Praised by the Houston Chronicle for her “warm supple soprano” and by the New York Times for her “radiant” and “handsomely resonant voice”, soprano Nicole Heaston has appeared with opera companies throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Semperoper Dresden, Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, and the Glyndebourne Festival in England.
The soprano’s 2021-22 season will include returns to San Francisco Opera, making a role debut as Despina in Così fan tutte, and Houston Grand Opera, singing the role of Liù in Turandot. She sings further performances of Liù with Maryland Lyric Opera, performs in “The Majesty of the Spiritual” at Aurora College, and joins the Houston Ballet, singing songs by Joseph Canteloube on their Jubilee of Dance program. Future engagements for Nicole Heaston include leading roles at Den Norske Opera (Oslo), Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and The Glimmerglass Festival.
During the 2020-21 season, her close collaboration with Houston Grand Opera continued, as she performed Yolanda Cantrell in Jim Luigs’ reimagined The Impresario and Sir Elton John’s Trainer in David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s chamber opera Vinkensport, co-hosted Giving Voice with Lawrence Brownlee, and presented a recital with Richard Bado as part of the Live from the Cullen recital series, all presented as part of Houston Grand Opera’s re-imagined digital season. Further showcasing her versatility during the last year, she created the Purple Robe Series, featuring songs from a large variety of genres including Opera, R&B, Gospel, Rap, and Musical Theater. The series went viral, especially for its episode honoring Juneteenth featuring Lift Every Voice and Sing as arranged by Roland Carter and performed by a chorus of outstanding Black opera singers.
In the 2019-20 season, Heaston appeared in the Memphis Symphony’s opening weekend gala and sang Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro at the San Francisco Opera. In the 2018-19 season, the soprano made three significant role debuts: Mimì in La Bohème at the Houston Grand Opera, Liù in Turandot with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, and the title role in Didone Abbandonata at Theater Basel. She also debuted at the Hamburg State Opera as Countess Almaviva, sang her first Mahler Symphony No. 2 with the Houston Symphony, and appeared in recital at the Wang Center in Naples, Florida. Engagements from the 2017-18 season included the title role in Alcina at Theater Basel, Alice Ford at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, Brahms’ Requiem with the Houston Symphony, and a gala concert at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
In the 2016-17 season, Heaston sang Adina in L’elisir d’amore at the Houston Grand Opera, Haydn’s The Creation with the Houston Symphony (released on the Pentatone label), Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Boston Lyric Opera, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Engagements for the 2015-16 season included Alice Ford in Falstaff at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen and Countess Almaviva at Den Norske Opera and the Utah Opera. In the 2014-15 season, she sang Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at the Houston Grand Opera, the title role in Alcina at the Royal Danish Opera, and was the featured vocal soloist in the Houston Ballet’s staging of Stravinsky’s Les Noces. Her engagements for the 2013-14 season included Alcina at Den Norske Opera, Arminda in La Finta Giardiniera at the Glyndebourne Festival, and the featured soloist in Of Blessed Memory at the Houston Ballet. In the 2011-12 season, Heaston sang Alice Ford in Falstaff with Opera de Lausanne and the title role in L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Semperoper Dresden.
Heaston has established a long-standing relationship with Houston Grand Opera, beginning as a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Her debut with the company was in the title role of Roméo et Juliette, and she has since been heard as Gilda in Rigoletto, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Pamina in The Magic Flute. Heaston also created the title role in Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere of Jackie O, subsequently recording the opera for the Argo label.
Since her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Ms. Heaston has appeared several times with the theater, singing Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (conducted by James Levine), and Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos. A regular presence in opera houses throughout the United States, Heaston recently sang Musetta in La Bohème with the Fort Worth Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and for her debut with New York City Opera alongside Rolando Villazon (which was recorded and broadcast nationwide). She has performed the role of Oscar in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera with the San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and she has sung Gilda in Rigoletto at the Nashville Opera and Opera Grand Rapids. Heaston made her debut with the Michigan Opera Theatre as Nanetta in Falstaff and has since returned to the company as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. She sang Despina in Così Fan Tutte with the Dallas Opera and made her debut with the Washington National Opera in the role of Pamina. Heaston made her debut at the Glimmerglass Opera in New York as Susanna, performing the same role at the Wolf Trap Opera in Virginia, and sang the role of the Princess in Respighi’s La Bella Dormente nel Bosco at the Spoleto Festival and the 2005 Lincoln Center Festival.
In recent seasons, Heaston made her Italian debut in Adriano in Siria at the Fondazione Pergolesi in Jesi, Italy. She also made her debut at the Los Angeles Opera as Musetta in La Bohème, joined the New Orleans Opera in Rigoletto, and returned to Carnegie Hall for the Marilyn Horne Foundation “The Song Continues” annual recital. Heaston performed in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera de Lille and The Creation at the Teatro Carlo Felice, and she sang Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni for her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival and the title role in L’incoronazione di Poppea for her debut at the Semperoper Dresden.
Heaston made her European operatic debut as Anne Truelove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in Montpellier and sang Zerlina in Don Giovanni at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. She performed the role of Drusilla in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea for her debuts at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence and at the Vienna Festwochen. She sang the role of Eve in Haydn’s The Creation for the Flanders Opera in Belgium, and sang performances of Gluck’s Armide with Les Musiciens du Louvre under the baton of Marc Minkowski, which was recorded for Archiv Production Deutsche Grammophon. Other collaborations with Maestro Minkowski have included Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in Grenoble, France, and an appearance in William Klein’s motion picture Le Messie, based on Handel’s Messiah, for which she also recorded the soundtrack.
Equally active as a concert and recital soloist, Heaston has performed with orchestras throughout the United States, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and National Symphony Orchestra for the Kennedy Center’s 11th annual gala. She has performed Handel’s Messiah with the Baltimore Symphony and the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor Michigan, and she has appeared in concert with the Fort Worth Symphony, performing Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. Ms. Heaston was heard in Mozart’s Requiem with the Honolulu Symphony and Bach’s B Minor Mass with Boston Baroque, which was recorded for the Teldec label and nominated for a Grammy® Award. She debuted at Carnegie Hall in recital at Weill Recital Hall, and she has previously given recitals at William Jewel College in Kansas City and for the Marilyn Horne Foundation. Ms. Heaston also performed as a guest artist for the Cleveland Arts Song Festival and has given recitals in Grenoble, France; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Jacksonville, Florida.
Nicole Heaston completed her Masters Degree in Voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and received her undergraduate degree in music at the University of Akron. Her various awards and prizes include the Shoshana Foundation Grant, Robert Weede Corbett Award, Oper Guild of Dayton Competition, Opera/Columbus Competition, San Antonio Opera Guild Competition, Metropolitan Opera Regional Audition-Encouragement Award, and Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Award Competition.
Houston Grand Opera – The Magic Flute
Nicole Heaston’s warm, supple soprano is ideal for Pamina. She sings and acts with the controlled passion and composure appropriate to a Mozart heroine – especially eloquent in her Act 2 aria lamenting Tamino’s seeming indifference to her.”
Everett Evans, Houston Chronicle
Nicole Heaston was warmly welcomed back to Houston and gave a superb account of Pamina. Her voice is creamy, fully-formed and flexible.”
Marcus Karl Maroney, Concertonet.com
Nicole Heaston’s lyric soprano voice is full of nuance, passion and beauty bel-canto singing at its best. Pamina’s Lament was delivered with disparity and pure vocal perfection.
Bryan-Keith Wilson, BroadwayWorld.com
Houston Ballet – Chanson d’Auvergne
Nicole Heaston offers the astonishing accompanying vocals for the piece. She has a captivating, smooth sound that compliments the graceful moves of the dancers.”
The Glyndebourne Festival – La finta giardiniera
Nicole Heaston fires up Arminda’s music with élan.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times
Usually, Arminda is unbearable, so cute and cheesy, but in this case it is an opportunity to discover the creamy timbre and intense projection of Nicole Heaston’s decidedly exceptional soprano.
Royal Danish Opera – Alcina
Nicole Heaston gives Alcina vocal honor as vamp with offensive eroticism, because she is ruler of the heart. She’s a brilliant singer, powerful with secure coloratura. And the great aria in the second act, Ah mio cor, she does not sing as desperate in anticipation in relentless decline. The more they escape and the more it drives out her claws. This Alcina, who tames men, may itself be a beast.”
Special credit must be given to Nicole Heaston in the role of Alcina, who stepped in for absence due to sickness. Heaston delivered an incredible performance. She was the only performer to really delve into the depths of her character’s and the opera’s psychological complexities.
Alcina’s party was instead handled by American Nicole Heaston who saved the evening. She also sang Alcina at the premiere of Francisco Negrin set in Oslo in February last year and again this time she delivered creamy, free, clean and focused vocal art.
Her Alcina was clean grandiose: perfect almost limitless soprano with very beautiful and exactly baroque sound with great empathy and outstanding scenic charisma.
Den Norske Opera – Alcina
Nicole Heaston is an exception in the title role, in a performance that ranges from towering rage to aching grief, always moving, utterly in command of each note’s shading.
Shirley Apthorp, Financial Times
Alcina rightly emerges as the focal point around which the action turns. She is splendidly portrayed by the American soprano Nicole Heaston, whose versatility is underscored by fine singing in Alcina’s wide ranging, musically superb arias. Ms. Heaston’s radiant voice is handsomely resonant, with a slight but attractive shimmer. She brings brilliance to Alcina’s showpiece arias but is especially moving in Alcina’s devastating final aria, sung when her magical powers have failed her.
George Loomis, New York Times
Nicole Heaston who sings the title role, excels in the role of Alcina. Her voice is beautiful and she has a fabulous singing technique. Alcina is vocally a role of great challenges that require physical strength and endurance. She mastered it and gives us an experience of a exhaustible profit!
Nicole Heaston, who is a magnificent Alcina, vocal and stage throughout the performance, hitting every moment so precisely, and so exceedingly beautiful that it is as if the entire performance one is holding its breath in excruciating tension.
Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago – Recital
Copland’s wonderfully evocative distillations of poetic mood and atmosphere drew an altogether superb performance from singer Nicole Heaston, with (Michael) Brown again working wonders at the keyboard. The dozen songs are not easy to sustain as a musico-poetic unity, but the Chicago-born soprano did so beautifully and insightfully: singer and song became one.
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
Aaron Copeland’s cycle Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson is a long, demanding sing, but Nicole Heaston rose to the occasion splendidly. The soprano graced “Heart, we will forget him” with a wealth of dynamics, and the sheer amplitude of her voice was all the more impressive given the delicately floated conclusion to “The chariot”.
Mark Thomas Ketterson, Opera News
Aaron Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson is rarely heard due to its length and challenges. Thursday’s remarkable performance by Nicole Heaston proved the highlight of the evening with the Chicago-born soprano delivering a genuine tour de force. Why have we not heard this wonderful artist in her hometown before? Poised and communicative, Heaston sang with a luminous, flexible tone and crystal-clear enunciation. She seemed to embody the essence of each setting in her expressive face and physical presence. Heaston put across the drama of “There came a wind like a bugle” and “Sleep is supposed to be” as surely as the skittery humor of “Going to Heaven!” She was sassy in “Why do they shut me out of Heaven?” and coyly charming in “Dear March, come in!” Most strikingly, Heaston conveyed the sense of longing and sadness, as with “Heart, we will forget him” and the end-of life rumination of “The chariot.” We need to hear Nicole Heaston back in Chicago soon.
Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review
In three selections from Copland’s Old American Songs, native Chicagoan Nicole Heaston was, in a word, stunning. The familiar “Simple Gifts” was a revelation delivered with her shimmering voice. The spinning lines of “Zion’s Walls” seemed endless on her limpid soprano, and the central rendition of “At the River” reduced a fair complement of the audience in tears. Heaston followed her Copland performance with John Harbison’s Miribai Songs. What was most striking about Heaston’s performance was the outsized personality she conveyed in Harbison’s songs. She showed coy defiance in the rolling “It’s true I went to the market,” and cultivated a deviously maniacal air in “All I was doing was breathing.” “Why Mira can’t go back to her old house” was fittingly licentious, and the soprano provided a brooding interpretation of “The clouds.” Heaston’s singing was technically immaculate throughout.
Tim Sawiyer, Chicago Classical Review
Utah Opera – Le nozze di Figaro
Nicole Heaston as Countess Almaviva is convincing as a neglected wife, trying to maintain dignity but regain her husband’s affection. Heaston’s third act “Dove sono” succinctly expressed the Countess’ serene decency with beautifully controlled legato and tenderness, especially through breathtaking pianissimo passages.
Robert Coleman, Opera News
Nicole Heaston, in her Utah Opera debut as Countess Almaviva, was absolutely stunning. Her portrayal was nuanced and regal, and her aria in Act 3 had the audience holding their breath in awe of her dynamic range and beautiful delivery.
Sara Neal, The Utah Review
Soprano Nicole Heaston balanced poignancy and pluck in her portrayal of Countess Rosina Almaviva….a gorgeous performance of the aria “Dove sono”.
Catherine Reese Newton, The Salt Lake Tribune
Den Norske Opera – Le nozze di Figaro
The vocal highlight of the evening, however, was the Countess of Nicole Heaston, her honeyed soprano taking on a silvery hue in her high register. Opening with a beautifully sung “Porgi, amor”, she appeared an effortless tragedienne, yet soon after, especially in her scenes with Susanna and Cherubino, she opened up to reveal a most human character. Heaston’s “Dove sono” was heartbreakingly sung, and it was wonderful to finally hear it sung by a soprano with a good trill!
Aksel Tollåli, Bachtrack
It’s tempting to hang credit for it on two hooks : … a superb Nicole Heaston as the Countess and Rinaldo Alessandrini’s musical leadership. Nicole Heaston, who also incapable of stopping the action is open to the great emotional depth in cavatina “Porgi Amor”, the aria “Dove sono , in biei momenti” and in the final scene “Perdono “.
Houston Symphony – Haydn’s Creation
As Gabriel and Eva, soprano Nicole Heaston delivered a tone that felt like the very beam of heaven. Bright and colorful, her voice ushers listeners into the music like a gracious host. While she made it look easy, the trills and ornamental flourishes that Heaston tossed off betrayed deft attention to technique and detail.
Sydney Boyd, Bachtrack
Houston Grand Opera – L’Elisir d’Amore
Adina, sung by the exemplary HGO studio alumna and soprano Nicole Heaston. On stage, she radiates even before she opens her mouth—no wonder everyone falls in love with her. The plot may be light, but Donizetti’s bel canto arias are technically no joke. Heaston made every arpeggio, range leap and coloratura flourish sound effortless. Intonation: perfect. Bel canto style: quintessential. Her voice is mint.
Sydney Boyd, Houstonia Magazine
Look no further than to Houston Grand Opera and its somewhat sparkling production of Gaetano Donizetti’s beguiling comedy The Elixir of Love to witness Battle’s avatar, Nicole Heaston, fortunately sans diva antics. An HGO Studio alumna, Heaston is the sure thing, a complete artist. We have watched her grow through leading roles since 1998 at HGO: Susanna inMarriage of Figaro, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Gilda in Rigoletto, Pamina in Magic Flute. But now is her time in the sun. She has transformed into an artist of rare beauty. (HGO had better be proud of her!) She conquers the stage as Adina….what a performer, and what a singer. She sails through the difficult coloratura, most of it in the second act, with complete control and always with clarity of diction, a pulsing rich timbre, and surety of character.
D.L. Groover, Houston Press
Heaston sang with a command and poignancy that nearly turned Adina, rather than Nemorino, into the opera’s emotional center. Rather than the light-voiced soubrette that companies often cast in the role, Heaston was a lyric soprano able to treat Donizetti’s music to fullness and warmth. As Adina entered, musing on Tristan and Isolde, Heaston’s vibrant singing gave a glimpse of the legendary lovers’ passion. But when Donizetti’s playfulness took over, Heaston’s sparkle and deftness exuded Adina’s wiliness. And in the heartfelt aria at the opera’s turning point, Heaston combined tenderness and fervor, serving notice that a comedy can have depth.
Steven Brown, Texas Classical Review
Boston Lyric Opera – Le nozze di Figaro
The true stars of the evening were two women making their first appearances on the BLO stage…Soprano Nicole Heaston was a radiant Countess, her warm voice carrying hints of wisdom, mischief, and sorrow. She slowly pulled back the volume of her voice at the climax of her tenderly devastating “Dove sono i bei momenti,” but lost not an ounce of poignancy or power. Her onstage chemistry with Birsan as Susanna was the production’s most exciting, and the way their voices melded and played off each other was stunning.
Zoë Madonna, The Boston Globe
Nicole Heaston’s plummy, mellow soprano captured the Countess’ wistful regret in her two arias at the turn her life has taken. Her stage presence made the Count’s neglect even more inexplicable.
Kevin Wells, Bachtrack
BLO’s production was certainly cast with aplomb. The ladies, headlined by the formidable duo of Emily Birsan’s Susanna and Nicole Heaston’s Countess, shined. Both characters run the show…Heaston was spellbinding. Here’s a singer who commands the stage, not just with her voice but simply by setting foot on it: when she’s there, it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. And my how she can sing. Heaston delivered both of the Countess’s arias gorgeously, “Dove sono” particularly so: in it, holding the audience in the acoustically-challenged hall in rapt attention for its duration.
Jonathan Blumhofer, The Arts Fuse
Heaston’s arias were showstoppers in their emotional quality and vocal gold. A particularly sublime moment was the return to the A section in “Dove sono,” the Countess’s aria reminiscing about the beautiful moments from her past when the Count still loved her fervently. In this, Heaston’s intense pianissimo singing contrasted beautifully her opening of the aria.
Katrina Holden-Buckley, The Theatre Times
Nicole Heaston anchored the production as a model Countess: regal and world-weary. Her “Porgi, amor” was staged by-the-book as a lonely bedroom confessional, while her third-act aria unfolded in an ornate, baroquely painted armchair—a beautiful touch by set designer John Conklin. It was an effective progression for the Countess, literally sitting up and growing a backbone to face her philandering husband. At the end of the aria, Heaston basked in applause without breaking character, staring out at the house with defiant eyes, amplifying the Countess’s dignity and newfound resolve.
Benjamin Pesetsky, The Boston Musical Intelligencer
Theater Basel – Alcina
Nicole Heaston, five days before the premiere jumped in, shows not only in Alcina’s desperation aria Ah Mio Cor, how expressive, nuanced and colorful is her soprano: she has also instinctively internalized the idea of the director, a woman who knows what she does but not what she really wants.
First, a cancellation was to cope with shortly before the premiere, just in the title role. After the announcement of the theater, Kate Royal had to resign as Alcina “for personal reasons from the production”. Instead, Nicole Heaston was in the title role to see, to hear – and to admire. Heaston had mastered the Alcina at other stages with flying colors. In Basel, too, she brought out the full splendor of her strong soprano and lusciousness of her body. She blew up all shackles. In her aria “Si, son quella, non plù bella” she discovers that she loves – and the audience discovers an A-class soprano. Heaston holds the high level to the very end, especially in her despairing aria when she sees Alcina lose her power and see her empire destroyed (“Mi Restano le lagrime”). There were repeated applause games.
When Alcina sings her moving lament “Ah! mio cor” in the second act, and the stage prospect of an eighteenth-century South Sea island backdrop goes down, it’s moving symbolism. Incidentally, Nicole Heaston does that with a gorgeous affect. The American soprano, who took over the role shortly before the premiere of Kate Royal, also proves great mastery in baroque melismatics. Nicole Heaston’s strength is the baroque lament
The emotional highlight of the evening is Alcina’s aria “Ah, mio cor!”, Which shows the sorceress in the conflict between revenge thirst and love readiness. The American soprano Nicole Heaston, who had to step in for a short-term cast change in the title role, here developed effortless vocal radiance and fullness and stands the demanding game of Alcina on the whole brilliant.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Teatro de la Maestranza – Falstaff
Nicole Heaston is impeccable.
Wonderful the quartet of gossips: Heaston’s voice is radiant, limpid, clear as Alice.
Diario de Sevilla
The American soprano Nicole Heaston gave credibility at all times to her interpretation of the courted Mrs. Alice Ford, given the clear and clean record of her voice, implemented with a well-proportioned capacity for action.
Houston Symphony – Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem
Brahms gave the soprano soloist only one solo, but Nicole Heaston made it count. Her voice welled up with a richness and generosity that let Brahm’s soaring lines reach out like an embrace. For music that describes giving and finding comfort, that was just right.
Steven Brown, Texas Classical Review
Nicole Heaston didn’t face such challenges in her 5th movement solo, her soprano soaring in and out of its effortlessly beautiful upper register.
Eric Skelly, The Houston Chronicle
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