role of Elisabetta has some cracking moments as the plot shows her struggling with public regality and private feelings, Mary Plazas made Rossini’s elaborate vocal writing count as emotional drama, she had the ability to really snap it out when needed. Perhaps the passagework was not always pinpoint, but Plazas showed us how to create drama out of this technical display.” Planet Hugill, March 2019

“And it was good to see Mary Plazas again (singing Elizabeth), and remember what a great singing actress she is, with a knack for the stillness that speaks, and a non-histrionic style gravid with suppressed, roiling emotions.” Critics Circle, March 2019

“The extremely committed cast is headed by Mary Plazas as Elisabetta who, with her rich and vibrant soprano, commands the stage, while also hinting at all of the monarch’s calculations and vulnerabilities.” Musicomh, March 2019

“Mary Plazas defines Elizabeth as a strong woman given to anger, jealousy and cunning – probably needing all three to survive.” The Stage, March 2019


“Mary Plazas’s performance as the Duchess is at the centre of it all, conjuring up a compelling portrait of a pathetic and ultimately empty woman.” Guardian, July 2018

“Arguably somewhat soft-grained vocally for such an unashamedly hard-edged woman, soprano Mary Plazas takes on this starring role, and in terms of physicality – especially those facial expressions which this small venue allows the audience to see – she lays all the human dimensions of a flawed but proud individual before us. Her interpretation is a true tour-de-force.” The Stage, July 2018


“….top accolades go to Plazas, whose Duchess was at once despicable for her sense of entitlement and her racist and anti-Semitic views, and heartbreakingly vulnerable with her realisation at the end that “the only people who were ever good to me were paid for it”.” backtrack, March 2018

“Star of the show is soprano Mary Plazas who gives an extraordinary performance as Duchess over the course of six decades from breezy debutant to fragile old lady ignominiously evicted from her Mayfair hotel.” Irish Examiner, February 2018


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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

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
Rossini Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra Elisabetta
Strauss, Richard Capriccio Italian Soprano
Stravinksy The Rake's Progress Anne Trulove
Turnage Greek Mum

Concert Repertoire

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
Powder Her Face Adès
Digital Classics (DVD) B000BM3K2W
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant Barry
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