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Musical World

Kelley O'Connor

  • Mezzo-Soprano



“…Kelley O'Connor's entrancing delivery of the collection of love poems to which Lieberson composed a lush musical setting for his late wife, singer Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Like Hunt Lieberson, O'Connor's mezzo-soprano voice is warm and soulful. The 28-year-old Californian's alluring stage presence and darkly timbered presentation of Pablo Neruda's romantic prose pervaded Aspen's Benedict Music Tent on Friday in one of the summer's most memorable, transfixing artistic experiences…O'Connor's carefully sculpted phrasings and subtle, nuanced inflections blended immaculately with the well-modulated washes of sound produced by the orchestra.”

-Sabine Kortals, TheDenver Post, July 20, 2008


“[Kelly O’Connor] has the visceral glimmer, excellent Spanish, and technique and tone to draw out the songs’ surreal languor.”

-Justin Davidson, New York Magazine, May 25, 2008

“O'Connor invested the songs with a luster, sensitivity and grace of her own.”

- John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, May 3, 2008

“Kelley O'Connor was Lieberson's own choice as his wife's successor in the work, and she brought a careful intelligence and Iberian flavor to the five settings of the Spanish writer's love poems.”

- Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times, May 3, 2008


“The standout, though, was mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, whose Symphony debut was marked by dark, lustrous vocal tone and an arresting command of melodic phrase. Her few moments in the spotlight - particularly the opening of the "Sanctus" - left a listener wanting more.”

- Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, April 25, 2008


“Upshaw was the big draw...but it was Kelley O'Connor's Lorca who gave us a thrill. A Russian bass wouldn't sniff at this mezzo-soprano's lower range, and the poet's passion and allure shone from her features.”

- Geoff Brown, The London Times, April 14, 2008

“Many a mezzo-soprano initially draws public attention by donning a man’s trousers on the operatic stage. For Kelley O’Connor, portraying the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca in Osvaldo Golijov’s bracing ‘Ainadamar’ kick-started what promises to be a major career. Her smoky sound and riveting stage presence made an indelible impact. … Ms. O’Connor’s bright smile finally found its way into her voice during a bouncy ‘Fêtes galantes,’ one of four delectable songs by Reynaldo Hahn. She invested his ‘Infidélité’ with an anguish made more gripping by aching understatement and stillness. In four songs from Hugo Wolf’s ‘Spanisches Liederbuch,’ Ms. O’Connor was by turns flirty, tender and acidic.”

- Steve Smith, The New York Times, January 21, 2008

“Kelley O'Connor has become a star through her portrayals of Lorca, a fully believable characterization despite the obvious gender thing. She can dive way below the contralto range with no loss of focus, all the while delivering a vital characterization that injects a much-needed humanity into the role. Her return as a ghostly presence in the profound final moments was exquisitely handled.”

- Marc Shulgold, Rocky Mountain News, July 21, 2007

“We were prepared to be thrilled by soprano Dawn Upshaw during the Ravinia Festival's presentation June 14 of Osvaldo Golijov's opera ‘Ainadamar’ or ‘Fountain of Tears,’ which told the story of the execution of Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca by Spanish fascists in the 1930s. And we were. The big surprise, however, in the finely-honed performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus led by Robert Spano, was mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, who bounded on the stage in the trouser role of Lorca and held us spellbound. She exuded energy and verve, becoming the embodiment of the reckless young poet. The California native, with her strong, mellow voice, created the role in the world premiere at Tanglewood and later performed it with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in performances conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Walt Disney Hall. In addition to appearing at Ravinia, she sang the role at the Ojai Festival in California, known for its embrace of new music. Her voice is on the premiere recording by Deutsche Grammophon. Very impressive for a mezzo only in her late 20s. Let's hope that Ravinia has her back very soon.”

- Dorothy Andries, The Evanston Review, December 28, 2006

“She has an unexpectedly deep, entrancing voice, tinged with a sense of timelessness and exoticism.”

- Kyle MacMillan, The Denver Post, July 20, 2007

“The performance had splendid moments, especially when mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor was imbuing her arias with timbral warmth and expressive allure.”

- Donald Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 21, 2006

“O'Connor's Lorca was a striking figure, charismatic and full of restless life. Her sumptuous dark mezzo captured Lorca's mix of profound imagination and danger-courting youth.”

-Wynne Delacoma, The Chicago Sun Times, June 16, 2006

“The star of the evening was mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor. The 25-year old artist was sensational. She has an expressive velvet voice, mesmerizing particularly in the lower range, a most dignified stage presence, and deep musicality. I won't be surprised if her career goes far.”

- Ilan Peleg, The Allentown Morning Call, April 15, 2006

“Even better, Kelley O’Connor sang straight into the heart of Lorca’s music with her hauntingly husky mezzo-soprano.”

- Peter G. Davis, New York, February 6, 2006

“It was an inexplicably powerful idea to make García Lorca a trouser role, here sung by the mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Conner, who gives a vocally impassioned and daring portrayal.”

- Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, January 24, 2006

“Contralto Kelley O'Connor sings with haunting colorations as an androgynous Lorca…”

- Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe, January 25, 2006

“It was an inexplicably powerful idea to make García Lorca a trouser role, here sung by the mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Conner, who gives a vocally impassioned and daring portrayal.”

- Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, January 24, 2006

“A more inward character, Lorca was disarmingly played by rich-voiced mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, wearing a man’s suit and with her hair slicked back. Whether smiling slyly in a flirting duet with Upshaw or shedding calm, quiet tears at the end of a gun, she portrayed a real man.”

- Bradley Bambarger, The Star-Ledger, January 24, 2006

“…Kelley O’Connor…has a smoky instrument and an affinity for the stage.”

- Jay Nordlinger, The New York Sun, January 24, 2006

“Audiences are exuberant about Kelley O’Connor who had created Lorca in Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar at Tanglewood in 2003…(she) was radiant in the role in the expanded version of the work premiered at the Santa Fe Opera in July. Her rich mezzo brought wondrous depth to Lorca and she wore his trousers without a trace of mannerism. O’Connor is now slated for Meg Page opposite Thomas Quasthoff and Simon Keenlyside with the Cleveland Orchestra in a concert Falstaff that will go to Carnegie Hall and the Lucerne Festival.”

- Opera Now (Young Artists: Who’s Hot?), November/December 2005

“As Lorca, Kelley O'Connor's rich, velvety mezzo extended down into a gender-neutral contralto range. A young singer, she seems assured a major career.”

- Pierre Ruhe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 10, 2005

“García Lorca, sung by mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, is musically seductive, palpably charismatic, and clearly a force of intoxicating power on the characters around him. From his arrival to his death, he has the audience's sympathy, as a young man not only lost in his artistic dreams, but able to draw those around him into the mesmerizing labyrinth as well. The vocal part is written for a woman who has a low, throaty, androgynous voice, and O'Connor is well suited for the part. She makes a strangely sexy yet sexless sound, the kind of sound that made one wonder if it was really coming from a woman's mouth. Yet in later scenes she was capable of almost Straussian orgies of feminine sounds.”

- Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post, August 15, 2005

“Lorca, a "pants" role, was richly sung by mezzo Kelley O'Connor, a member of Santa Fe's apprentice program.”

- Janelle Gelfand, The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 7, 2005

“…mezzo Kelley O'Connor had a substantive lower register, and, costumed in a powder-blue man's suit, she actually looks a bit like a thinner-faced García Lorca. Opera is full of "trousers roles" for women, of course, and with artful singing from Ms. O'Connor this one is surprisingly persuasive.”

- Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News, August 5, 2005

“Kelley O’Connor, who sang Lorca as one of the student performances in Tanglewood, sang Lorca again. She is now an apprentice singer at Santa Fe Opera, but this performances gives notice that her apprentice is over. Her dark, low mezzo-soprano and expressive stage presence are those of a riveting singer emerged, not emerging.”

- Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2005

“Kelley O’Connor, reprising her role of Lorca, gave us a man and artist to weep for, singing with molten-lava lower tones. Her terror in the execution scene was pitiable, her affection for Xirgu strong enough to feel.”

- Craig Smith, Free New Mexican, August 1, 2005

STRAVINSKY - REQUIEM CANTICLES with Franz Welser-Möst and The Clevleand Orchestra

“Mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor brought a rich vocal quality to her solo.”

- Wilma Salisbury, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 1, 2005