Cynthia Clayton has been an audience favorite for her performances of leading lyric soprano roles for three decades. She debuted with a number of prominent opera companies to extraordinary success, including Houston Grand Opera as Mimì in La bohème; New York City Opera as Musetta in La bohème; Dallas Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni; Utah Opera as Mimì; Opera Colorado as Alice Ford (in Verdi’s Falstaff), Opera Grand Rapids as Leonora (Il Trovatore) and Central City Opera as Lady Penelope Rich in the North American premiere of Benjamin Britten's Gloriana. Her New York City Opera credits also include appearances as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, Mimì, and Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. She achieved great audience and critical acclaim for her performances of Janáček’s Jenůfa with Utah Opera. She has since returned to Houston Grand Opera for several roles, including Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and most recently, the Beggar Woman in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
Ms. Clayton performed with San Diego Opera Musetta and Micaëla (in renowned conductor Richard Bonynge’s first performances of La bohème and Carmen), returning to appear as Mary Willis in Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree. She has bowed as Puccini’s Tosca at Utah Opera, and has appeared both as Micaëla and as Marguerite in Faust with Cleveland Opera. In addition, she has sung Violetta in La traviata in Belgium; Madama Butterfly with Anchorage Opera, Intermountain Opera and Fort Worth Opera; Desdemona in Otello with Festival Opera and West Bay Opera, Liù in Turandot with Knoxville Opera; Nedda in Pagliacci with Opera Delaware and Festival Opera; Countess Almaviva with Orlando Opera; Massenet's Manon with Arizona Opera; Alice Ford with Utah Opera; Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre and Festival Opera; Manon Lescaut with Intermountain Opera; Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Mimì, and Nedda, all with Festival Opera. She has appeared with Opera Santa Barbara as Mimì; and with the New West Symphony as Violetta.
Ms. Clayton's concert performances have included Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Verdi’s Requiem, Mahler’s Second Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem, Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Mozart's Requiem and Solemn Vespers, Brahms' German Requiem, Poulenc’s Gloria, and Debussy's La Damoiselle Élue, as well as numerous recitals and chamber music performances, including Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Her symphony appearances include credits with the Houston Symphony and San Jose Symphony, among others.
Early in her career, Ms. Clayton completed a Principal Artist Residency with Opera San Jose, including performances of such roles as Tatyana, Violetta, Fiordiligi, Micaëla, Léïla, Donna Elvira, Gilda, Rosina, Mimì, Pamina, the Countess, Cio-Cio San, the Merry Widow and George Roumanis' Phaedra, the latter of which she performed in the world premiere stage version as well as in the Emmy-nominated adaptation Ode to Phaedra, broadcast by KTEH. She is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (BA, Music) and the University of Southern California (MM, Vocal Arts)
Most recently with Houston Grand Opera, Ms. Clayton appeared as the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd, Madame Larina in Eugene Onegin and three roles in Houston Grand Opera’s world-premiere production of Marian’s Song by Damien Sneed and Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. In 2017, Ms. Clayton produced a recording of vocal works entitled Encantamiento - Music of Daniel Catán, available on Albany Records. A member of the faculty at the Moores School of Music at the UH since 2005, she has earned the rank of Professor and serves as head of the voice division.
HOUSTON CHRONICLE | SWEENEY TODD | HOUSTON GRAND OPERA
"Cynthia Clayton is aptly pitiable and demented as the Beggar Woman who invariably pops up at inopportune moments.”
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE | OTHELLO | FESTIVAL OPERA & WEST BAY
“Completing the trio of leads was soprano Cynthia Clayton as a hauntingly sympathetic Desdemona, bringing luminous tone and a degree of pathos to the Willow song and Prayer in Act 4.”
OPERA NEWS | FLORENCIA EN EL AMAZONAS | UTAH OPERA
“Librettist Marcela Fuentes-Berain used magic, realism and metaphor to describe a journey of self-discovery by opera singer Florencia Grimaldi, sung brilliantly by soprano Cynthia Clayton. As the aging diva, Clayton captured the nuances of a woman whose success is hollow, because she has sacrificed true love for her career. She returns to the jungle, ostensibly to sing at the opera house in Manaus. But she is really searching for Cristóbal, a butterfly hunter she left in her youth. Clayton's voice was sumptuous in broad, lyrical phrases and appropriately vulnerable at tender moments.”"
GRAND RAPIDS PRESS | IL TROVATORE | OPERA GRAND RAPIDS
“Verdi handed Leonora the opera's biggest range and longest stretch of singing. Debuting in the role, Cynthia Clayton brought along a seasoned soprano, dark at the bottom with glints of steel at the top, plenty agile enough for the coloratura, switching emotional and technical gears masterfully. Applause grew louder with each passing aria she sang.”
OPERA NEWS | FALSTAFF | UTAH OPERA
“Michael Chioldi and Cynthia Clayton were another golden couple, cast as the Fords. Chioldi's clarity and vocal strength matched well with Clayton's radiant tone.”
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE | TOSCA | UTAH OPERA
“Clayton's performance in the title role skillfully wedded vulnerability and fire. She had believable chemistry with both the male leads, especially in her soaring final duet with [Scott] Piper. Her technical security and poignant expressiveness made her major aria, 'Vissi d'arte,' a show-stopper."
DESERT MORNING NEWS | TOSCA | UTAH OPERA
"Also remarkable among the leads was soprano Cynthia Clayton in the title role. She has a powerful and dramatic voice that can also be exquisitely lyrical. She was wonderfully convincing as Cavaradossi's jealous lover. She also brought infinite sweetness to her characterization in her tender duets with him."
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE | SUSANNAH | FESTIVAL OPERA
“In the title role, Cynthia Clayton gave a performance of heart-breaking tenderness and vitality, using her full-bodied soprano to depict Susannah's harrowing downfall at the hands of mass righteousness. The melodic phrases of her famous Act 1 aria, "Ain't it a pretty night," arched dreamily with the joy of being alive, while the mournful ballad of Act 2… drew a devastating emotional contrast.