Cuban-American soprano Elena Villalón is currently a third-year studio artist with Houston Grand Opera. A Grand Finals winner of the 2019 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Ms. Villalón most recently took home several prizes in the Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, including 2nd Prize, Audience Prize, CS Prize, and the Wil Keune Prize. Her 2021-2022 season features a number of debuts encompassing a variety of both operatic and concert repertoire. Notable opera engagements include house and role debuts at The Dallas Opera as Tina in Flight and at Austin Opera as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, as well as continued collaborations with Houston Grand Opera, where she will create the role of Amy in the world premiere of Joel Thompson’s The Snowy Day and debut the role of Juliette in Roméo et Juliette. An avid recitalist, Ms. Villalón will be the Vocal Arts DC emerging artist, performing at the Kennedy Center. In concert, Ms. Villalón appears as the soprano soloist in Poulenc’s Gloria with the Grand Rapids Symphony and in Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day with Boston Baroque.
Highlights of the 2020-2021 season include digital collaborations with Houston Grand Opera in David T. Little’s Vinkensport, The Snowy Day, and Hansel and Gretel, as well as in HGO’s Studio Showcase as Sophie in Werther, the title role in Lulu, and Poppea in L’incoronazione di Poppea. Ms. Villalón returned to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as Lauretta in a new production of Gianni Schicchi under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Scheduled operatic engagements during the abridged 2020-2021 season were to include performances as Sophie in Werther and Clorinda in La Cenerentola, as well as the cover of Bess in Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves. Ms. Villalón also appeared in recital with Cincinnati Song Initiative and at the Rienzi Museum of Fine Arts as part of the studio recital series, and was featured in a concert of baroque cantatas and arias with the Mercury Chamber Orchestra.
In the 2019-2020 season, Ms. Villalón performed with Houston Grand Opera as Inés in Kevin Newbery’s new production of La Favorite and La Mujer in the world premiere of Javier Martinez’s El Milagro de Recuerdo, while also covering the roles of Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Michal in Saul. In June 2020, she was slated to join Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Artist, where she was to make her house debut as the First Wood Sprite in Rusalka.
The 2018-2019 season saw Ms. Villalón named a Grand Finals winner of the 2019 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. That same year, she made her professional debut as a Gerdine Young Artist at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, where she performed the role of Barbarina in Mark Lamos’ production of The Marriage of Figaro and was awarded the Barbara and Stanley Richman Award. She was also named Audience Prize winner while competing as a finalist in Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition.
Passionate about art song and concert repertoire, Ms. Villalón has spent summers at the Tanglewood Music Center and at Songfest as a Colburn Fellow. At Tanglewood, performance highlights included the soprano solo in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, Max in Oliver Knussen’s Where the Wild Things Are, the world premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s In America, concerts of Bach cantatas conducted by John Harbison, and concerts and recitals curated by Dawn Upshaw, Stephanie Blythe, Margo Garrett, and Sanford Sylvan.
Elena Villalón lives in Houston, Texas, where she enjoys (besides singing) sailing, sewing, cooking, causing mischief, and spending time with her dogs, Scooter and Spaghetti.