Shirley Close has performed leading roles in the major opera houses of Europe, America and Asia for the past thirty years. Highlights of her operatic career include performances at the Bavarian State Opera, Cologne Opera, Bayreuth Festival, the Staatsoper Berlin, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Salzburg, National Theater of Mannheim, Opera du Rhin (Strasbourg), Opera de Nantes, Opera de Nice, Festival d’Orange, the opera companies of Washington, Dallas, Atlanta, Glimmerglass, Mobile and many others.
Ms. Close has spent the majority of her career as a mezzo-soprano, but on the advice of Sir Georg Solti made the transition to dramatic soprano. Soprano roles she has performed are Kundry (Parsifal), Ortrud (Lohengrin), Tosca (Tosca), Giulietta (The Tales of Hoffmann), Elizabeth and Venus (Tannhäuser), Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana), and Gutrune and Brünnhilde (Der Ring des Nibelungen). She covered Isolde (Tristan und Isolde) at the Seattle Opera, Brünnhilde (Die Walküre) at the Chicago Lyric Opera, Kostelnicka (Jenufa) at the San Francisco Opera and at the Saito Kinen Festival in Japan (Ozawa).
As a mezzo she was noted for her portrayals of Amneris (Aida), Aldagisa (Norma), Azucena (Il Trovatore), Fricka (Das Rheingold and Die Walküre), Waltraute (Die Walküre and Die Götterdämmerung), Gutrune and all three Norns (Die Götterdämmerung) and Fenena (Nabucco) among many others.
She has sung under many renowned conductors including Riccardo Muti, Daniel Barenboim, Wolfgang Sawallisch, James Conlon, Pinchas Steinberg, Michel Plasson, John Nelson, Dennis Russell Davies, Julius Rudel, Semyon Bychkov, Michael Gielen, Sir David Willcocks, Louis Langrée, Hans Graf, David Atherton, Egon zu Gutenberg, Marek Janowski, Jun Märkl, Hans Wallat, Robert de Cormier and others.
Alongside her stage performances she is often engaged as a concert performer in the major oratorio repertoire, having sung with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Bonn Philharmonic, Indianapolis Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, Rheinland-Pfalz Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Stuttgart Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Salzburger Dom, at the Duomo in Perugia, Italy and at the Caramoor and Marlboro Festivals. She has performed many times at Carnegie Hall and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. In 1994 she premiered a work by Hans Werner Henze for the Biennale in Munich.
She earned a Master of Music degree in Voice Performance from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Olivet Nazarene University. In 2003 she was honored as the recipient of the Maggie Sloan Crawford Award given by Olivet Nazarene University to women who have excelled professionally and who are role models to young women. Other recipients have been Sandra Day O’Connor and Elizabeth Dole. In 2010 she was once again honored by her Alma Mater with the Alumni “O” Award.
As a young singer she received many honors for her singing including the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation, first place winner of the San Francisco Opera Regional Auditions, the Oratorio Society of New York Competition, and the Gwendolyn Roberts Young Artist Competition.
Prior to teaching at Manhattan School of Music, she was Professor of Voice at Florida State University and Associate Professor of Voice at Houghton College’s Greatbatch School of Music in Houghton, NY. She has taught at the summer programs of Bel Canto Institute in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Ars Vocalis Festival in Zamora, Mexico; AIMS (American Institute of Musical Studies) in Graz, Austria and “Il corso estivo” with La Scuola Italia in Urbania, Italy. In addition, for three years she was a guest pedagogue at the Hochschule für Musik (State Conservatory of Music) in Stuttgart, Germany and also presented master classes at the Hanns Eisler Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, Germany, the Konservatorium für Musik and the Gustav Mahler Conservatory in Vienna, Austria.
Recent performances in Tallahassee included appearing as soloist in the Verdi Requiem with the Tallahassee Community Chorus and Orchestra; “Dich, theure Halle” from Tannhäuser for the opening of the renovated Ruby Diamond Concert Hall with the FSU Symphony Orchestra; the Beethoven Missa Solemnis; and with the Tallahassee Symphony (Miriam Burns, conducting) singing the “Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. In 2016, she performed on the FSU Faculty Chamber Music Concert of American music (Hoiby Bermudas and the North Carolina Songs by Timothy Hoekman for string trio, harp and mezzo-soprano).
In Italy she recently appeared as soloist in the Mozart Requiem in Venice, Vicenza and Verona and the Verdi Requiem in Perugia, Asiago and Salò. In addition she performed a Recital of American Songs (with Silvano Zabeo, piano) and presented master classes at the Conservatorie di musica Giuseppe Tartini in Trieste, Italy.
Invited to participate on the voice faculty at Ars Vocalis Festival in Zamora, Mexico, she also presented recitals in Zamora at the Center for the Arts and in Morelia at the Conservatorio de las Rosas (the oldest conservatory in the Americas). Recent master classes were also given at the Conservatoire Nationale Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris, France, the Mannes School of Music in New York City, Ohio University and the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory in Ohio, and at Kingswood University in Sussex, Canada.
In addition to teaching at Manhattan School of Music, Ms. Close maintains an active voice studio of professional singers in New York City.