Reprising her part as Eleanor Iselin, Brenda Harris used her well-focused dramatic soprano to chilling effect. Much has been said of her talents, including this blog, and the basics of her instrument bear repeating: It is a large soprano voice of a cool edge and remarkable flexibility, evenly produced and expressive throughout its range. In the past we have openly admired her technical prowess in some of the most testing leading roles reserved for her fach (Norma, Elektra, Camilla in Mercandate’s Orazi e Curiazi, Verdi’s Lady Macbeth to list but a few). Her assumption of Eleanor Iselin, a part written specifically for her proclivities, surely ranks amongst her finest portrayals. As the American operator responsible for controlling her own son, her Eleanor was cleverly achieved through a variety of inflections, hearty vocalism and a cold-blooded yet wistfully disembodied tone that meticulously summed up her near demonic intentions. Her every measure was realized with steel cold rigidity and yet she found the right mix of sweet, slithery piani to thoroughly disturb the listener when she revealed herself to the shell that was left of her son.
Des Moines Register (7/6/15)
But clearly the brightest star in this well-assembled cast was the Kostelnicka, Brenda Harris, whose voice had all the intensity and the gorgeous projection necessary to hold the audience's rapt attention, and whose inhabiting of this magnificent character, with all its pride and warped venality, proved unforgettable.
Opera News (October 2015)
The Kostelnicka of Brenda Harris could hardly be bettered dramatically, and she sang the role scrupulously; without the shrieks and excesses so often employed.
Opera Today (7/19/15)
Brenda Harris proved a force of nature as a stoic, inscrutable Kostelnicka Buryjovka. Ms. Harris has a searing, laser-intense soprano that is a perfect match for the unmovable stepmother. Yet when the character has to make life-altering decisions, she is able to modulate her delivery to color her voice, embody anguished deliberation, and finally, the mortification of guilt. This was a consistent characterization that first hung onto sanity with fingertips of steel (and high notes to match), then descended into unutterable tragedy as she unwound before our eyes, bringing a touching vulnerability to her vocalism.
Voix des Arts: A Voice for the Performing Arts throughout the World
ARTIST PROFILE: the incendiary bel canto of scorching soprano BRENDA HARRIS
Opera News, March 2014
Harris, for her part, was an intense, combative, unyielding queen-to-be, which gave her sleepwalking scene, played with a subdued dreaminess --- with none of the fevered movements that sopranos usually give it --- such poignancy. ...Harris dealt easily and accurately with the part's coloratura demands, delivering honest-to-goodness trills in the banquet scene and ending the sleepwalking scene with an immaculate high D-flat.
DMMO 2013: Britten’s Peter Grimes. Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Strauss’ Elektra.
Opera News - October 2013
"Brenda Harris delivered a stunning account of the vengeful Greek princess, distinguished by scrupulous observation of the score, including the marked pianissimos that are so rarely heard. Her voice oozed sarcasm on "Tochter Klytamnestras?" and honeyed hypocrisy when wheedling Corey Bix's amusingly androgynous Aegisth. Harris's formidable achievement would easily transfer to a larger house, where she would sing the role more completely than most of her current competition."
www.operatoday.com, July 2013
If Brenda Harris does not yet "own" the title role, she will. I know of no one singing Elektra today that is performing it this well. Ms. Harris has a full-bodied soprano that 'speaks' in all registers and at all volume levels. The top has a laser-beam intensity and pinpoint accuracy that rides the orchestra without strain. Her tossed off comments and bitchy asides were equally present. And owing to her solid technique, Brenda sounds as fresh at the end of the night's challenges as she was at the start. Today's 'Elektra of Choice' has arrived.
Opera News - June 2013
Turandot was the season's sure-fire crowd-pleaser, full of Puccini's familiar, amazing music. With DeRenzi conducting, Sarasota boasted a strong cast, especially Brenda Harris, a soprano of Wagnerian heft, who made a powerful role debut as the riddling Princess and sang a stirring, keenly projected "In questa reggia."
Opera News - December 2012
"The singing was remarkable. Pride of place goes to soprano Brenda Harris, a local favorite, who not only faced down the famously treacherous role of Abigaille but humanized the character, offering nuance where others are content to scream."
The Washington Post, September 2011
She also gets Verdi's style: Not only did she nail tricky coloratura passages, she shaped her lines so that she delivered the most at climactic moments. Some might focus on her flaws, and there were a few, but in this repertory, she's ahead of the pack, including singers much better known than she is.
Opera News, January 2012
Brenda Harris's radiant Leonore rose to the apex of Einhorn's dramatic concept — a larger than life heroine, working under cover as the errand boy Fidelio, who overcomes fear and self-doubt to defeat Pizarro and rescue her husband Florestan. Harris's vocal capacity and well-paced dramatic arc were impressive...
Most memorable performances of last 12 months
By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Tulsa Opera's productions of "Don Giovanni" in February and the company premiere of "Norma" in May featured some excellent performances - Christopher Feigum in the title role, Wayne Tigges as Leporello and Pamela Armstrong as Donna Anna in the former, Brenda Harris in the title role, Edyta Kulczak as Adalgisa and Harold Wilson as Oroveso in the latter.
Classical music 2011: Vocal performances were something to sing about
By Rob Hubbard, Special to the Pioneer Press
The Minnesota Opera's "Mary Stuart." The stormy soprano smackdown between Brenda Harris and Judith Howarth was the climax of this soaring centerpiece to Gaetano Donizetti's Tudor Trilogy. Those two powerhouse performances stood out, but the singing and stagecraft were spectacular throughout this thrilling production.
Tulsa World - May 20011
The title role is one of the most demanding in the soprano repertoire, in that the character's tumultuous emotional state is expressed by so many different vocal techniques that a singer has to shift swiftly and smoothly. Brenda Harris does all this in frankly stupendous fashion. Her performance was filled with moments that just about took the breath away. Here was a soprano of impressive vocal power, regardless of register, and a suppleness of expression that made every note come alive.
Opera News, October 2010
Brenda Harris was fabulous as Lady Macbeth. Her soprano seemed voluminous, and her characterization virtually dripped with bile -- all the while employing a formidable chest register that gave way to a perfectly calibrated trill in the brindisi and a rock-solid high D-flat in the sleepwalking scene.
As Agathe 'Der Freischutz'
Opera News, October 2009
Brenda Harris's pure, somewhat cool timbre made for a luminous Agathe. "Leise, leise," a lyric-soprano litmus test for the likes of Jenny Lind and others, was very intelligently sculpted, particularly in a skilled transition from the aria's predominantly inward lyricism to the triumphant exultation of its final measures.
As Mrs. Julian 'Owen Wingrave'
Opera News, August 2009
As Mrs. Julian, Brenda Harris' floated pianissimo in the dinner interlude brought a musical pleasure of its own.
The Turn of the Screw
Opera (England), August 2009
Brenda Harris as the Governess, captured the emotional turmoil with incisive singing and acting. When showing resolve and courage, Harris sang with flinty determination and a clarion projection. When collapsing in anguish and frustration, her voice had a soft, melting quality that was ideal.
Governess 'Turn of the Screw' at Portland Opera
The Oregonian February 9, 2009
...her emotionally intense and unsparing performance carries the show more than anything else, and her rich soprano and sensitive phrasing make poignant work of Britten's vocal lines.
Alice Ford in Falstaff
Dallas Morning News, May 2007
Vocally, the star of the show was Brenda Harris as Alice Ford, dispensing a gorgeous soprano with the greatest of ease and elegance.
Austin 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk'
Harris found the most exquisite legato I have heard from any singer of the role. This was a performance for the ages.
'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk' with Austin Lyric
Dallas Morning News, January 2006
...this is drop-dead gorgeous singing, soaring on high, glowing with mezzo-ish warmth in lower registers, nearly every phrase elegantly turned.
'Orazi e Curiazi' with MN Opera
Donizetti Society, April 2006
That Harris was able to maintain her exacting vocal standards and still deliver some of the finest acting I've witnessed on the operatic stage is nothing short of miraculous.
Elizabeth (Roberto Devereux)
The Washington Times - March 2004
Soprano Brenda Harris was a brilliant Elizabeth whose stunning bel canto instrument effortlessly negotiated Act One’s tricky vocal acrobatics. From tender interludes to thundering royal ragings, she was every inch a queen in command of her kingdom and this performance.
Norma (Minnesota Opera)
Opera News - April 2003
Minnesota Opera’s Norma was like a great force of nature, a tidal wave of grand singing and high drama, which swept off its steeply raked stage and into the Ordway Center auditorium (Jan 25). Triumphantly riding its crest was soprano Brenda Harris as Norma. She had it all: unstinting intensity, brilliant high Cs, breathtaking high-note tapers, trills, elegant tone and total dramatic commitment.
Mittelbadische Presse - May 2003
Brilliantly displayed was the leading actress. She personified Vanessa in an ideal manner and with a superior soprano voice. One understands why she unquestionably belongs on world class stages (i.e. The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera).
Agrippina (New York City Opera)
Peter G. Davis - New York Magazine - April 2002
The show has been tightened and streamlined considerably since I saw it in August, and at least one bit of casting is wonderfully improved. Brenda Harris in the title role is a marvel of comic irony and glamorous deviousness, a perfect combination to put over director Lillian Groag’s notion that the composer’s youthful jeu d’esprit is actually a Hollywood screwball comedy in disguise. Harris looks great in Jess Goldstein’s Joan Collins gowns, she packs a mean pistol, and she even sings the florid music with considerable grace and élan.
The Wall Street Journal - April 2002
The show was substantially recast for New York. One improvement was Brenda Harris, whose rich dramatic soprano gave weight to the nasty, conniving Agrippina.
Ariadne auf Naxos
Opera News - October 2001
As Ariadne, Brenda Harris sang surpassingly well, her clear, well-supported soprano soaring above the orchestra with power to spare; during the opera seria, her Prima Donna vein resurfaced whenever she brushed against the comedians, adding a humorous dimension to her characterization.
Opera News - August 2001
Soprano Brenda Harris scored a stunning personal success in the first Desdemona of her career. Her voice sounded strong, yet supple throughout. Minutes after effortlessly riding the crest of the big ensemble that closes Act III, she returned (without benefit of an intermission in this production) to deliver a willow song and “Ave Maria” of crystalline delicacy, capping the latter with a shimmering pianissimo. With a regal yet graceful stage presence, her Desdemona was no drooping victim but an authentically tragic heroine whose very innocence made it impossible for her to comprehend her husband’s jealousy. Harris may add felicitous details in future performances of the role, but she scarcely can improve on the overall mastery she displayed here.
Classical Singer Magazine - June 2000
The musical end of Semiramide was upheld gloriously. Brenda Harris, as the eponymous Babylonian queen, is a soprano of immense accomplishment and stunning technical control.
Her powerful voice, remarkably even in every respect throughout its phenomenal range, seems capable of all and everything that this style of vocalism could demand. Her flawless trills, including a most remarkable one sustained for seemingly ever between high B and C#, were a wonder, as were several marvelous pianissimi in alt. This was golden age singing. A stunningly beautiful woman, she was every inch the Queen of Assyria and a magnetic stage presence as well.
Opera (England) - June 2000
Brenda Harris was superb as Semiramide. She is an attractive woman with bright, well projected and sizeable tone. She also has all the attributes needed to deliver the demanding role: radiant high notes, blazing coloratura facility, subtle dynamic shadings, and grand musical style. Her delivery of the ‘Bel raggio’ cavatina was a brilliant display, and her Act 2 prayer, ‘Al mio pregar’, an exquisitely sung delicacy.