After two summers as an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, the career of Soprano Celena Shafer was launched to critical raves as Ismene in Mozart’s Mitridate, Re di Ponto. Anne Midgette in the New York Times wrote, “It takes the debutante Celena Shafer, an alumna of the apprentice program here, to show how it should be done, singing the Oriental princess Ismene with flair, vocal balance and great cadenzas.” Since that breakthrough debut, Ms. Shafer has garnered acclaim for her silvery voice, fearlessly committed acting and phenomenal technique. She spends much of her time on the concert stage and has appeared with the orchestras in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles with leading conductors such as Christoph von Dohnanyi, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Labadie, Robert Spano, Nicholas McGegan, Kent Nagano, Donald Runnicles, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Robertson and Sir Andrew Davis.
Recent highlights include returns to the Pacific Symphony for the Mozart Requiem and debuts with the Utah Festival Opera as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute and as the soprano soloist in Carmina Burana. She performed all-Bernstein programs with the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Costa Rica, the Pacific Symphony, and the Grand Rapids Symphony all led by Carl St. Clair; the Britten War Requiem with the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, and Handel’s Messiah with the Nashville Symphony and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.
Since first appearing with the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera as a high school student, Ms. Shafer has performed operatic roles there including The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Musetta in La Boheme, Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Gilda in Rigoletto, Norina in Don Pasquale, Lisette in La Rondine, Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Adele in Die Fledermaus.
Concert repertoire with the USUO has included the Mozart Mass in c minor, Brahms German Requiem, the Bach Magnificat, Vivaldi Gloria, Poulenc Gloria and several concerts of chamber music with conductors such as Bernard Labadie, Raymond Leppard, and former music director Keith Lockhart. She was the 2014/2015 season Artist-in-Residence and has sung a New Year’s Eve Gala, Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Mahler Symphonies Nos. 2, 4, and 8, and the Mighty Five tour through Utah’s state parks, with led by then music director Thierry Fischer. She returns in the 2023/2024 season for Beethoven Symphony No. 9 and Marie in Act II of Wozzeck led by David Robertson.
Elsewhere Ms. Shafer’s operatic highlights have included Johanna in Sweeney Todd for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Nanetta in Falstaff with the Los Angeles Opera, both with Bryn Terfel; Blonde in Abduction from the Seraglio with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Aithra in Die ägyptische Helena with the American Symphony Orchestra recorded for Telarc; Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Concertgebouw; and Gilda in Rigoletto with the Welsh National Opera. She has returned to the Santa Fe Opera for productions of Mozart’s Lucio Silla, Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict, and Britten’s Albert Herring.
She completed her undergraduate at the University of Utah and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.
“[Shafer is] faultless in the business of bringing charm, vivacity and light, shining tone to every note she sings, not to mention dazzling coloratura. She’s the embodiment of Viennese style and the binding ingredient of the production, physically as well as vocally. I looked forward to her every appearance; her ovation was deservedly huge.”
“Her voice is as clear as running water, with just the right amount of ring to it, and wonderfully sensitive to dynamics. There is a touch of Sutherland about the sound, with a perfect lightness, and an ability to dance her coloratura on point.”
“The soprano Celena Shafer was brilliant...singing with bright, focused sound and utter confidence.”