An award-winning operatic soprano with more than 40 years of international recognition in some of the medium’s most iconic roles, Luana DeVol has served as the executive director of the American Wagner Project since 2013. Ms. DeVol has performed and taught around the world, but is perhaps best-known for her performances of the German repertoire, and was selected as Singer of the Year by German opera magazine Opernwelt in both 1997 and 2000. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Ms. DeVol grew up with a love of music and an appreciation for the arts, but had no intention of becoming a singer, instead harboring dreams of training in ballet.
After a chance choir audition as a teen led Ms. DeVol to discover her powerful voice, she began voice lessons with teacher Janet Parlova. Ms. DeVol was accepted into the San Francisco Opera chorus while still in high school, becoming the youngest member of the chorus, and continued her studies, earning an Associate of Arts at the College of San Mateo in 1960. She pursued postgraduate coursework at San Francisco State University through the 1960s, and found her first professional job in the arts in 1972, joining San Francisco’s Spring Opera Theater as an assistant to the board of directors. Ms. DeVol left the Spring Opera Theater in 1975 to become assistant general manager of the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California, where she would remain until 1984.
During this period, Ms. DeVol continued to perform as a member of several professional choruses, including the Masterworks Chorale and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. She did not consider auditioning for solo roles until the early 1980s, when, during a performance of a Wagner opera, Ms. DeVol realized that she had the experience and vocal strength to perform as well as many of the cast members. Giving herself a two-year window to attempt auditions, she quickly found success, and in 1983, she made her operatic debut in a Staatsoper Stuttgart production of Fidelio, playing the role of Leonore. After being sporadically cast in roles with American opera companies, Ms. DeVol received an offer to join the company of the Mannheim National Theater in Germany in 1987.
Ms. DeVol remained at the Mannheim National Theater until 1991 and found tremendous success performing in Europe, where her vocal tone was more in demand and there existed a much larger number of opera companies. Over the next three decades, she performed in dozens of cities known for their operatic traditions, including Vienna, Paris, Munich, and Berlin, at Teatro La Scala, and with companies including New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Ms. DeVol has performed many of the most prestigious soprano roles in the operatic canon, including Tosca, Aida, Elektra, and Wagner’s Brunhilde. She retired from performance in 2012 to lend her talents to Opera Las Vegas, serving as its general director between 2014 and 2018, and begin her work with the American Wagner Project.
A project of the Wagner Society of DC and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, the American Wagner Project was created to foster an appreciation and understanding of German composer Richard Wagner’s oeuvre and to help prepare and train singers capable of performing it. Having found some of her greatest professional successes in Wagner roles, Ms. DeVol holds a particular passion for his notoriously-challenging work. She is a talented vocal coach and teacher, hosting international masterclasses throughout the world during her operatic career, and has enjoyed translating those skills into empowering other young singers to develop their acting and singing skills to their full extent.
Ms. DeVol hopes to set the bar high for future generations of vocal performers, and hopes to leave a professional legacy of hard work and impeccable vocal technique, noting that “the best accomplishments are the ones you have fought hardest for.” Among many other honors, she has been presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. DeVol remains active in the international musical community, serving as a trustee of the Bayreuth Young Artists Festival, an honorary member of the Richard Wagner Society, and a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists, Opera America, and the American-German Chamber of Commerce.