BEST CLASSICAL VOCALIST (1998)
Competition for this honorific was fierce, but recognition is long overdue to mezzo-soprano Kathleen Humphrey, who, as Rossini's Italian Girl in Algiers, bore North Star Opera's recent production aloft on graceful wings of song. Humphrey's ability to carry a show--with her stylish instincts, velvety nuances, magnetic stage presence, and knack for turning wicked corners on any given line--was evident when she essayed Offenbach's libidinous Grand Duchess of Gérolstein for North Star. In addition to the countless temptresses she's portrayed in North Star's operettas, she's also been a Minnesota Opera regular after being thrown into a 1991 Cosi fan tutté with only two weeks of rehearsal. It was sink or swim, and Humphrey's been swimming ever since. Along the way, she's brought countless modest roles to full life, whether portraying an unusually compassionate Kate Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly or performing what is probably the only act of simulated fellatio seen on the Ordway stage (in 1995's Rigoletto). Whether searing into one's memory in the song cycle "Diary of One Who Vanished" or radiating spiritual confidence as a church soloist, Humphrey always has something distinctive to offer.