“If I had to imagine what it is like to fly,” muses Elza van den Heever, “I’d think of singing above the staff, full throttle over an orchestra. That is, to me, the embodiment of freedom.” Listeners who encounter the South African soprano in performance are bound to have quite a high-altitude musical adventure themselves. With her laser-bright top notes and pointed interpretive intelligence, van den Heever, who bows at the Met on New Year’s Eve as Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, has quickly ascended to the front rank of singers among her generation. She is that rare vocal breed, a dramatic soprano of Wagnerian proportions whose shimmering instrument is also a “fast” voice with the requisite agility for negotiating the difficult passagework of the Baroque repertory, as well as the power for the Verdi canon and the jugendlich dramatische German repertoire.
Image: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera