Biography

“Blessed with a plush, dramatic voice capable of formidable power and dazzling high notes …” (Associated Press) soprano Elza van den Heever brings her signature vocalism and renowned stage presence to celebrated international venues in the 2016/17 season.

Ms. van den Heever returns to the Canadian Opera Company in the fall, starring in the title role of Bellini’s masterpiece, Norma. She previously scored a triumph in her depiction of one of the most demanding operatic heroines in the canon, garnering praise from audiences and critics alike at Opéra National de Bordeaux:

The virtuosity of Ms. van den Heever is breathtaking throughout the performance…coloratura at the top of the range, with stunning maturity in the lower range. With her controlled virtuosity, Elza van den Heever had the audience anxiously awaiting every note.

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Elza sings Ellen Orford in Britten’s Peter Grimes at the historic Wiener Staatsoper this season, followed by concert performances as Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani at Oper Frankfurt, led by Simone Young. She returns to the Metropolitan Opera stage in the spring, as Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo with a starry cast, under the baton of James Levine. She then travels to the Dallas Opera, to star in their greatly anticipated performances of Norma.

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Elza has recently performed several roles to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera, including Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni: “Elza van den Heever, following her outstanding Met debut in 2012 as Elizabeth in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, is back as a vocally splendid and poignantly confused Donna Anna. Her singing is agile and focused, yet luminous and penetrating.” (The New York Times) In that same season, she sang an unforgettable portrayal 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 English National Opera and Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Opernhaus Zürich, where 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.” (Opéra Forum)

In the 2015/16 season, Ms. van den Heever revisited the role of Elisabetta di Valois in Verdi’s Don Carlo, in a new production by director Robert Carsen at both the Opéra National de Bordeaux as well as the Opéra National du Rhin. She also made a triumphant return to the Metropolitan Opera stage, as Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda “… with impressive authority of her own, showing a bright, clear, and powerful voice.” (New York Classical Voice)

Last season also included performances at Oper Frankfurt, where she was previously in residence, in her debut in the title role of Suor Angelica in addition to Giorgetta (Il Tabarro) in Puccini’s Il Trittico. She was the soprano soloist in Britten’s War Requiem with Kölner Philharmonie under the baton of Semyon Bychkov; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (“Choral”) with the Beethoven Orchester Bonn and conductor Stefan Blunier; and was also featured in an all-Mozart concert with the Orchestre National de Toulouse, led by Rinaldo Alessandrini.

Photo: Dario Acosta

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 and 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), the Komponist in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, the title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, and Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

In addition to performances at The Metropolitan Opera in several seasons, Elza’s appearances in North America include Armida in Handel’s Rinaldo at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) at Dallas Opera, and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Santa Fe Opera. 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 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 Bordeaux, France.

Photo: Roberto Giostra