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Cara Bender is an operatic soprano hailing from Corning, New York. A passionate champion of art song as well as opera, Cara is thrilled to be this year’s winner of The Songfest Graham Johnson Art Song Prize XXI. Cara looks forward to her upcoming time at Songfest this June, which will include a recital curated and coached by Graham Johnson. Cara was recently named a National Finalist of The American Prize Chamber Music Award for her performance of Gustav Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder. She was also named a semi-finalist in the Federation of Art Song Competition this season.

Cara made her debut with The Florentine Opera Company as a 2023 Summer Studio Artist, performing the roles of Contessa Almaviva and Donna Anna in abridged versions of Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. Earlier in 2023, Cara performed as a featured soloist in the premiere of a new choral opera, Adrift, with Nightingale Vocal Ensemble, an ensemble with which she collaborates frequently. Cara concluded her second summer as an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera in 2021, where she covered Masha in The Queen of Spades and was featured on multiple concerts, performing selections from Don Giovanni, Falstaff, Bluebeard's Castle, Così fan tutte, Die Walküre, and The Rape of Lucretia. 


Cara has made role and house debuts as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, a part of Luke A. Housner’s Summer Opera Workshop, the Witch and the Mother in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel with Due Donne Productions, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Oberlin in Italy, and La Bergère in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges with Miami Summer Music Festival. Selected partial roles include Elettra in Idomeneo, Thaïs in Thaïs, Marguerite in Faust, Contessa Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, and Alice Ford in Falstaff. Also a passionate champion of art song, Cara was a Young Artist at the 2019 Leeds Lieder Festival for her UK debut and regularly performed on The New England Conservatory’s Liederabend Concert Series.  

A recent graduate of The New England Conservatory, Cara was heard as the Lady with a Cake Box in Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, Giunone in Cavalli’s La Calisto, and The Mistress of the Novices in Puccini’s Suor Angelica. During her undergraduate studies, Cara participated with the Oberlin Opera Theater, portraying Miss Jessel in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and The Wife in Wargo’s The Music Shop. For her oratorio debut, Cara was the soprano soloist in Poulenc’s Gloria with Oberlin’s Musical Union and Arts and Sciences Orchestra and in 2018, she was selected as a finalist in the Oberlin Concerto Competition, performing Samuel Barber's Andromache's Farewell.

Cara earned her MM in Vocal Performance from The New England Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of Jane Eaglen where she was a recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship and the Beneficent Society Scholarship. Cara also earned her BM in Vocal Performance at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music studying with Daune Mahy and receiving both the Dean’s scholarship and the Helen Hodam Scholarship in Voice.

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