Ewa Podles is one of the world's leading contraltos, equally successful in the worlds of opera and concert music. Her voice possesses the rich, flexible, perhaps even masculine, quality that separates the true contralto from the mezzo-soprano, and which has invited comparison to the likes of Marilyn Horne, Kathleen Ferrier, and Marian Anderson. Her range, both musically and vocally, has made her succesful in a variety of genres and styles, including the operas of Rossini and Verdi, the songs of Chopin, and a broad selection of Russian repertoire.
The daughter of a successful Polish contralto, Podles first attracted attention while still a student in her native Warsaw, where she was engaged by the local company to sing Rosina in Rossini's Barber of Seville. Her career developed quickly, and she began to make international appearances as early as 1982. The lighter quality that characterized her voice early on allowed for excellent performances of such roles as Rossini's Cenerentola and Bizet's Carmen as well as some lighter Russian roles. However, as her voice developed it took on a more characteristic dark quality that opened up a wider selection of parts, including Verdi's Eboli (Don Carlos) and Ulrica (Un Ballo in maschera). Her signature performance has for some time been the title role in Rossini's Tancredi. She also sings La Donna del Lago and L'Italiana in Algeri. She has a very effective recital program called "Rossini Arias for Contralto," which she has sung with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra in New York's Carnegie Hall.
Podles' recordings have been well received, including a disc of Chopin songs with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, Melodies Russes (Grand Prix de L'Academie Française du Disque), and Tancredi (nominated for a Grammy).