Esther Tonea

Competitions are a double-edged sword. It’s great to put what you’ve learned to the test, learn how you need to navigate singing under pressure and make connections with others in the industry.


by Cristina Fieraru
July 30, 2023
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We are delighted to bring in front of you some of the world’s most remarkable talents, those that demonstrate through their artistry the hope & the charm of today’s young generation. This issue’s charming beginnings protagonist is the Romanian-American soprano Esther Tonea, interviewed by our dear Cristina Fieraru. This conversation with Esther will give you an insight of what life for an opera singer looks like in 2023 and how difficult it may be to break through and become successful nowadays. Besides many triumphs in the world of the opera competitions, she’s one of the winners of the 2022 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. She shared with us this special experience and we also talked about the competitiveness nowadays.
Hobbies, the characters that represent her the best and advices for the youngsters are just some of the other topics we approached. This is a conversation that will conquer you from the very first paragraph. We invite you to enjoy it and also share your thoughts with us! Read it. Love it. Share it.


The San Francisco Chronicle has praised Romanian-American soprano Esther Tonea for her “powerful, gleaming tone, effortless precision and expressive immediacy” and for demonstrating the “sublime assurance of an established diva.” A recent graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Adler Program, Ms. Tonea is also a 2022 winner of the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant, and Presser Scholar. This season, she joins Wolf Trap Opera as a Filene Artist, performing the title role of Handel’s Semele. While in the nation’s capital, she also performs in recital with Daniel Rich and Joseph Li and makes her debuts with the Richmond Symphony as soprano soloist in Orff’s Carmina Burana and the National Symphony Orchestra in a Studio Ghibli concert with composer and conductor Joe Hisaishi. Among her engagements next season is her company and role debut as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Portland Opera. While in her Adler tenure at San Francisco Opera, she performed the roles of Sister Antoine in Dialogues des Carmélites and Flower in Dream of the Red Chamber and covered the roles of Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Blanche de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, and Marzelline in Fidelio. She was also engaged by San Francisco Opera to sing Giovanna in Ernani, cover Chrisann in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, and cover Mimì in La bohème, all of which were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A frequent collaborator with composer-librettist duo Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, Tonea premiered the role of Diana in If I Were You with the Merola Opera Program and workshopped Intelligence as Callie Van Lew with Houston Grand Opera. On the concert stage, Tonea has appeared as soprano soloist in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and Symphony No. 4, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Haydn’s The Creation and Missa in Angustiis, Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, Coronation Mass, and Exsultate, jubilate, and Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio. Ms. Tonea’s efforts to increase accessibility to classical music and opera have led her to appear as a guest artist in elementary school outreach programs across the United States. She also served as a resident artist at Tennessee Wesleyan University where she coached, gave a masterclass, and performed in recital. She has curated many recitals in intimate casual venues, large public spaces, and outdoor settings in collaboration with pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg, Taste of Talent, and Roots of Peace, an organization whose mission is to replace land mines with vineyards in war-torn countries. Her recital work has inspired her to explore her Romanian heritage in song and includes additional collaborations with Frederica von Stade, Richard Bonynge, Martin Katz, Jake Heggie, and Warren Jones.

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Dear Esther, firstly I want to thank you for accepting my invitation! I’m so happy to have you here and to welcome you to our big charming musical family! I would like to start our conversation from the very beginning. Tell us about your first encounter with studying music. I first started singing when I […]

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Diana Skavronskaya
God blessed me to be a lyric soprano, and my voice has a very rich and beautiful timbre. I can convey the intensity and vulnerability of my character with ease. That being said, I rather like tragedy roles.
November 2023
Alice Lechner
David Costa Garcia
It's not just about the voice; you need to learn to be a good actor, understand the music, know how to read music, etc.
November 2023
Cristina Fieraru

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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