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Diva Moment

For everyone who conjures the stereotypical opera singer, we give you Alyson Cambridge.

Alyson Cambridge returns home to perform with the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center in Show Boat.

Lithe, lauded and local, the soprano represents a bold new era in mammoth voices. Cambridge, who grew up in Arlington and now lives in New York City, attended Sidwell Friends and honed her divine skills as a child at the Levine School of Music. She performs with the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center this spring as the lead in Show Boat, May 4-26. The fashion-forward Cambridge is a hot operatic commodity, having performed at the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as recently debuting in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Beijing.

Did you actually consider law school after attending college? Yes! I had a double major at Oberlin—sociology and music, and law school seemed like a good option. But I also applied for a master’s degree in voice at the Curtis Institute of Music, and that was it. Two years later, I was singing at the Met. My life would have been a little different had I chosen law! 

Very different—minus world travel, the fashion lines, the diva moments… But I’m a good diva! I’m such a stage animal and love what I do when creating, so I couldn’t imagine my life without that. Plus, I’ve been able to use my platform to do charitable work with groups such as Sing for Hope, which makes music accessible to everyone.

Fashion has become a critical part of opera. Do you love the ride? There’s certainly glamour—it’s not just about the music, but the gown I’m wearing, the jewelry around my neck and on my ears. I recently wore a gorgeous J. Mendel gown for a show in San Francisco, and, when I walked onstage, there was an audible gasp. The audience was already engaged.

What do you love most about Show Boat? I play the tragic character Julie, and I get to sing some of the greatest songs in the American catalog. It’s also a spectacle, and the costumes from Paul Tazewell are outstanding.