Sony Classical International announces the exclusive signing of American soprano, Rachel Willis-Sørensen with her self-titled debut album of opera arias and scenes, released on April 8, 2022. ‘Rachel’ – available from today to pre-order – showcases the depth and variety of her incredible voice which leading French daily Le Monde cites as “without a doubt one of the most impressive voices in the opera world.” The album includes key works from Verdi, Mozart, Puccini, Dvorak and Lehár that reflect her stellar career performing on the world’s most prestigious opera stages. Ms. Willis-Sørensen is joined by one of her vocal idols on the famous duet from La Bohème – tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who makes his first guest appearance of this kind.
Sony Classical President Per Hauber says: “Rachel’s unique voice and outstanding stage presence are simply remarkable. During the recording sessions for Jonas Kaufmann’s Vienna album with the Vienna Philharmonic, she also enthusiastically excited us with her sheer incredible linguistic talent. We are now looking forward to releasing her first solo album and joining her on an exciting recording career”.
Ms Willis-Sørensen added: “I have dreamed of recording an album since I knew such a thing existed. There are not words enough to share my thrill and honour of recording with this prestigious label some of the dearest music to my heart and sharing it with YOU!”.
To coincide with today’s announcement, Sony Classical releases the first single from her upcoming album: Dvořák’s famous aria ‘Song to the Moon’, from Rusalka. Ms. Willis-Sørensen chose this in the light of her unforgettable experience singing the titular role in David McVicar’s acclaimed 2019 San Francisco production.
The new album sees this immensely gifted singer, who possesses an impressive vocal and dramatic range, explore a wide swathe of repertoire to showcase her versatility, vocal depth, and artistry. An intimate portrait of the artist at this stage in her career, each piece included on the album was carefully selected by Ms. Willis-Sørensen as she presents a collection of her favourite arias and scenes that she hopes will move the listener as they have moved her. Her dramatic expressivity and vocal virtuosity are both on display in full force, in arias ranging from the album’s centrepiece Verdi scenes, with weighty roles such as Desdemona in Otello, Leonora in Il Trovatore and Violetta in La Traviata, to ‘Vilja-Lied’ from Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow and the aforementioned ‘Song to the Moon’ from Dvořák’s Rusalka.
Inspiration for Jonas Kaufmann joining Ms. Willis-Sørensen on the duet ‘O soave fanciulla’ came from the stage, as the pair performed La Bohème together at the Bavarian State Opera in 2020. This follows Ms. Willis-Sørensen partnering on the tenor’s highly-successful ‘Wien’ album and accompanying tour.
She has also selected two scenes from one of her first ever stage roles – Donna Anna from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which she has subsequently gone on to perform at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera New York, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Vienna State Opera. Similarly symbolic is the inclusion of the aria ‘Ami, le cœur d’Hélène’ from Verdi’s Les Vêpres Siciliennes, which saw her learn the role of Hélène with only a week’s notice, resulting in a manifold debut for her in Munich in 2018.
Recorded in Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova, Rachel is joined on the recording by the Orchestra Della Fondazione Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova under conductor Frédéric Chaslin, with guest appearances by soprano Olivia Kahler and tenor Giovanni Sala.
While Ms Willis-Sørensen is highly-praised for her deliciously creamy and expressive vocal artistry on stage, offstage, she is breaking down outdated opera stereotypes through her approachable, authentic and warm personality. She uses her social channels to share professional advice on the daily challenges of being an opera singer, while introducing the art form to a legion of new fans, taking them backstage as she performs in the world’s leading opera houses.
Her forthcoming opera engagements include productions in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin (with Jonas Kaufmann at his outdoor concert at Berlin’s Waldbühne), Munich and Chicago.
Additional biographical info:
Her accolades include first prize at the 2014 Operalia competition and at the 2011 Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, and she was a winner of the 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She holds both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Brigham Young University and is an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. She has also performed at Buckingham Palace for HRH Prince Charles’ birthday in 2018. An active presence on social media, she can be found on instagram, facebook, twitter and tiktok.
GIUSEPPE VERDI 1813–1901
1 “È strano! È strano! … Ah, fors’è lui che l’anima”
2 “Follie! Delirio vano è questo!”
3 “Sempre libera”
Les Vêpres siciliennes
4 “Ami, le cœur d’Hélène”
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 1756–1791
5 “Don Ottavio, son morta!”
6 “Or sai chi l’onore”
7 “Crudele? Ah no, mio bene!”
8 “Non mi dir, bell’idol mio”
9 “Forse un giorno”
10 “Era più calmo?”
11 “Mia madre aveva una povera ancella”
12 “Piangea cantando nell’erma landa”
13 “Ave Maria”
GIACOMO PUCCINI 1858–1924
14 “Sì. Mi chiamano Mimì”
15 “O soave fanciulla”
ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK 1841–1904
16 “Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém” (Song to the Moon)
17 “Che più t’arresti?”
18 “Tacea la notte placida”
19 “Di tale amor”
FRANZ LEHÁR 1870–1948
Die lustige Witwe / The Merry Widow
20 “Es lebt’ eine Vilja, ein Waldmägdelein” (Vilja-Lied)
Rachel Willis-Sørensen – soprano
Jonas Kaufmann – tenor (14/15)
Olivia Kahler – soprano (10, 17/18)
Giovanni Sala – tenor (3, 5)
Capella Cracoviensis (20)
Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova
Frédéric Chaslin – conductor
Ms Willis-Sørensen is represented internationally by Zemsky/Green Artists Management.