Mary Elizabeth Williams
American soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams’ Season 2018-19 begins at New Jersey Symphony Orchestra with performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. At Opéra Dijon she revives the role of Abigaille Nabucco, a role that previously brought her great success, before returning to Welsh National Opera in the role of Amelia Un ballo in maschera in a new production. Concerts this season include performances with Orchestre Lamoureux in Rossini’s Stabat Mater, at Centre Lyrique Clermont-Auvergne an Opera Gala Concert and with Thüringer Symphoniker works by Berlioz and Duparc.
Last season she made her debut as Desdemona Otello with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She traveled to Germany to sing the role of Elisabetta Maria Stuarda at Deutsche Oper am Rhein and joined Welsh National Opera to appear as Leonora La Forza del Destino and in the title role Tosca with performances across the UK. In her debut at Opera de Lille, the artist revisited her signature roles—Abigaille--and she returned to the US to Seattle Opera to revive performances as Serena in their production of Porgy and Bess, a role she recently sang at La Scala, Milan.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Un ballo in maschera, Welsh National Opera
Outstanding is Mary Elizabeth Williams’s Amelia, a morose, somewhat one-dimensional role with, though, rivetting, difficult, beautiful music over a big range, much exposed in the gallows scene here by placing her a good deal downstage with her back to the horrors. She never puts a foot wrong; this is wonderful Verdi singing.
Stephen Walsh, The Arts Desk, 11 February 2019
Williams combines gleaming top and luxuriant richness with wonderful assurance…
Rian Evans, The Guardian, 10 February 2019
You never doubted Riccardo's love for Amelia, and Hughes Jones duet with Mary Elizabeth Williams was one of the highlights of the evening...Having impressed last year as Leonora in La forza del destino, Mary Elizabeth Williams built on these impressions to create a powerful and moving performance as Amelia. Intense and fragile-seeming, Williams created a strong impression in Amelia's Act Two and Act Three arias, able to fine her tone right down yet also with the necessary underlying strength which the role needs too. Ideal sopranos for these Verdi roles are getting rarer, and we are lucking that WNO has found one who is able to combine emotion and power into a very moving performance. Williams seriousness of purpose and intensity, combined with Hughes Jones finely intelligent performance gave the opera a real sense of heart amongst the frivolity.
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill, 10 February 2019
...solo cello intertwining with Mary Elizabeth Williams’s heartbreaking plea, as Amelia, to see her son one last time. Williams and Gwyn Hughes Jones appeared in Forza, and up their game as Riccardo and Amelia. Their love duet, lit by pure white, is beautifully judged.
Rebecca Franks, The Times, 12 February 2019
Mary Elizabeth Williams, an American soprano sings beautifully and acts very convincingly, a performance of sheer delight.
Michael Kelligan, Theatre in Wales, February 2019
It’s passionately sung by Gwyn Hughes Jones and Mary Elisabeth Williams, WNO’s Verdi soprano of the moment and a touching, scrupulously musical Amelia...
Hugh Canning, The Times, 17 February 2019
But there were musical compensations along the way, notably in Mary Elizabeth Williams' expansively phrased and vividly delivered Amelia...
Opera Now, George Hall, March 2019
Opéra de Dijon, Nabucco
Nikoloz Lagvilava has all the necessary qualities and plays with a touching Nabucco. The voice is sonorous, projected, with clear highs as deep bass. Each of his interventions is a highlight. The same is true of the Abigail that the great Mary Elizabeth Williams brings to life. A vocal phenomenon as much as an immense actress, it is a constant happiness, because her dazzling technique allows her to play with all the difficulties of the role’s ornate singing, but also to build an ambivalent, fascinating character.
Classiquenews, Albert Dacheux, 15 November 2018
Opéra de Lille, Nabucco
May 2018 Mary
It is with fury that Mary Elizabeth Williams embodies the illegitimate daughter of the king of Babylon, Abigaille...From her recitative to the jumps of vertiginous intervals, to her cantilene with delicate adornments followed by a warlike cabalette, the firm timbre of the soprano imposes itself with a strong determination and an asserted charisma that the artist uses to mock her interlocutors in the many ensembles which intervene, and impose her supremacy on Babylon as on stage.
ResMusica, Charlotte Saulneron, 22 May 2018
Mary Elizabeth Williams impresses: she has the breath, the phrasing, the agility of Abigaille...
Diapason, Didier Van Moere, 18 May 2018
Vocally, she assumes the vertiginous leap of notes leading from one extreme to the other in the immense scope of her role.
Olyrix, Damien Dutilleul, 17 May 2018
Welsh National Opera, La forza del destino
Mary Elizabeth Williams captures beautifully and with vibrant tone Leonora’s emotional indecisiveness that is the trigger for the whole ludicrous farrago.
The Arts Desk, Stephen Walsh, 3 February 2018
Mary Elizabeth Williams' Leonora...sung with wonderfully even tone and dynamic control...
The Guardian, Andrew Clements, 4 February 2018
As the opera’s hard-pressed heroine, Mary Elizabeth Williams brings flexibility and imagination to her vocal performance...
The Stage, George Hall, 13 February 2018
Mary Elizabeth Williams is outstanding, exciting horrified sympathy with an exquisitely sung Leonora...
The Independent, Steph Power, 12 February 2018
With her rich, intense soprano, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrung every ounce of tragedy from Leonora's troubled life. Hers was a stellar performance.
What's on Stage, Mark Valencia, 12 February 2018
She is a most sympathetic performer and her soft singing in her three arias is truly lovely...
The Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen, 3 February 2018
Mary Elizabeth Williams, soon to be heard as WNO’s Tosca, is a magnificent Leonora, conveying both uncertainty and passion in the opening scene, with a broad, sweeping legato in the great prayer of act 2, and rising to a sublime, quiet top in her final plea for peace.
British Theatre Guide, Colin Davison, 2 February 2018
Mary Elizabeth Williams' dramatic spinto made for a vibrant Leonora...she's a gutsy singer with more than a hint of Renata Tebaldi about her.
Bachtrack, Mark Pullinger, 2 February 2018
Mary Elizabeth Williams brought out Leonora's neurotic obsessive behaviour. She was nervy in Act One and grew positively manic as the opera progressed. It was a powerful performance which made sense of the character rather than leaving it to fate. Williams has a lovely fluid voice, plenty of gorgeous line in Verdi's challenging vocal writing...she gave us some quiet, intense singing and spun a lovely line.
Planet Hugill, Robert Hugill, 12 February 2018
She is tremendous. A warm sensuous voice with notes of brilliance and dramatic intelligence.
South Wales Argus, Mike Smith, 5 February 2018
Soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams as Donna Leonora was sublime in the role as her tragic destiny unfolds before us. Williams is a Cardiff favourite and her performance showed why.
Morning Star, David Nicholson, 7 February 2018
Mary Elizabeth Williams gave a finely emotional account of Leonora...
Mark Ronan, 11 February 2018
This was, I think, the fifth time I have heard the American soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams with WNO. I have been favourably impressed on each of the four previous occasions, but I think this was finer yet. She sings with disciplined passion and her voice is strong across its range. Her acting seems to be improving all the time. Her interpretations of the text show a real understanding of the poetry she is singing so that in the closing scene she brought me as close to tears in the opera house as I have been for some years.
Seen and Heard International, Glyn Pursglove, 7 February 2018
The roles of Leonora and Don Alvaro were admirably sung, Mary Elizabeth Williams and Gwyn Hughes Jones each taking Verdi's considerable vocal demands in their stride. Williams, while deploying her resources carefully so as to have plenty in reserve for the final scene, spun her cantilena lines with silvery grace, adding expressive colour and volume with refinement. Her voice...she uses it so well and with such dramatic instinct as to be entirely convincing.
Opera Magazine, Rian Evans, March 2018
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Otello
Otello’s wife Desdemona, winningly sung by soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams, a Philadelphia native now living in Italy, who has capacity for both high-powered passion and ability to angelically float the high notes when required.
ArtsAtl, Mark Gresham, 10 October
Greeting Otello in Act One with a radiant ‘Mio superbo guerrier!’ in which Verdi’s ‘sempre dolce’ marking was meticulously heeded, Williams placed the top A♭ with delicacy and certain intonation. In the love duet, she sang exquisitely, phrasing with romantic feeling and maintaining a hypnotic aura of nocturnal ecstasy...The sensuality in Williams’s portrayal gave Desdemona added psychological depth, rendering her a woman who chose to die in preservation of her blamelessness rather than a hapless victim...it was the quality of Williams’s vocalism, utterly right for the music, that made her Desdemona memorable.
Voix des Arts, Joseph Newsome, 8 October
Mary Elizabeth Williams' Operatic Repertoire
Norma (title, Adalgisa)
La Wally (Wally)
Adriana Lecouvreur (title)
Margaret Garner (Cilla)
Amistad (The Goddess of the Waters)
Maria Stuarda (Elisabetta)
Porgy and Bess (Serena, Bess*)
Cavalleria rusticana (Santuzza)
Le Cid (Chimène)
Le Villi (Anna)
Suor Angelica (title)
Die Fledermaus (Rosalinde)
Der Rosenkavalier (Marianne)
Roles marked with * are currently in preparation
Mary Elizabeth Williams' Concert Repertoire
Les nuits d'été
A Sea Symphony