ISABEL BAYRAKDARIAN (Pamina) burst onto the international opera scene after winning first prize in the 2000 Operalia competition. Since then she has performed in many of the world's major opera houses, most recently endearing herself to London's audiences in her Royal Opera House debut as Susanna in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. The young Armenian-Canadian is admired as much for her stunning stage presence as for her exceptional musicality, and she has followed a career path completely her own. Her most famous roles are in Mozart operas, which have kept her very busy during the composer's 250th birthday year. Susanna, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Pamina in The Magic Flute have been her calling cards, along with Marzelline in Fidelio, Adina in L'elisir d'amore, and Rosina in The Barber of Seville. But these are only a few of the roles in her rocketing career. Bayrakdarian sang Euridice in Gluck's Orfeo to signature success at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Romilda (Xerxes), and Emilia (Flavio) demonstrate her tremendous skills as a Handelian.
Bayrakdarian has been applauded for opera performances in Chicago, Dresden, London, Milan, New York, Paris, Salzburg, San Francisco, and Toronto, and is renowned as well for her work in remoter operas of the repertory, such as Berlioz' Benvenuto Cellini and Bolcom's A View from the Bridge, in which she made her Metropolitan Opera debut.
Highlights of Bayrakdarian's 2006/07 Metropolitan Opera season include appearances in Julie Taymor's sensational production of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, as Pamina. Last season's Met audiences enjoyed her engaging performance on opening night as Susanna opposite Bryn Terfel's Figaro in Act I of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Last season she also sang Zerlina at the Salzburg Festival's celebration of Mozart's birthday, and was heard in Le nozze di Figaro at Covent Garden and the Houston Grand Opera. Bayrakdarian also returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago for her role debut as Blanche in Robert Carsen's production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites.
Bayrakdarian's orchestral appearances last season included debuts with the Chicago and Montreal Symphonies - both in Mahler's Fourth Symphony - with conductors David Zinman and James Conlon respectively.
Often partnered by her husband, pianist Serouj Kradjian, Bayrakdarian has also triumphed in recital in New York's Carnegie Hall, in Atlanta, Berkeley, Boston, Edmonton, Ottawa, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, and elsewhere. This season they tour Canada together, and perform at New York's newest recital space - the Gilder Lehrman hall in the Morgan Library, as well as in Palm Beach, Toronto, Savannah, and Tokyo. Continuing her passion for wide-ranging repertoire, Bayrakdarian will present her first evening of tangos in a concert at Toronto's new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and she will participate in world-premiere performances of Jake Heggie and Gene Sheer's one-act opera To Hell and Back.
Bayrakdarian concertizes with orchestras in San Francisco, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and at home in Canada with the Toronto and Montreal Symphonies, Tafelmusik, Les Violons du Roy, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and other major Canadian performing organizations, as well as with numerous groups in Europe.
Isabel Bayrakdarian sings on the Grammy-winning soundtrack of the blockbuster film The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, and her voice can also be heard in the multiple award-winning Canadian film Ararat. Bayrakdarian's widely-praised recording of songs by singer/composer Pauline Viardot-Garcia brought her a third Juno award for Best Classical Album, Canada's highest recording prize. Azulão is a disc of songs by Spanish composers, and on Cleopatra she portrays the Egyptian queen in arias from several Baroque operas. Her first solo CD, Joyous Light, presents Armenian sacred music. She has also recorded Mahler's Second Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.
Isabel Bayrakdarian has received many grants and other awards in addition to the first prize in the Operalia: three Juno awards, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the 2005 Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Leonie Rysanek Award from the George London Foundation, and a Metropolitan Opera National Council Award in 1997.
Born in Lebanon of proud Armenian heritage, and now a citizen of Canada, Bayrakdarian moved with her family to Toronto as a teenager. Her earliest singing experience was at church, which remains - along with her family - the central focus of her life. She is the subject of a CBC-TV film entitled A Long Journey Home that documents her first trip to Armenia; on another trip there recently she recorded a disc of songs by the country's national composer, Komitas Vartabed, with her husband and the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. She holds an honors degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto.