Praised for her “dramatic excellence, flexibility, and beauty of her singing” by Classical Voice America, Romanian-American soprano Esther Tonea has appeared in concert and recital across the United States, Canada, and Europe. As Diana in the world premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s If I Were You, Tonea stunned audiences and critics alike with “magnificent singing — an ardent, tonally plush performance” (San Francisco Chronicle). In the 2019 season with the Merola Opera Program, she “dazzled as Fiordiligi” (San Francisco Examiner) in the Grand Finale performance with her “gleaming tones and impeccable dynamic control” (San Francisco Chronicle).
In February 2021 she workshopped Jake Heggie’s newest opera Intelligence as Callie Van Lew, and in March and April she performed in the three-part concert series “The Adlers: Live at the Drive-In.” No stranger to sacred music, Tonea has appeared as soprano soloist in Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection" with Stanford University Chorus and Orchestras, Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis with the Athens Choral Society, Haydn’s The Creation with the University of Georgia, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in San Francisco, Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate with Burbank Philharmonic, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, and twice in Mozart’s Requiem in D minor with California Symphony and Tennessee Wesleyan University.
Tonea has participated in masterclasses and training programs with Richard Bonynge, Patricia Racette, Jane Eaglen, Aprile Millo, Martin Katz, and Warren Jones. She has performed alongside composer and pianist Jake Heggie and conductors Maestros Richard Bonynge, John Morris Russell, George Manahan, Nicole Paiement, Grant Gershon, Donato Cabrera, and Cristian Reif. Tonea has participated as a resident artist herself at Tennessee Wesleyan University.
Tonea’s dramatic flair is best highlighted by her competitive pedigree: she is a 2022 Winner of the Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition, 2021 Semifinalist for the Neue Stimmen International Vocal Competition, 2018 finalist for the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, and a first-place winner of the New York Lyric Opera National Vocal Competition, Hennings-Fischer Young Artist Competition, and East Bay Opera League Competition. Tonea is a District Winner of the 2019 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a three-time scholarship recipient of the Holt Memorial Competition. She is a Richard F. Gold Career Grant recipient and a Presser Scholar. She is a winner of the Concerto Competitions at the University of Georgia and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Tonea is a current Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, where she is making her house debut in Bright Sheng's Dream of the Red Chamber. She holds a Master of Music in Voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees in Vocal Performance and Cello Performance from the University of Georgia.
In addition to dramatic excellence, Tonea impressed with the flexibility and beauty of her singing.
CLASSICAL VOICE AMERICA