Abigail Raiford (BM ’17), soprano, made her professional operatic debut on April 11 in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Sarasota Opera. Previously engaged to be an apprentice artist with the company for the 2020 season, she was invited to return as a resident artist in 2021, singing the role of the Second Witch and covering the lead role of Belinda in the baroque classic.
Sarasota Opera is one of the few companies continuing to offer performances in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting short one-act operas with small casts, limited audience sizes and requiring the members of the cast to remain in a “bubble” throughout the entire rehearsal and performance process. The opera opened to enthusiastic reviews and continued for five more performances.
Raiford has quickly garnered accolades and gained much attention since her graduation in 2017. She immediately returned to New York City, where she was born and raised, to attend the Mannes School of Music, a division of The New School, and completed her master of music in vocal performance in 2019. While there, she won the Mannes Concerto Competition and was presented with the George and Elizabeth Gregory Award for Excellence in Performing.
Raiford was also an Encouragement Award winner at the 2019 Camille Coloratura Awards and was a two-time winner of the Riverside Opera Company Auditions in 2018-19. Although the pandemic greatly dampened the outlook for professional freelance artists, Raiford has continued to thrive and looks forward to many new opportunities as theaters and opera houses begin to open in the months ahead.