bio

In a career still in its second decade, an eagerly anticipated visitor to opera houses and concert halls the world over, Isabel Bayrakdarian (Իզապէլ Պայրագտարեան) has become as celebrated for her beauty, presence, and style as for a strikingly multihued voice that’s wholly in sync with the rest of her.

album awards

2018
JUNO Award Nomination
for ‘Best Classical Album of the Year’

Choral/Vocal division for Mother of Light

2014
JUNO Award Nomination
for Troubadour and the Nightingale

2010
Gemini Award Nomination for ‘Best Performance by an Artist in a Performing Arts Program’
for the documentary Long Journey Home

2008
GRAMMY and JUNO Award Nomination
for Gomidas Songs

2006
GEMINI Award Nomination from The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television
for Long Journey Home

2005
JUNO Award for ‘Best Classical Album’
for Pauline Viardot: lieder/chansons

2004
JUNO Award for ‘Best Classical Album’
for Mozart: Arie e Duetti

2003
GRAMMY Award for the soundtrack
of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

2003
JUNO Award for ‘Best Classical Album’
for Cleopatra

2002
JUNO Award 
for ‘Best Classical Album’
for Azulão

It’s not every prima donna who can boast a degree in biomedical engineering, but then, Isabel Bayrakdarian isn’t your average prima donna. As an eagerly anticipated visitor to opera houses and concert halls the world over, she’s become as celebrated for her beauty, presence, and style as for a strikingly multihued voice that is wholly in sync with the rest of her.

A winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions—the same year she graduated from the University of Toronto cum laude with a Biomedical Engineering Degree—Ms. Bayrakdarian thereafter found her career taking rapid wing. She scored a notable success in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world premiere production of William Bolcom’s​ A View from the Bridge;the following year, she walked away from Plácido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia competition with first prize. More debuts followed, including her San Francisco Opera debut, as Valencienne in ​The Merry Widow,and her Metropolitan Opera debut, in the New York premiere of Bolcom’s opera; a season later, she won plaudits as Teresa in the Met premiere of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini​. Mozart became a specialty: Zerlina in Don Giovanni (New York, Houston, Salzburg), Susanna in ​Le nozze di Figaro ​(Los Angeles, London), and Pamina in ​The Magic Flute ​(New York, Toronto). Her roles at Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company range from Gluck’s Euridice to Debussy’s Mélisande to Poulenc’s Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites;and away from Canada, she has shone as Monteverdi’s Poppea in Barcelona, Handel’s Romilda (Serse)in Dresden, and Janáček’s Vixen in New York, Florence, and the Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto, Japan.

But opera is only one page of the Bayrakdarian résumé. An ever-active concertizer, she has appeared with the premier orchestras of the world under the baton of such eminent conductors as Seiji Ozawa, James Conlon, David Zinman, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Alan Gilbert.

Her versatility is also reflected in being the featured vocalist on the Grammy® Award-winning soundtrack of the blockbuster film ​The Two Towers​ from ​The Lord of The Rings​ trilogy and on the soundtrack of Atom Egoyan’s ​Ararat.​ A trance music collaboration with the electronica band Delerium garnered yet another Grammy nomination. She sings on the BBC-produced short film ​HOLOCAUST – A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz​, as well as her Gemini-nominated film​ Long Journey Home,documenting her first visit to her ancestral homeland, Armenia.

Bayrakdarian is the winner of four consecutive Juno Awards for Best Classical Album, and in 2018 her recording, Mother of Light was nominated for a  Juno Award.  Her recordings with orchestra include Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No.3 with John Axelrod conducting the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, released on the Sony Classical label, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.2, with Michael Tilson-Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony, and Respighi’s​ Il Tramonto​ with Orchestre Symphonique de Laval.

In 2020, her latest recording “The Other Cleopatra: Queen of Armenia” was released to great critical acclaim on the Delos label, accompanied by the Kaunas Symphony Orchestra under conductor Constantine Orbelian.  She also collaborated with the Rock band “Glass Tiger” as a featured artist on their Christmas Album “Songs for a Winter’s Night”.

Isabel is the recipient of many awards, including the Marilyn Horne Foundation Competition Award, Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee and the Diamond Jubilee Medals, the Arbor Award from the University of Toronto, the George London Foundation Award, Canada Council’s Virginia Parker Prize, and the Republic Of Armenia “Komitas Medal”. Most recently, she was awarded the “Movses Khorenatsi” medal, the Republic of Armenia’s highest cultural award.

​ She holds an Honorary Doctorate from Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, and an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Ms Bayrakdarian is Associate Professor of Voice at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). 

other awards

2017  “Movses Khorenatsi” Medal Republic of Armenia’s Highest Cultural Award

2017  Republic of Armenia “Komitas” Medal from the Ministry of Diaspora

2015  Official Recognition from California Legislature Assembly for contributions to the Entertainment Industry and promoting peace and tolerance

2015  Honorary Doctorate from Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

2012  University of Toronto, ARBOR award for Outstanding Service

2012  Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

2008 DORA Mavor Moore Award Nomination for Outstanding Performance in the Opera Division: Pelleas et Melisande

2006  “Distinguished Visitor” from Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners

2005  St Sahag-St Mesrob Medal from the Catholicos of All Armenians

2005  Canada Council for the Arts: Virginia Parker Prize

2004  Honorary Recognition from the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh: Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports

2004 Honorary Recognition from the Republic of Armenia: Ministry of Culture and Youth Issues

2004  St Mesrob Mashdots Medal & Pontifical Encyclical from the Holy See of Cilicia

2004  Honorary Diploma (F.R.C.M.T) from the Royal Conservatory of Music

2002 Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal

2001 GEMINI Award Nomination for Opening Night  from The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television

2000 OPERALIA Competition, First Prize

2000  George London Competition, First Prize & Leonie Rysanek Prize

1998  Second Annual Marilyn Horne Foundation Award, Winner

1997  Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition, First Prize1

1995  Canadian Music Competition “22 and Under”, First Prize