An opera lover for as long as she can remember, soprano Sara Duchovnay was introduced to the art form by her grandfather who would read her opera stories from the CD jackets as they listened to his favorite recordings. He loved Verdi, and when Sara learned that she would soon have a younger sibling, she suggested that they name the baby Aïda for a girl, or Rigoletto for a boy. Opera was a special thing that Sara and her grandfather shared. He took her to see her first Met production, and was filled with pride when she began studying and decided to pursue a career in opera.
Sara received a Bachelor of Music from the Hartt School of Music and a Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and began performing mainstage roles soon after graduation. Early in her career, notable credits included Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Opera Santa Barbara; Nanetta in Falstaff and Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire with Opera San Jose; Jemmy in Guillaume Tell and Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with the Southern Illinois Music Festival; and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Pacific Opera Project. These roles provided valuable experience that continues to inform her performances today. Through these roles, Sara learned active stagecraft, character work, comedic timing, and how to work with her colleagues as part of a cohesive ensemble. However, as she grew older and came into herself as a woman and as a singer, these roles no longer fit her and her voice. She began studying with soprano and master teacher Julia Faulkner who helped her develop her true voice in fuller repertoire.
A defining turning point in Sara’s life and career came when she discovered a vital connection that had been missing before, and found how her soul truly connects to the operatic repertoire. She realized that her artistic calling was to bring dimension to the characters in her new repertoire and authentically tell their stories by drawing on obstacles she had overcome in her own life. Sara became an educational facilitator and ambassador with the One Love Foundation, a non profit that teaches young people about healthy vs. unhealthy relationship behaviors in an effort to end relationship abuse, and when she sang her first Nedda in Pagliacci in 2019, it presented the perfect opportunity to combine her passions. Sara spearheaded her own educational initiative and worked closely with One Love Foundation and Opera Roanoke to tailor the One Love curriculum for opera outreach. She worked with students at three local High Schools during the week prior to the rehearsal period, and introduced them to opera in a way that had very real and powerful connections to their own lives. Roles in Sara's repertoire now include Rusalka (Rusalka), Leonora (Il trovatore), Alcina (Alcina), and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), as well as Nedda (Pagliacci), Susannah (Susannah), and Anna Bolena (Anna Bolena). She feels compelled to tell the stories of these complex women in a way that honors their struggles and helps the audience process their own lives and the world around them.
Sara feels fortunate to lead a very happy life filled with many passions! In 2018, she founded Songbird Sara Jewelry, a jewelry company specializing in vintage and antique diamonds and other fine gems. While traveling for performances and traveling alongside her husband (tenor, Clay Hilley), she is able to source the most beautiful one of a kind pieces for her clients from all over the world. Sara loves travel and adventure, and from 2017-2021, she and Clay lived in a large 5th-wheel camper and dragged their home with them to contracts all over the US. During that time, they crossed the United States three complete times! They love animals, and when the pandemic limited their usual travel, they worked with an animal shelter in Georgia and fostered 7 different pitbulls in their camper while they waited to be adopted by their forever families. Sara and Clay now happily reside in Berlin.