Beth Madsen-Bradford is the best Portland-based opera singer you've probably never heard of.
She also gave one of the best performances of '07 that you probably didn't see: in the title role of Opera Theater Oregon's live music-plus-film performance of Carmen last July. It was so popular and talked-about the company's bringing it back for a limited run this weekend and next at the Someday Lounge.
Madsen-Bradford's superlatively sung take on the title role won a big ovation from the SRO crowd last summer. For this writer, seeing the singer in a second unforgettable performance with OTO (ask her for a sample of Handel's "Where e'er you walk" with bump and grind accompaniment) came as a revelation. Who the hell was this best-kept-secret singer, and where'd she come from?
Turns out the 33-year-old Madsen-Bradford's a Northwest native (Mount Vernon, Wash.) and Linfield College alum who's been building a steady singing career over the past decade or so in Portland. She laid low in the Portland Opera chorus in the late '90s and early '00s ("I really learned there how opera worked," she says), then broke into some prestigious opera training programs (Aspen Opera Theater, Des Moines Metro Opera) a few years back.
Her career's building serious steam, and if you haven't heard of her here, it's because she's being asked—like her opera-diva best friend, Portland mezzo Angela Niederloh—for more and more out-of-town singing engagements. "I'm trying to branch out and get more of a regional thing going on," she says. Her OTO performances come close on the heels of another Carmen just last weekend with the Juneau (Alaska) Symphony. Gigs this spring include Berta in Rossini's Barber of Seville with Tacoma Opera and a Bach St. John Passion with the Bravo Vancouver Chorale.
"I'm at a place I'm really happy with," she says. "Living in Portland isn't a decision to slack—it's about having good choices available. I mean," and she leans in, "I get to turn gigs down." She tosses her head back and laughs that open-mouthed, resonant laugh. "That was a good quote."
Opera Theater Oregon presents
at the Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th Ave., 248-1030. 7 pm Saturday and Tuesday-Thursday, Feb. 9 and 12-14. 9 pm Saturday, Feb. 9. $12-$40.