As one of the willing artists who advocate for all to see, you can’t help but fall in love with Jamie Barton when you meet her on her socials. She rocks a edgy and colorful personal style, and in her Instagram bio she describes herself as a “[p]roudly queer opera singer into drag queens, bluegrass, social justice, equality, and cats.” She’s a 2022 Grammy nominee, as well as an empowering artist who uses her platform to connect with and inspire others. We highly recommend you check her out and click “follow!”

ARTISTS WHO ADVOCATE…IN OPERA!

Barton is a mezzo-soprano vocalist who has performed nationally and internationally in concert and in operas. Hailing from rural Georgia and raised on bluegrass music, she’s a graduate of vocal studies at Shorter College and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. She began her career in musical theatre and has indicated that she’d love to return to the genre as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, as Charlotte in A Little Night Music, and as The Witch in Into the Woods.

Notable opera credits include Carmen in Carmen, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, Fricka in Das Rheingold, Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, and many others. She has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro Real Madrid, Washington National Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts, and with symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Iceland, Oulu, Pittsburgh, and Toronto, among many others.

GROUNDBREAKING CAREER MOMENTS

Barton’s path to professional success has certainly been an inspiring one. She’s paved her way through the traditionally conservative world of classical music by staying true to who she is and shaking things up along the way. Here are some highlights:

  • June 2013: The first woman to win both first prize and the song prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, which is a distinguished classical music competition.
  • April 2015: Won the Richard Tucker Award, one of opera’s most prestigious honors. The foundation which selects the winner explains the award is given to “an American singer poised on the edge of a major national and international career, and it is hoped that the award acts as a well-timed catalyst to elevate the artist’s career to even greater heights.”
  • September 2015: Featured in the New York Times (NYT) while performing in Anna Bolena at the Metropolitan Opera. The NYT called her “opera’s nose-studded rock star.” The profile also described her as “a leader of a new generation of opera stars.”
  • 2018 and 2020: Won BBC Music Magazine awards. In 2018, she received the Vocal Award. In 2020, she received Personality of the Year.
  • September 2019: Headlined “Last Night of the BBC Proms,” and performed “Rule, Britannia!” while waving a rainbow flag in celebration of the LGTBQ+ community. The song is a classically British song of patriotism (like the song “God Bless America” in the U.S.). The Proms is a prominent classical music fest.
  • September 2021: She performed as Carmen alongside Stephanie Blythe as Don Jose, Carmen’s romantic counterpart. The pair brought a non-normative, genderfluid element to the classical stage.
  • 2022: Nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Classical Solo Vocal Album” for Unexpected Shadows, which she made with composer/pianist Jake Heggie and cellist Matt Haimovitz.

EMPOWERING OTHERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Opera singer pink

Photo of Jamie Barton by BreeAnne Clowdus

Alongside her critically acclaimed musical talent, Barton stands out in the world of classical music for her social activism. Her Instagram, in which she boasts over 23,000 followers, engages in dialogue about body positivity, LGBTQ+ rights, social justice, and equality. She identifies as bisexual and frequently publishes content designed to uplift women, queer people and members of other marginalized communities. Last June, she published a video of her singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” accompanied by an on-screen sign language interpreter. She captioned the post, “In case you’re as angry and heartsick as I am over… well, Everything… here’s a little moment of love and community to pause your scroll.”

Part of Barton’s appeal comes from her honesty and vulnerability about unique career challenges. She’s posted about how “nerve-wracking” it can be to trust a designer in creating costumes for her as a plus-sized performer. She calls out assumptions and stereotypes about casting choices that favor certain groups over others. Her candidness about her experiences and her frankness about social topics generate and continue important conversations that push the industry toward a more inclusive and progressive environment.

Recently, Barton lent her talents and influence to Ukrainian relief efforts. She performed in a special concert at the Met in which the ticket sales and album sales supported relief efforts. She also ran a personal matching campaign on her social media, through which she and her followers raised over $9,000 for organizations providing aid to the citizens and country of Ukraine. She wrote in an Instagram post on March 8, “The grand total that you guys submitted in donation receipts to organizations providing aid to the citizens and country of Ukraine was a WHOPPING $4522!! WOW!!! I matched that told in a donation to [CARE] in the same amount, which means *together*, we have sent $9044!! Bravi tutti, y’all. Thanks for banding together to help people who are truly in need right now.”

At the same time, Barton delights in publishing behind-the-scenes content that shows how much she simply loves what she does. Take, for example, a video in which she explains (with excitement!) a prosthetic eye wound created by her hair and makeup artist. It’s part of her character as Eboli in Don Carlos. When she finishes the video, she reveals the prosthetic and says humorously, “Look at that… gnarly, gnarly, Princess Eboli!” It’s the kind of “insider” content that thespians, artists, and performers alike recognize and appreciate.

Barton is also a volunteer with Turn The Spotlight. Their mission reads, “We offer mentorship by and for exceptional women, people of color, and members of other equity-seeking groups, with a particular interest in supporting artists who are using their talents and skills to strengthen their communities and pursue social justice.”

With so many accolades and so much charm, Barton’s star has not only risen but continues to shine very brightly — and it’s a star in which many young artists can find inspiration. Follow her @jbartonmezzo on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit jamiebarton.com.  ♦

Natalie Clare is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Dramatics. Visit her work at nataliecwrites.com.

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