Soprano pulls out of ‘too heavy’ Manon

The American soprano Nadine Sierra has withdrawn from Massenet’s Manon at San Francisco Opera in November.

She says the decision was ‘an extremely difficult one to make, but after considerable deliberation I realised the role was simply too heavy at this point in my vocal development.’

Ellie Dehn, a fellow-American, will take over, making her role debut.

San Francisco Opera’s press releases are commendable for their clarity and candour.


Sierra: Photo Merri Cyr

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  • Given what she has recently been singing — Cavalli’s Eliogabalo, Amore in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and Ilia in Idomeneo — she is absolutely right!

  • It’s nice to see a young singer — well, any singer really — turning away from roles because they are too heavy. The “voice of a Zerlina, wants to sing Tosca” syndrome has claimed too many victims.

    • Conversely, the “Zerlina wants to sing Tosca but never did because she is still taking care of her voice at age 70” syndrome has claimed too many boring and inconsequential singers.

      • Thanks for this thundering non-sequitur.
        Unless you can name a boring and inconsequential singer whose career would’ve benefited if she’d pushed herself into repertoire unsuitable for her voice.

  • I actually find this incredibly irresponsible.

    First of all, shame on the opera company for offering her Manon, which is clearly too heavy of a role for a young singer. This was probably offered at least two years ago.

    Second, she and her managers should have recognized that the role was too heavy for her. Yet, they pushed for her to accept the contract.

    Third, she took the contract, then canceled a few months before the show started, well after the season has been announced and tickets were already on sale. If people were buying tickets for this, they would be upset because the soprano didn’t do her homework and learn about the role before she accepted the offer.

    This to me is a colossal failure of all parties and it doesn’t make anyone look good.

    • I dunno, it seems possible that a couple years ago she thought her voice was gaining heft fast enough that it would be ready for this role when the time came. I don’t know that she’s a big enough draw that she could be useful in a cynical ploy to sell tickets; and if that was the case, they could have held off announcing the change for another month or three. Not saying you’re wrong, just offering an alternative view.

      • +1. To secure the best, talented artists, it is necessary to book a long way ahead (particularly where this might involve learning roles), and with younger artists it is necessary to take a chance on the expected development of a voice. Sometimes this won’t work out, and plaudits to all for recognising that and dealing with it rather than trying to hack on through.

  • I saw this production in Vilnius with what I’d describe as an operetta singer as Manon. Acceptable, but clearly a rather more heft was required. No doubt Ms Sierra has withdrawn with reluctance as the production is rather good, and potentially a big hit for SF Opera. I wonder, has Ermanola Jaho been contacted? She’s excellent in the role.

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