Lyric coloratura soprano Abigail Raiford was recently praised in the Tulsa World for her “powerful, luxurious soprano voice, as well as her wonderfully comic way of weeping as the woebegone Elvira” in Tulsa Opera’s production of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri. She looks forward to performing as the soprano soloist with the Handel Choir of Baltimore in Handel’s Messiah later this year, as well as continuing her work with Experiments in Opera for their upcoming program of five new one-act operas, Five Ways to Die. Most recently, she made her debut as the soprano soloist in Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Emory University Symphony Orchestra & Choir, was named a Grant Winner by the Career Bridges Foundation, and a District Winner of the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition’s Tulsa District. She also received an Encouragement Award from the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition in 2023.
Last year, she made a splash during her first season with Central City Opera as a Bonfils-Stanton Studio Artist. In the same weekend, she learned and performed the role of Krysia in Heggie's Two Remain with mere hours of preparation, and then stepped in as Ida in Die Fledermaus the following day. She was given the Central City Opera Guild's McGlone Award at the end of the summer. Other highlights from last season include completing her third season as a young artist with Sarasota Opera, winning an Incentive Award from the SAS Performing Arts Company Vocal Competition and being named a finalist in the Emerging Artist Division of the MIOpera Vocal Competition.
Her training has taken her across the country and across the Atlantic. As a Resident and Apprentice Artist with Sarasota Opera, she has covered and performed multiple roles, including singing the role of Second Witch and taking the stage as Belinda for a family performance of Dido & Aeneas. In 2021, she made her debut with St. Petersburg Opera Company, covering Despina in Così fan tutte and singing Olympia in Davies’ Pinocchio. In Europe, she spent a summer studying in the heart of Vienna, and later traveled to Rome to work intensively with the incomparable soprano Mariella Devia. She also participated in SongFest’s Professional Program, as a singer and as assistant stage director to faculty member, Amy Burton.
Among her accolades from competitions, she won 2nd Prize in the SAS Performing Arts Company Vocal Competition in 2021, was a Finalist of the NH Opera Idol Virtual Competition, named an Encouragement Award winner in the Student Division of the inaugural Camille Coloratura Awards, and won both the Mannes Concerto Competition and the University of Tulsa Concerto-Aria Competition. In 2022, she was awarded the prestigious Career Performance Grant from Sigma Alpha Iota.
On the operatic stage, other highlights include the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Despina (Così fan tutte), Rose Maurrant (Street Scene), First Lady (Die Zauberflöte), Anicasia (La Dolorosa), and Yum-Yum (The Mikado). Her vocalism has thrilled audiences on the concert stage as well, especially in Milhaud’s Chansons de Ronsard with the Mannes Orchestra, and John Mackey’s Songs From the End of the World with the University of Tulsa Wind Ensemble.
She completed her Master of Music in Voice at the Mannes School of Music as a student of Amy Burton, where she was presented with the George and Elizabeth Gregory Award for Excellence in Performing. She received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Tulsa, under the tutelage of her mother, Judith Pannill Raiford.
Outside of her work as a soloist, she has enjoyed opportunities to perform in a variety of professional ensembles. She recorded soundtracks for Ang Lee's Gemini Man and Olivia Wilde's Don't Worry Darling, performed with Musica Sacra and the New York Philharmonic for their concert of Close Encounters of the Third Kind in David Geffen Hall, joined Essential Voices for their performance in A Celebration of Women in the Arts at Alice Tully Hall, and took part in the China Now Music Festival, singing in the world premiere of Zhou Long's Mandarin oratorio Men of Iron and the Golden Spike. She also sang the Knaben solo in the Bard Festival Chorale’s performance of Richard Strauss’ An den Baum Daphne at Carnegie Hall. She currently maintains her position as Soprano 1 in the choir of The Church of the Holy Trinity on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
When she's not singing, she loves cooking with friends and family, taking walks along the New York City waterfront, and playing video games, with her favorite games coming from the Fire Emblem and Pokémon series. As a teenager, she was deeply influenced by the music of David Bowie, Tom Waits, the Dave Matthews Band, Ben Folds, and Lorde, and she continues to be inspired by their music today. She is a proud sister of Sigma Alpha Iota, and has been an active member of the New York Alumnae Chapter since 2018. She plans to one day travel the Japanese countryside, all of the great cities of Italy, and the frozen landscapes of Scandinavia.