Women on Top

Starting out with just a game-changing idea, a bulletproof business plan, or an electrifying design, these women are reinventing their industries and demolishing boys' clubs from the ranks of the military to Silicon Valley. They're all under 40, but those aren't stars in their eyes: They're planning a revolution.

By Sophie Moura

October 20, 2011 9:00 AM
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Peter Hapak
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Top Performer

Danielle de Niese, 32, opera singer

Résumé: De Niese's meteoric career started at age 9, when she won an Australian TV talent contest. Ten years later, New York's Metropolitan Opera snatched her up for its young-artist program. Lauded for her range and tone, she's a Twitter and Facebook addict, part of her mission to modernize opera.

Background Check: "My parents are Sri Lankan and moved to Australia before I was born. At 2, I had perfect pitch; at 8, I started classical voice training and knew immediately I wanted to be an opera singer. I debuted at the L.A. Opera at 15."

Big Break: "In 1997, at 18, I starred in The Marriage of Figaro during my first year at New York's Mannes College for Music. A few days later, I auditioned for Met Opera Music Director James Levine. They cast me in The Marriage of Figaro, with Renée Fleming. I couldn't believe it!"

The Diva Diet: "Classical singing is exhausting. You sweat like hell onstage, and I've given myself scratches and bruises getting into a role. I eat at home before performing, have pasta with Parmesan at the theater, and then more pasta at intermission. It keeps me going!"

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