The Scene


Marlis Petersen

Marlis Petersen
Photo: Yiorgos Mavropoulos

Coloratura soprano

What the artistic world and audiences find so enchanting about Marlis Petersen is an ability to combine a voice of rare crystal clarity and brightness with an alert presence that enables her to completely identify with all her roles on the stage.

Born in Germany, Petersen had already trained in the piano and traverse flute before she decided to dedicate herself to the instrument which today inspires her audience. At the conservatoire, in Stuttgart, she studied to become a high school music teacher whilst being instructed in classical singing by Sylvia Geszty. Yet her ever-restless spirit urged her towards another passion. She trained in jazz-dance and tap-dancing at the New York City Dance School in Stuttgart, shortly after earning engagements in show business. Despite this she stayed connected to the classical repertoire as she continued further studies in Opera and Contemporary Music and three years after being a prize winner in the operatic category at the VDMK competition in Berlin in 1990, she also won an award in the category of Musical-Chanson-Song.

In 1994, the soprano began her professional career at the Nuremberg Opera with roles like Ännchen (Der Freischütz), Blonde (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Oscar (Un ballo in maschera), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos) and the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte).

Following, between 1998 and 2003, Marlis Petersen joined the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf-Duisburg where she made many successful appearances in roles like Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Morgana (Alcina), Norina (Don Pasquale), Viola (Twelfth Night), Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Marie (La fille du régiment) and Bystrouška (The Cunning Little Vixen). Later on she triumphed as Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Frankfurt, Brussels and Aix en Provence.

A role which has marked her career is Alban Berg´s heroine Lulu.

After performing it in Nuremberg, Kassel and Dusseldorf, she gave her Vienna State Opera debut with this role in 2002. Critics characterised her as the ideal child-woman that guides her voice accurately through all the perils of the score - agile and brilliant in the high tessitura. She has also performed Lulu in Peter Konwitschny´s well-recognized production in Hamburg (2003), at the Lyric Opera Chicago (2008), the Metropolitan Opera New York (2010), in Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall (2005) where she also appeared as Donna Clara in Der Zwerg by Zemlinsky (2007) and Massenet´s Thais (2009).

She has performed at the Bregenz Festival the page boy Oscar (2000), as Adele at La Bastille in Paris (2000), at the MET New York (2005) and at the Lyric Opera of Chicago (2007). In September 2002 she mesmerised London audience at Covent Garden as Zerbinetta in a sparkling series of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos.

In the year 2003 she performed her Bavarian State Opera debut with Mozart’s Queen of the Night followed by Adele in the succeeding seasons. At the Geneva Grand Theatre she appeared as the Nightingale in Walter Braunfels’ The Birds (2004).

In 2006 she performed for the first time at Salzburg Festival Elisa in Mozart’s Il Re Pastore followed by Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (2008), a role she successfully performed at the L.A. Opera conducted by Plácido Domingo (2010).

With the new role Zdenka in Arabella she appeared at the Munich Opera Festival in 2008.

After performing Zerbinetta in 2005 at the Berlin State Opera she had a splendid comeback to the house as Angelica in Haydn´s opera Orlando Paladino in the year 2009.

In March 2010 she jumped in for the opening night of Hamlet in New York with only two days of rehearsals what made the audience and media praise her to be the savior of the Metropolitan Opera.

As a concert singer Petersen has appeared on Germany’s most famous stages. Engagements in Europe and the USA brought about collaborations with conductors like Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Christoph Eschenbach, Myung-Wung Chung, Antonio Pappano, Marcello Viotti, Fabio Luisi, Sir Andrew Davis, Jeffrey Tate, Michel Plasson, Daniel Harding, Ingo Metzmacher, Thomas Hengelbrock, Armin Jordan, Peter Schneider, Louis Langrée, Michel Corboz, Michael Boder and many more. Her passion for early music brought her in contact with specialists of the genre like René Jacobs, Ton Koopman, Trevor Pinnock and Helmut Rilling.

Marlis Petersen has worked with ensembles like the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the RAI Orchestra of Torino, the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester as well as the Radio Orchestra of Berlin, the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Akademie für Alte Musik and the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt.

Marlis Petersen is a sought-after soprano for contemporary works. She performed at the world premiere of Manfred Trojahn´s La grande Magia at the Semperoper in Dresden, Hans Werner Henze´s Phaedra at the Staatsoper Berlin and Aribert Reimann´s Medea at the Vienna State Opera. For her interpretation of the latter role she was named “singer of the year 2010” by the highly acclaimed opera magazine Opernwelt, for the second time in her career, the first being in 2004 for her interpretation of Konwitschny/ Metzmacher´s Lulu in Hamburg.

In January 2011 Marlis Petersen made her successful debut as Violetta in Peter Konwitschny´s new production of Traviata at the Graz opera and in summer 2011 was praised for her performances as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots at Brussels La Monnaie and as Susanna in the revival of the Le nozze di Figaro in Salzburg. She recently impressed critics and audience performing all 4 roles ( Stella, Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta) in Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Theather an der Wien, 2012).

Future engagements will take Marlis Petersen to the MET New York (Susanna in “the Marriage of Figaro” and “Lulu“) and to Munich (Lulu). In 2013 she will take part in the production of “Idomeneo” (Theater an der Wien). She will also appear in Christian Jost’s world premiere of “Rote Laterne” in Zurich 2015. Looking forward, she has chosen to dedicate herself more to the genre of the LIED. Plans for recordings, recitals and concerts will bring her onto world-known podiums such as Wigmore Hall London, Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Konzerthaus Vienna.

Related Companies

Unlike other sites, we're keeping Schmopera ad-free. We want to keep our site clean and our opinions our own. Support us for as little as $1.00 per month.