Briana Elyse Hunter
Mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter hailed by Opera News as “mesmerizing…contributing a fiery theatrical presence and dynamic vocalism” is at the precipice of a very promising career in opera. She has been on the rosters of many notable companies/programs: I SING BEIJING, Sarasota Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, The Music Academy of the West, American Opera Projects, The Glimmerglass Festival, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis where she performed the roles of Flora in La traviata (in Patricia Racette’s directorial debut), and Pvt. Stanton in the world premiere of An American Soldier. She recently made her Lincoln Center Theater debut in their gala performance of Camelot starring Lin Manuel Miranda, and completed a workshop of Intimate Apparel by Ricky Ian Gordon and Lynn Nottage, directed by Bartlett Sher also at Lincoln Center Theater. This June she makes her role debut as Hannah after in Laura Kaminsky’s As One at Merkin Hall in a co-production with American Opera Projects and New York City Opera. This summer she will create the role of Mother in the world premiere of Blue by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson at The Glimmerglass Festival.
Briana Hunter hails from Malvern, Pennsylvania where she was a student in the Great Valley School District, recognized for their strong music and theater programs. While in high school she had the unique pleasure of working with Tony and Academy Award winning playwright Mark Medoff in a production of his play Gunfighter–A Gulf War Chronicle. Theater would become her major at Davidson College where she earned her B.A. and developed an original production double bill titled Infinite Variety/For Every Passion Something under the direction of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The show would also have her call upon her vocal abilities as she presented “The Willow Song” from Rossini’s Othello in addition to playing the roles of Hippolyta in Midsummer Nights Dream and Lord Westmorland in Henry IV: Part I. The show debuted on the campus of Davidson College, and continued performances in the Fringe Festival in Scotland for an additional two week run. Other roles at Davidson College included: Livia in Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton, J.S. in Necessary Targets and “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could” The Vagina Monologues both by Eve Ensler, Karla Wonder of the World by David Lindsey-Abaire.
She went on to attend the prestigious Manhattan School of Music for Classical Voice where she performed in mainstage productions with the opera department (Summer and Smoke, La vida breve, Of Love and Loss: Opera Scenes, The Ghosts of Versailles), the American Musical Theater Ensemble (Godspell, Ragtime), Outreach concerts, Independent projects (Trouble in Tahiti), as well as producing, directing, and performing (“Because He Liked to Look at It”) in MSM’s very first production of The Vagina Monologues which to her delight included faculty and staff members in addition to students in its cast.
In 2012⁄2013 she participated in I SING BEJING where she studied Mandarin, coached both Chinese and Western repertoire, and performed opera scenes and Chinese art songs in multiple concerts in several Beijing venues including the city’s top performance hall, The National Center for the Performing Arts. Winter 2013 Ms. Hunter joined Sarasota Opera as an Apprentice Artist and returned in the fall to sing the role of Ida in Die Fledermaus and cover the role of Prince Orlofsky. That summer was spent working with the great French Tenor Michel Sénéchal in the southwestern Périgord region of France. In between, she tackled the Russian language with Opera Slavica in their production of Iolanta singing the role of Laura.
In 2014⁄15 she created the role of Rachel in the world premiere of Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom with American Opera Projects in Brooklyn, and the role of Play by Play in the world premiere of Bum Phillips: An All-American Opera at LaMama Experimental Theater (a role she reprised in 2015 in TX). Later that spring she competed as a Lotte Lenya Competition finalist and took home the Lys Symonette award. That summer she worked closely with Marilyn Horne and sang her very first Carmen in the eponymously titled opera with Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA to rave reviews saying “Hunter consistently displayed impressive fluidity in her flawless “Habanera” and “Seguidilla.” In 2015 she sang her first Mercedes in Knoxville Opera’s production of Carmen, and in March reprised the title role of Carmen in La tragédie de Carmen with Opera in the Heights in Houston, TX. That summer she joined The Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Artist, covering the roles of Lucinda in the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain, Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto, and performing the role of Giulietta in Act III (Schirmer edition) of Les contes d’Hoffmann in the Apprentice Artist scenes.
In 2016 she returned to The Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Artist performing the role of Ruggiero (Alcina) in the scenes program, and reprised the role of Mercédès in two productions of Carmen, the first with El Paso Opera in February and the next with Michigan Opera Theater where she performed as a studio artist for the 2016-17 season. Other roles at MOT included Jo Little Women, Wowkle in La fanciulla del West, and Madeleine Audebert in Silent Night.
In 2017 Ms. Hunter performed the roles of Annie and Strawberry Woman in Porgy and Bess and covering Arsamenes in Xerxes at the Glimmerglass Festival. In the fall she returned to Michigan Opera Theatre for their 2017-18 season under the direction of Maestro Stephen Lord and Tenor Richard Leech. She sang the roles of Giovanna in the season’s opening production of Rigoletto and Gertrude Stein in Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27 for which she won the EncoreMichigan award for Best Performance in an Opera. In September 2018 she created the role of Dee Dee Reyes in Hillard and Boresi’s The Last American Hammer with UrbanArias in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Hunter holds a M.M. from Manhattan School of Music and a B.A. from Davidson College. Briana Elyse Hunter hails from Malvern, Pennsylvania and currently resides in New York City.