American mezzo-soprano, Leah Dexter, is praised for both her vocal and dramatic prowess. Described as having “…an opulent tone and characterization to match” (Opera News) and “…a beautiful voice, great acting gifts, [and] outstanding musicianship” (Italian Tribune), she performs opera, oratorio, musical theater, art song, chamber music, and contemporary works with equal verve and success.
Ms. Dexter's 2022-23 has been an exciting one and has included several debuts. She was seen as alto soloist in debuts with several orchestras in and around the Chicago area: alto soloist in Messiah with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, alto soloist in Garrop's Terra Nostra with the Northwestern University Symphony and Choirs, after which a recording was completed with Cedille Records to be released in spring 2024, alto soloist in Elijah with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, alto soloist in Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, and alto soloist in Dett's The Ordering of Moses with the Elgin Master Chorale and Orchestra. Ms. Dexter also debuted two opera roles this season, Siegrune in Detroit Opera's updated The Valkyries (Die Walkure), and Mrs. Herring in Albert Herring with Chicago Opera Theater.
The 2021-22 season was a busy one for Ms. Dexter. She returned to Chicago Opera Theater for three productions: first Mercedes in Carmen, then Ib in Becoming Santa Claus and finally, a turn as Mistress Paddington in Wallen's world premiere performances of Quamino's Map, for which she was proclaimed an "absolute blast" (Opera News). The season also included two different productions of Frida, as Lupe/Dimas' Mother/Natalia Trotsky, with both Detroit Opera and El Paso Opera. She re-joined Lyric Opera of Chicago for Fire Shut Up in My Bones as Bertha, and performed as soloist with LYNX Project of Chicago, for a live performance presentation of their debut album, for which she was also a featured soloist, beautiful small things.
Ms. Dexter had two critically acclaimed roles in the 2020-21 season, both with Chicago Opera Theater. The first was the world premiere performance of The Transformation of Jane Doe as the Night Maid and she continued on with performances of Sankaram's Taking Up Serpents, for which her performance was widely praised for it's "dramatic dedication" (Chicago Classical Review), and an "intensity that will put the fear of God in you" (Opera News). She also performed and recorded concerts with both Hearing in Color: Good Necessary Trouble and LYNX Project of Chicago.
The 2019-20 season began with a return to the South Shore Opera for a performance in their 10th Anniversary Gala. She continued the season with a successful debut with the Chicago Sinfonietta in performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, the world premiere of Freedom Ride with Chicago Opera Theater in the role of Gloria and a concert performance with Hearing in Color: Journey Unsung, as soloist.
The 2018-19 season has seen Ms. Dexter return to Lyric Opera of Chicago's Lyric Unlimited for a 5 week tour of the production, Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt, in which she played the roles of the T-Rex and Cavewoman. Several concert engagements with South Shore Opera will carry on throughout the season and she was also a featured artist in the concert series Hearing in Color: Spirituals and Justice. Her season continues with her involvement in Chicago Opera Theater's Scarlet Ibis, covering the role of Auntie and a debut with the University of Chicago's Symphony Orchestra performing as alto soloist in Tippett's A Child of Our Time.
The mezzo-soprano's performances for the 2017-18 season included a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago's Lyric Unlimited to cover the roles of Molly Brown/Nephthys/Tahemet in Dean Burry's The Scorpion's Sting. She was the alto soloist for Bach's BWV 126 at St. Luke Church and returned to St. John Berchmans Parish as alto soloist in Handel's Messiah.
Ms. Dexter's 2016-17 season started with performances in Germany as the role of Annie with New York Harlem Theater's critically-acclaimed production of Porgy & Bess. During the Christmas season, she was seen as alto soloist in Handel's Messiah at St. John Berchman's Parish in Chicago. She continued her season with a return to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, covering the role of Rebecca Parker in Lyric Unlimited's production of Charlie Parker's Yardbird.
Her 2015-16 season started with a debut as a part of Lyric Opera of Chicago's Lyric Unlimited production of Matthew Aucoin's opera for children, Second Nature, in which she created and performed the role of Elder Constance, under the baton of the composer. She reprised this role in the fall of 2015 when the company embarked on a 4 week tour in and around the Chicago area. In addition, she performed as alto soloist in Handel's Messiah with St. Michael in Old Town Catholic Church. She also appeared in South Shore Opera's production of Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins, as both Anna I and Anna II. The summer brought Ms. Dexter a return to Michigan Opera Theatre to join the company in their Summer Serenade concert series of Broadway and opera hits.
The 2014-15 season included her debut with Chicago Opera Theater, when she was seen on stage with Frederica von Stade, as a part of the solo quartet, in Ricky Ian Gordon’s A Coffin in Egypt. She performed as Lupe Marin and Dimas’ Mother, to rave reviews, in Michigan Opera Theatre’s critically acclaimed performances of Frida, with Suzanne Mallare Acton as conductor.
The fall of 2014 brought Ms. Dexter her debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as Annie, in Francesca Zambello’s rendering of Porgy & Bess. In her debut with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the baton of John Morris Russell, she showcased her talents in the opera, musical theater and gospel realms for a series of concerts celebrating the music of America. She was also seen in South Shore Opera’s production of La Traviata as Annina.
Highlights of the 2013-14 season included Annie in Porgy & Bess with New York Harlem Theater with performances in Austria and Luxembourg. As a soloist with the American Spiritual Ensemble, under the direction of Everett McCorvey, she joined the group for a winter tour of Ireland, a week long residency at the La Folle Journee music festival in Nantes, France, several concerts in the southern US states and a spring tour of Spain. The fall of 2013, again, Leah performed with the South Shore Opera Company, singing the Mango Vendor, in William Grant Still’s rarely performed opera, Troubled Island.
Operatic highlights of Ms. Dexter’s career include performances in the title role of Carmen with both Arbor Opera Theater and Opera North. She also joined the Sarasota Opera as an apprentice and studio artist, spending three seasons with the company. She performed the roles of Kate Pinkerton (Madame Butterfly) and Susanna Walcott (The Crucible), in addition to covering the Marchesa del Poggio (Un Giorno di Regno), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Mercedes (Carmen), and Tituba (The Crucible). A frequent performer with the Michigan Opera Theatre, Leah has sung the roles of Annina (La Traviata), Suzy/Lolette (La Rondine), Annie (Porgy & Bess), Bridesmaid (Le nozze di Figaro) and Handmaiden (Turandot). Additional credits include Hansel (Hansel & Gretel) with Toledo Opera, Mae Jones (Street Scene) with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Mrs. Gold (The Key) with Key Performing Arts, covering Azucena (Il Trovatore) with Opera New Jersey and many additional european performances as Annie in Porgy & Bess with New York Harlem Theater.
Symphonic and concert highlights of Ms. Dexter’s career include alto soloist in many performances of Messiah (Handel), in addition to Gloria (Vivaldi), Magnificat (Bach), Requiem (Mozart), King David (Honegger), Voices of Light (Einhorn), and Karl Jenkin’s two works, Stabat Mater and The Armed Man, the latter of which a DVD recording was produced with the Rackham Symphony Choir and Orchestra, under the baton of Suzanne Mallare Acton. Ms. Dexter has also premiered several works, including the creation of the role of Daphne in Enid Sutherland’s multimedia/multigenre piece, Daphne and Apollo Remade, alto soloist in McCullough’s Let My People Go with Rackham Symphony Choir and the alto/world vocalist in Jonathan Leshnoff’s epic Hope: An Oratorio with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, under the baton of Roberto Minczuk. Leah has also toured America with two professional ensembles: as lead vocalist, for three seasons, with the Ann Arbor, MI based historic Dodworth Saxhorn Band and as a member of the critically-acclaimed, American Spiritual Ensemble, a highlight of which was performing with the group at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY.
An avid recitalist, Leah has performed music of 20th century America, South America, new works, spirituals, opera and art song with her frequent collaborator Kathryn Goodson. Their recital performances have been heard at the Detroit Institute of Arts in partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Musicale of Michigan, Christ Church Cranbrook, Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan, Oakland University; for the Charles Ives American Music Festival and the Chicago Forte Piano Recital series, broadcast live on WFMT radio.
Awards and honors include the 1st place winner of the Nicholas Loren Vocal Competition, finalist for the Harold Haugh Light Opera Vocal Competition, and the 1st place award winner for the Kappa Alpha Psi Vocal Competition. In addition, during her time at Sarasota Opera, Leah was honored to receive the Anne J. O’Donnell Outstanding Apprentice Artist award.
In addition to her young artist and studio artist training at Sarasota Opera, Leah received further training as a young artist in programs with Opera New Jersey, Opera North, Toledo Opera and Brevard Music Center and was a festival artist with the New Opera Festival of Rome in Rome, Italy. A native of Detroit, MI, Leah first studied violin, cello and ballet and went on to earn her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Michigan, receiving the Willis Patterson Diversity Award upon her graduation.