Carla Dirlikov Canales is an award-winning mezzo-soprano who has become known worldwide not only for her on-stage achievements as an opera singer as well as for her work as a thought leader.
Ms. Canales has been praised by Opera Magazine for possessing a voice that “grabs the heartstrings with its dramatic force and musicality.” In 2014, she became the first singer ever to win the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence, an honor bestowed upon her by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a ceremony and concert at the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2015, she also became the first opera singer to be named by Foreign Policy Magazine to its prestigious annual listing of the year’s100 Leading Global Thinkers for her work using music to bridge cultural barriers.
Ms. Canales is in demand at opera houses and concert venues around the world. During 2015, she reprised the role of Maddalena in Rigoletto with Leo Nucci at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie, the same company with whom she performed the title role in Carmen, Preziosilla in La Forza del Destino at and Princess Eboli in Don Carlo. She debuted Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’Ete with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan in Mexico, and returned to China for a series of solo recitals at China’s National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing and at the Guangzhou Opera House, among other venues. Ms Canales made her European concert debut at Italy’s Spoleto Festival, and has been featured as part of the artist roster of the Glyndebourne Festival.
At China’s NCPA Ms. Canales sang the role of Giulietta in Les Contes d’Hoffmann as well as the title role in the legendary Royal Opera House production of Carmen. Much in demand for her portrayals of Bizet’s Carmen, Ms Canales has sung the title role over eighty times in twelve countries during the last four years. For her 2015 portrayal of Carmen in Le Tragedie de Carmen this spring with Naples Opera, Opera News praised, “Carla Dirlikov, a well-practiced, sexy Carmen, dominated the show”.
As a concert soloist she has sung Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall with the National Chorale, Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall and at the Kennedy Center. She also was a featured performer in a presentation of the Messiah by the Street Symphony in Los Angeles that was cited by Alec Ross in The New Yorker as one of the ten most notable performances and recordings of 2015. In September of 2014 she was featured in the UNAM Anniversary Concert which was nationally televised in Mexico. In 2015, she performed on the nationally televised Hispanic Heritage Awards, was the guest artist for Vice President Biden's Hispanic Heritage Month Reception, and also performed at the National Endowment for the Art's 50th Anniversary Celebration.
The 2015-2016 season includes appearances as Flora in La Traviata with New Orleans Opera as well as Opera Roanoke, and a recital appearance in an all Bernstein program at Chile's acclaimed Teatro del Lago. Also this year, she made her Alice Tully Hall debut in a featured work by acclaimed contemporary composer Mohammed Fairouz. Ms Canales will reprise the title role in Carmen with the Shanghai Opera this summer. She has also been a guest artist/speaker with the APAP, Vital Voices SphinxCon and later this year will appear at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Future scheduled performances including a premiering a work by noted contemporary composer Roberto Sierra with the Orchestra of St Luke’s, as well as recitals at the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center, and the premiere of two new works by Mohammed Fairouz.
Carla Dirlikov Canales is the proud daughter of a Bulgarian father and a Mexican mother. For her advocacy work with under-privileged youth for over a decade, the U.S. State Department recently conferred upon her the title of Cultural Envoy. Ms Canales is the first opera singer to be named to the roster of the President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities’ Turnaround Arts initiative (2015), which promotes arts education in public schools. She was also recently appointed to the Artists Committee of the Americans for the Arts (2014). She is a board member of the Artful Learning model, established by Leonard Bernstein and operated under the aegis of the Bernstein Family Foundation. Ms Canales has also been a guest speaker and performer with the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the Aspen Institute, POLITICO, Harvard University, the Hispanic Heritage Awards on PBS, The National Endowment’s 50 Anniversary Celebration, Vice President Biden’s Hispanic Hertige Month Celebration and TEDx MidAtlantic.
In an effort to build upon her work creating and improving international connections through the arts and culture, Ms Canales founded the The Canales Project in 2015. The Canales Project is a not-for-profit organization specializing in giving voice to issues of identity and culture through music and conversation.
Ms. Canales is an alumna of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, where she studied with Bill Schuman. She received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music from the University of Michigan, where she studied with Shirley Verrett. She continued her studies at the Conservatoire National de Paris, and completed her Master of Music in Opera Performance degree at McGill University in Montreal. She is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian and English.