18 brilliant LGBTQ+ opera stars you should know
29 June 2021, 10:12 | Updated: 12 July 2021, 15:32
The incredible performers who also happen to be lighting up opera stages around the world with rainbow colours.
Opera plots’ approaches to gender, identities and love are as fluid as they come.
And it makes sense that the stage-stealing stars of the opera world should have the opportunity to be as inspiringly diverse and representative as the characters they play.
Listen on Global Player: Robert Rinder’s Classical Passions, celebrating great composers who were gay
For Pride Month and beyond, we’re celebrating the people behind the lavish costumes who are out, and flying the flag for the LGBTQ+ community atop the world’s most hallowed opera stages.
Patricia Racette is an American soprano who made her debut in Puccini’s La bohème in 1996.
She’s a Met, Royal Opera, and San Francisco Opera regular, and she came out in print in 2002 with her long-term partner Beth Clayton. Racette met and soon moved in with Clayton in 1997, before the pair married in 2005.
“I was asked a lot of questions about that, and number one was ‘Was it scary?’, Racette said in a video for Metropolitan Opera. “And it was scary for a moment, but I quickly realised that the price wasn’t worth paying for my relationship.”
Read more: 11 great LGBTQ+ conductors you should know
The wife of soprano Patricia Racette (see above), Beth Clayton is a mezzo-soprano who has played over 50 leading roles around the world. She has been out as a lesbian since 2002, and married Racette in 2005.
“It was this great sense of validation as a couple. Lots of people who were young and struggling came to us and asked if this really made a big difference in our lives, and we said, ‘yes’ [it has made a big difference] to be truthful and to be out in more ways than just saying it in our lives,” Clayton said in the same video for The Met (below).
“It’s become part of our mission to never deny who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple… Things will change, and it will get better.”
John Holiday is a countertenor who’s been described by the LA Times as “one of the finest of his generation”.
Often specialising in Baroque repertoire, he’s praised for his “astonishing” voice and is slated to debut at The Met this year in Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice. Holiday married his husband, Paul Gater, in 2013.
Angelico is a trans man, who has described his pride at being out. “I wanted to become the person I needed when I grew up… Someone who worked and was successful in any way, and who also happened to be trans/two-spirit… Hoping my story can mean something for someone,” he said.
Jamie Barton is an inspirational mezzo-soprano who has established herself as one of opera’s most exciting young artists and a role model for body positivity and sexuality.
The Cardiff Singer of the World 2013 winner describes herself as a “proudly queer opera singer into drag queens, bluegrass, social justice, equality, and cats” on her Instagram bio.
Talking about his sexuality, Fabiano has said: “I was forced to hide [in my career]. Hiding is even worse than being in the closet. I was out, it’s not like I wasn’t out of the closet – all of my friends and family knew who I was from a very young age, but the reality is that I didn’t talk about it.”
Lucia Lucas is a trans woman who made history when she became the first female baritone to perform a principal role in the US, when she appeared as Don Giovanni in Tulsa Opera’s production of the Mozart opera in 2019.
Lucas described coming out at the age of 33. “Friends said ‘what are you going to do now? Clearly you’re going to stop singing’. And my response was ‘Did I say that?’
“Being able to truly be yourself and show the world who you are is invaluable”, the baritone says. “Your art will be better, the more authentic you are.”
Russell Thomas is a sought-after tenor who has performed at English National Opera and the Met, as well as major symphony orchestras like the New York Philharmonic and Finnish Radio Symphony. He’s known for his acclaimed interpretation of Verdi’s Otello.
Thomas identifies as gay, and recently released Vanished, an LGBTQ+ story about “longing, heartbreak, and searching for love” with John Holiday (above).
Breanna Sinclairé is a transgender soprano who has had an eclectic career singing a diverse range of genres and settings – from the opera stage, to the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus.
Sinclairé made history in 2015 when she became the first trans woman to perform the National Anthem at a professional sporting event, and three years later she made her debut with San Francisco Symphony, as the first trans singer to perform with the orchestra.
David Portillo is an American tenor and proud husband of David Lawrence.
He’s sung at The Met, Washington National Opera and Bayerische Staatsoper among other prestigious venues, and he regularly posts about his life with Lawrence, and their doggo Ruthie, on his Instagram.
Tenor Frederick Ballentine made his debut with New York’s Met as Sportin’ Life in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in 2019 and played Charlie in Daniel Schnyder’s opera, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, the same year.
“I was yanked out of the closet in high school by my best friend,” Ballentine told Washington Blade. “It was probably 2005 or 2006. Because it wasn’t my doing, coming out was surprisingly easy. The hardest people to tell were my parents, who I told four years later.”
Holden Madagame is a tenor and trans activist, who sang as a mezzo-soprano before coming out as trans.
“This was the first lesson I had to learn: I am not my voice,” he wrote in The Independent in 2017.
He attended Glyndebourne Academy, which was a life-changer. “It was like my social justice dreams had come true: a training program for aspiring opera singers who had non-traditional career paths, with an emphasis on diversity.”
Lucas Bouk is a mezzo-soprano-turned-baritone singer and actor, who came out publicly as a trans man in 2018.
He came out through performing a new opera, Tabula Rasa, which was composed specially to tell the story of his journey. The mezzo has also collaborated with director Bea Goodwin to produce a one-man cabaret show about his life.
Anthony Roth Costanzo
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo began performing from the prodigious age of 11, and has appeared extensively on the world’s best opera stages ever since.
A multidisciplinary artist who also has recitals, film appearances and Broadway experience under his belt, Costanzo was nominated for the Best Classical Solo Vocal Album Grammy in 2019.
Kangmin Justin Kim
He’s also known for his drag alter ego, Kimchilia Bartoli, who is the dramatic coloratura male mezzo-soprano interpretation of legendary mezzo Cecilia Bartoli.
Kim, who performs as a self-professed ‘male mezzosopranist’, made his Royal Opera debut in the 2018/19 Season as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro.
Operatic bass Andrea Mastroni started his musical career as a clarinettist before gracing the stages of The Met, the Teatro Real Madrid, and Royal Opera House Covent Garden, to name just three esteemed venues.
He’s known for his operatic music videos and elegant style.
Nicholas Phan is a tenor who’s been described by the Boston Globe as “one of the world’s most remarkable singers”.
In 2017, he spoke to the Huffington Post about the importance of LGBTQ+ performers, and people with a public profile, being out.
“I think it’s really important because when you are a performer of any sort, you have a public profile and therefore you are an example to very many people,” he said. “I think you have to be aware of that. You have a social responsibility that comes along with these gifts that we’ve been given.”
The Canadian singer is married to mezzo-soprano Laura Tucker and they live in Toronto with their family – their child and two cats.