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Fresh off three years in San Francisco Opera’s Adler Program, Romanian-American soprano Esther Tonea has been praised for dramatic excellence, flexibility, and beauty of her singing. Her rendition of Imogene’s mad scene from Bellini’s Il pirata is acclaimed as “a performance of powerful, gleaming tone, effortless precision and expressive immediacy, all rendered with the sublime assurance of an established diva.” She is a recent winner of the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, Presser Scholar, and recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant. 

A frequent collaborator with composer-librettist duo Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, Tonea premiered the role of Diana in If I Were You with the Merola Opera Program and workshopped Intelligence as Callie Van Lew with Houston Grand Opera. She has performed Fiordiligi with “gleaming tones and impeccable dynamic control” and continues to sing Mozart heroines such as Donna Anna and Contessa. She covered Eugene Onegin’s Tatyana and Dialogues of the Carmelite’s Blanche de la Force at San Francisco Opera and has performed excerpts from Turandot (Liù), Ariadne auf Naxos (Prima Donna), Idomeneo (Elettra), Don Giovanni (Donna Anna), Roméo et Juliette (Juliette), and Il pirata (Imogene) with the San Francisco Opera and Metropolitan Opera orchestras. Last season she made her San Francisco Opera debut in Dialogues of the Carmelites and Dream of the Red Chamber.

No stranger to orchestral works, Tonea has appeared as soprano soloist in Mahler’s second and fourth symphonies, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Haydn’s The Creation and Missa in Angustiis, Mozart’s Requiem in D minor and Exsultate, jubilate, and Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio. This season she solos in Orff’s Carmina Burana with Richmond Symphony and Ballet.

Because of her passion for increasing accessibility to classical music and opera, Tonea appears as guest artist in elementary school outreach programs across the United States. She has also curated recitals in more intimate casual venues, namely in-home salons and outdoor festivals. This season she works with pianist Andrew King and the Shoshana Foundation in a free public recital and continues a series of recitals centered around various topics such as her Romanian heritage and increased awareness of domestic violence. Continuing her work in higher education, she served as resident artist at Tennessee Wesleyan University where she gave a recital, taught lessons, and held a masterclass for undergraduate students. She also performs in collaboration with pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg and Roots of Peace, an organization based in Napa Valley whose mission it is to replace land mines with vineyards in war-torn countries such as Ukraine and Croatia.

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. 

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In addition to dramatic excellence, Tonea impressed with the flexibility and beauty of her singing.


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