About Carla


Carla Canales is an award-winning mezzo-soprano known not only for her achievements as a singer, but also for her work as a thought leader and advocate.

Carla has been praised by Opera Magazine for possessing a voice that “grabs the heartstrings with its dramatic force and musicality.” She has appeared at Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Italy’s Spoleto Festival, Glynebourne Opera, Opéra Royal de Wallonie, China’s National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and Guangzhou Opera House, among many others. She was a featured performer in a presentation of the Messiah by the Street Symphony in Los Angeles that was cited by Alex Ross in The New Yorker as one of the ten most notable performances and recordings of 2015. She performed in the UNAM Anniversary Concert, which was nationally televised in Mexico, and on the Hispanic Heritage Awards, which was nationally televised in the United States. She was the guest artist for Vice President Biden's Hispanic Heritage Month Reception in 2015, and performed at the National Endowment for the Arts' 50th Anniversary Celebration. Most recently, Carla has been honored with a 2017 Bicentennial Alumni Award from the University of Michigan, as part of their 200th Anniversary Initiative, and was named one of Musical America's 2017 "30 Professionals of the Year," who are shaping the performing arts landscape for the future.

For her advocacy work with youth for over a decade, the U.S. State Department recently conferred upon her the title of Cultural Envoy. Carla is the first opera singer to be named by Foreign Policy Magazine to its prestigious annual listing of the year’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers, and the first to be named to the roster of the President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities’ Turnaround Arts initiative. She was also recently appointed to the Artists Committee of the Americans for the Arts and is a board member of the Artful Learning model, established by Leonard Bernstein and operated under the aegis of the Bernstein Family Foundation. In 2014, she became the first singer ever to win the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence, an honor bestowed upon her by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a ceremony and concert at the Supreme Court of the United States. More recently, the Government of China chose her as one of its 1000 Talents and as such she will partner as a guest soloist with the China National Symphony Orchestra from 2018-2021. Additionally, she has held multiple speaking engagements, including at TEDxMidAtlantic and Aspen Ideas Festival.

The proud daughter of a Bulgarian father and a Mexican mother, Carla has worked to create and improve international connections through the arts and culture, and has been a guest speaker and performer around the world outside of traditional concert venues. Carla founded the The Canales Project, a not-for-profit organization specializing in giving voice to issues of identity and culture through music and conversation. She additionally serves as Artistic Director of programming for CultureSummit Abu Dhabi and as 2017-18 Artist-in-Residence at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.