Sarah Shafer



Praised by the New York Times for her “luminous voice” and “intensely expressive interpretations,” and named “remarkable, artistically mature … a singer to watch” by Opera News, soprano Sarah Shafer is quickly emerging as a sought-after artist on both the operatic and concert stage. The 2017–2018 season sees Ms. Shafer’s debut with the Metropolitan Opera debut singing Azema in the John Copley production of Semiramide, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Concert work includes her debut with Malmö Symphony Orchestra singing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with John Wilson conducting, and her debut with Utah Symphony Orchestra singing Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, conducted by Markus Stenz. Recital work includes a return to the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago for their opening concert “Myths and Legends” and a salon concert with Myra Huang.
The 2016–2017 season saw Ms. Shafer’s house and role debut as Leïla in Bizet’s Pearl Fishers at Tulsa Opera, as well as a return to San Francisco Opera as Zerlina in Jacopo Spirei’s new production of Don Giovanni. Recital work included appearances with the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary, a salon concert exploring the poetry of Paul Verlaine as set by the music of Claude Debussy with the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, and a recital with pianist Brian Zeger as part of Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra’s chamber music series.
Concert work for the 2016 – 2017 season included Carmina Burana with the San Antonio Symphony conducted by music director Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Mozart’s Requiem with the Omaha Symphony, Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with both the Cheyenne and Williamsport Symphony Orchestras, the world premiere of Richard Danielpour’s “Talking to Aphrodite” with the Sejong Soloists at Carnegie Hall, a holiday concert with fellow Curtis alumnus Jarrett Ott and the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, and Bach’s St. John Passion with Voices of Ascension chorus.
Highlights of recent seasons include her role debut of Pamina in the Jun Kaneko production of Die Zauberflöte and the world premiere of Marco Tutino’s Two Women in the role of Rosetta, opposite Anna Caterina Antonacci and conducted by Nicola Luisotti, both with San Francisco Opera. Ms. Shafer had an enormous success in her return to Opera Philadelphia as Adina in the Stephen Lawless production of L’elisir d’amore, and created the role of Mary Lennox in the world premiere of Nolan Gasser’s The Secret Garden with San Francisco Opera. Other career highlights include Barbarina and the cover role of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro at the Glyndebourne Festival and the BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall, and several roles for Opera Philadelphia including Nuria in Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, Voce dal Cielo in Don Carlo, and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte.
An avid recitalist and chamber musician, Ms. Shafer enjoys an active collaboration with legendary pianist Richard Goode, having recently performed Schumann and Brahms lieder at Carnegie Hall and Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen with clarinetist Anthony McGill at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. She has also collaborated with such musicians as guitarist Jason Vieaux, and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. Ms. Shafer was a resident artist at the Marlboro Music Festival for five summers, where she worked with Richard Goode, Mitsuko Uchida, Benita Valente, Sir Thomas Allen, and Martin Isepp. She has also performed at the Mozart and Handel Académie européenne de musique in Aix-en-Provence, Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival France, the Bard Summer Music Festival, and was named a winner of the 2014 Astral Artists National Auditions.
Highlights of concert work includes appearances at Carnegie Hall with the New York Choral Society in Mendelssohn’s St. Paul, Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the New York Choral Society, and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with the New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall. Ms. Shafer has appeared as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Mexico, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Wroclaw Symphony Orchestra (Poland), the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, among others. Additional concert repertoire includes Bach’s St. John Passion and Mass in B minor, Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Poulenc’s Gloria, Lutoslawski’s Chantefleurs et Chantefables, Fauré’s RequiemDuet for Soprano and Tenor after Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture Romeo and Juliet, Strauss’s Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, Handel’s Messiah, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.
A recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Ms. Shafer’s credits for Curtis Opera Theatre include over 20 productions and a variety of roles such as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Almirena in Rinaldo, Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Elizabeth Zimmer in Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, Ilia in Idomeneo, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Sofia in Il Signor Bruschino, and Mélisande in Impressions of Pelléas. Most recently, she sang the role of Sister Constance in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.
A native of State College, PA, Ms. Shafer holds degrees in voice and opera from the Curtis Institute of Music, and is currently based in Philadelphia.


“She has a beautifully crystalline sound, perfectly true intonation, glowing warmth, and a total presence that (if not huge or showy) hews in meaningful ways to text. There was no end of pleasure in hearing the way she perfectly tracked the pitch and color or her instrumental doubles in the orchestra pit.”

Peter Dobrin

Philadelphia Inquirer

“Shafer wasted no time in making the role her own, bringing copious amounts of vocal power, lyricism and dramatic urgency to the assignment. To date, she’s been a dazzling presence in the world premieres of Nolan Gasser’s “Secret Garden” and Marco Tutino’s “La Ciociara” — isn’t it time she got the star vehicle she deserves?”

Joshua Kosman

San Francisco Gate

More Reviews

“As Pamina, Sarah Shafer was equally up to the task with her lucid voice and expressive stage presence. ”

James Ambroff-Tahan – San Francisco Examiner – Die Zauberflöte – San Francisco Opera 

“One of the pleasures of these fall festivals is coming across young singers who’ve not appeared in Chicago before. One such discovery is Shafer, a recent graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music who joined O’Connor and Gemmill for the “Fetes galantes.” The freshness, purity and agility of her voice were complemented by the charm of her singing in such songs as “Pantomime,” “Fantoches” and a lightly tripping “Mandoline.””

John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune 

“Perhaps the evening’s most exciting contribution came from soprano Sarah Shafer as Rosetta, in a performance marked by gleaming, powerful vocalism and a probing dramatic intelligence. Shafer’s company debut two years ago in the world premiere of Nolan Gasser’s “The Secret Garden” marked her as an artist to watch, but this was an achievement of an entirely new order.”

Joshua Kosman – San Francisco Gate – La Ciociara – San Francisco Opera 

“…soprano Sarah Shafer, a feisty, vocally powerful Pamina…”

Pamela Feinsilber – Huffington Post – Die Zauberflöte – San Francisco Opera 

“Soprano Sarah Shafer was a pure-voiced Rosetta.”

Heidi Waleson – Wall Street Journal – La Ciociara – San Francisco Opera 

“Sarah Shafer deployed a large, refulgent soprano to often radiant effect as Rosetta.”

Georgia Rowe – Opera News – La Ciociara – San Francisco Opera