Biography

“Blessed with a plush, dramatic voice capable of formidable power and dazzling high notes …” (Associated Press)

Acclaimed soprano Elza van den Heever brings her signature vocalism and renowned stage presence to celebrated international venues in the 2018/19 season. She stars as Elsa von Brabant at the Wiener Staatsoper in Wagner’s Lohengrin to launch the season, followed by a return to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for David McVicar’s production of Strauss’ Elektra as Chrysothemis. Ms. van den Heever will also return to The Metropolitan Opera stage in the spring of 2019 as Vitellia in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito. She concludes her operatic season at Oper Frankfurt in the title role of Bellini’s heroic soprano, Norma.

Her international concert appearances for the 2018/19 season include a concert with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, featuring music by Wagner and Strauss with conductor Simone Young. She sings Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and will perform with the Symphonieorchester Voralberg under the baton of Kirill Petrenko, in Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 8.

Ms. van den Heever began her 2017/18 season singing the title role in Handel’s Alcina at the Santa Fe opera receiving critical acclaim. She returned to the beloved role of Leonora in a new production of Verdi’s Il trovatore at Oper Frankfurt, followed by a concert with the Helsinki Philharmonic as the soprano soloist in Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. She traveled to Opernhaus Zürich to sing Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio, and then performed selections by Beethoven with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, led by Simone Young. Her successful return to the Metropolitan Opera stage as Chrysothemis in Strauss’ Elektra was praised by The New York Times for her “melting, plaintive singing…[and] steely outbursts that showed inner strength you don’t normally detect in this character.” Completing her season, she sang her signature role of Norma at Oper Frankfurt.

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Elza has performed several roles to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera, including Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo with a starry cast, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda in her notable Met debut: “[Elza is] a vocally burnished and emotionally tempestuous Elizabeth…her voice has penetrating depth and character. She turns flights of coloratura passagework into bursts of jealousy and defiance.” (The New York Times)

She was unforgettable in the title role of Norma in a new Christopher Alden-directed production for Opéra National de Bordeaux. Other signature portrayals in Europe have included Ellen Orford in Britten’s Peter Grimes at the English National Opera and Wiener Staatsoper. As Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Opernhaus Zürich, she was described as “… sharing more than a first name with the Wagnerian heroine. Her vocal lines are sophisticated, diction impeccable, and her inflection and nuances serve to depict Elsa as a young woman who is at once daring, bold and strong. This is truly wondrous in the second act during the verbal sparring with Ortrud, as well as in the final dramatic scene, in which her defiance is breathtaking” (Forum Opéra).

Ms. van den Heever has also been lauded for her artistry in roles at venues across Europe, including performances as Desdemona in Otello at Oper Frankfurt, where she received praise for her “… huge voice, full of tenderness and precision” (Frankfurter Rundschau). In addition to Desdemona and Elisabetta di Valois in Verdi’s Don Carlo, she has also appeared on the Frankfurt stage as Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin, Vitellia in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, Antonia in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo. She has also performed the role of Elsa (Lohengrin) at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper, Agathe in Weber’s Der Freischütz at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte for Opéra National de Paris, and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) as well as Giselda in Verdi’s I Lombardi at Hamburgische Staatsoper, in a new staging by Christopher Alden. Previous roles at the Opéra National de Bordeaux also include Elettra (Idomeneo), Der Komponist in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, the title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, and Leonora in Verdi’s Il trovatore.

Photo: Jiyang Chen

In addition to performances at The Metropolitan Opera across several seasons, Elza’s appearances in North America have included Armida in Handel’s Rinaldo at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) and Norma at The Dallas Opera, and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Santa Fe Opera. She has also starred as Norma at the Canadian Opera Company. At San Francisco Opera, where she participated in both the Merola Opera Program and the Adler Fellowship, she created the role of Mary Custis Lee in the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Appomattox and sang Donna Anna in the company’s 2007 presentation of Don Giovanni, performances that were seen nationwide via the company’s Grand Opera Cinema Series, and broadcast on Northern California’s KQED Public Television.

Ms. van den Heever enjoys a flourishing performance partnership with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, with performances of Strauss’s Four Last Songs and Grammy Award-winning performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in San Francisco, on tour throughout Europe, and on disc for SFS Media. Ms. van den Heever’s depiction of Ellen Orford for the English National Opera was repeated with Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in June 2014, where she was lauded as “… a brilliant Ellen, deploying her focused, penetrating instrument with urgency upon discovering the Boy’s bruises in Act II, and singing with ineffable beauty and poignancy in the Embroidery Aria” (Opera News).

Ms. van den Heever was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and received her musical training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Winner of the 2008 Seattle Opera International Wagner Competition, she continues to study with soprano and master teacher Sheri Greenawald. A dual citizen of France and South Africa, Ms. van den Heever makes her home in France.

 

Photo: Roberto Giostra