The Scene


Barbara Hannigan

Barbara Hannigan
Elmer de Haas

Barbara Hannigan is known worldwide as a soprano of vital expressive force directed by exceptional technique. She is now bringing that same high energy and expertise to her varied activites as a conductor while continuing to work, as a singer, with the most prominent maestros, including in recent seasons Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Ludovic Morlot, David Zinman, Alan Gilbert and Reinbert De Leeuw.

Blessed with a voice at once pure and hot, she has arrived, through challenging and diverse repertory choices, at a point of complete control, intensity and versatility. She also possesses an exciting stage presence, whether in opera or on the concert platform. Much sought after in contemporary music (she has given over 80 world premieres), she is no less brilliant and devoted a performer of Baroque and Classical music. Bringing freshness to older music and authority to new, she is among the very few singers whose every performance is an occasion.

She is a frequent guest of the Berliner Philharmoniker, who commissioned for her Hans Abrahamsen's symphonic song cycle let me tell you, a work which her performances has rapidly launched around the world. In 2014 she had the rare honour of an invitation as Artiste Étoile to the Lucerne Festival, where she conducted, gave master classes, and presented a work written for her by Unsuk Chin.

György Ligeti and Henri Dutilleux both regarded her as their soprano of choice. Her startling dramatic interpretation of Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre has been acclaimed widely, as has her expressive fullness in Dutilleux's Correspondances. Her recording of this work has garnered awards from Grammophone, Edison, and Victoires de la Musique. Other awards include "Sängerin des Jahres" (Opernwelt, 2013), Personalité Musicale de l'Année (Syndicat de la Presse Francaise, 2012),

Part of Hannigan's outstanding quality comes from bringing to the concert platform the dramatic verve and character one might expect on the opera stage – and from retaining, as an opera performer, all the musicianship she displays as a concert artist. She is, whether in concert hall or opera house, a full being. And she has worked tirelessly with directors and conductors to achieve that fullness, and to go on expanding it.

Unforgettable opera appearances have included most recently an extraordinary embodying of the title role in Lulu, in Krzysztof Warlikowski's staging at La Monnaie, and a fearless interpretation of Marie as a flame in the darkness of Zimmermann's Die Soldaten at the Bayerische Staatsoper, a hugely acclaimed presentation directed by Andreas Kriegenberg and conducted by Kirill Petrenko. To the premiere production of George Benjamin's Written on Skin she brought a gripping portrayal of a young woman in dawning self-realization. She has also worked with choreographer Sasha Waltz on productions of Hosokawa's Matsukaze and Dusapin's Passion, thoroughly utilizing her physical as well as vocal agility. In future seasons she will add Mélisande, Elle in La Voix humaine and the title role in Gerald Barry's Alice in Wonderland to the repertory of characters she vividly inhabits.

She is steadily developing her range as a conductor. From a first and much applauded experience conducting Stravinsky's Renard at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, she has gone on to work with orchestras including the Göteborgs Symfoniker, Prague Philharmonic, WDR Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, l'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Avanti Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Orchestra della Toscana, and Gulbenkian Orchestra. As a performer herself, she enjoys a warm rapport with orchestral players, and this communicates itself in her concerts, while her programming has music old and new striking sparks off each other. Her conducting debut at the Concertgebouw with Ludwig Orchestra, won the Ovatie 2014 award for best classical concert of the year in the Netherlands.

Her 2014-15 season includes return engagements with the Berliner Philharmoniker, to sing the new Chin piece and Grisey's Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, both with Rattle conducting. She gives the world premieres of works by Magnus Lindberg, with the London Philharmonic under Vladimir Jurowski, and Salvatore Sciarrino, with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia under Antonio Pappano. As artist-in-residence at the Toronto Symphony New Creations Festival she presents let me tell you and Written on Skin. She is Donna Anna in a new Don Giovanni at La Monnaie, again directed by Warlikowski, and repeats her performances as Marie in Munich and Agnes in New York. Not least, she makes her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic, singing Claude Vivier's Lonely Child.

Author: Paul Griffith

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