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“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 2021/22 season. Her first operatic engagement takes her to San Francisco Opera, marking the house’s return to live performances. She will star as Leonore in Matthew Ozawa’s bold new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio, led by Eun Sun Kim.
She returns to Staatsoper Berlin as Elsa in Calixto Bieito’s production of Lohengrin, stars as the title role in Handel’s Rodelinda at the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by Harry Bicket, and then concludes the season at Opéra national de Paris as Chrysothemis in Robert Carsen’s celebrated production of Elektra.
On the concert stage, she performs Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Orchestre de Paris under the baton of Simone Young. With the Staatskapelle Berlin, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, Elza is the soprano soloist in Bruckner’s joyful Te Deum. She returns to Carnegie Hall for a recital with pianist Vlad Iftinca to perform Sieben frühe Lieder and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. Her performance part of the Met Opera’s Stars Live in Concert series, “Wagnerians in Concert,” will be broadcasted on PBS’ Great Performances.
Highlights of the 2020/21 season included a performance of Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Orchestre de Paris, led by Simone Young, which was broadcasted by The Philharmonie Live; a performance in the Metropolitan Opera’s At-Home Gala; and then the Met Opera’s “Wagnerians in Concert,” part of the Met Stars Live in Concert series, streamed live from Wiesbaden, Germany.
In the 2019/20 season, she debuted as Julia in a new production by Johannes Erath of Spontini’s La Vestale at the Theater an der Wien. She later returned to The Metropolitan Opera to sing her first Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck opposite baritone Peter Mattei and conducted by the Met’s Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. This production, a highlight of the Met Opera season, also received a Live in HD broadcast.
Returning to Europe, Ms. van den Heever made her greatly anticipated role debut as Die Kaiserin in Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten, singing it first in Paris and then in Rotterdam presented in concert; both performances were conducted by Mo. Nézet-Séguin. Later in the season, she revisited the role in a staged production at Dutch National Opera. She starred as Leonore in Fidelio in Paris under the baton of Simone Young, and lastly, sang Elsa von Brabant in Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Opernhaus Zürich.
Additionally, Elza performed Verdi’s Requiem with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Edward Gardner at the Royal Festival Hall; Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 8 at the Bayerische Staatsoper with the Orchestra Academy of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester under the baton of Kirill Petrenko; and Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra led by Mo. Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall.
Elza has performed several roles to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera, including Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo, 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 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 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 Lohengrin, Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito, Antonia in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Elettra in 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. 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.
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’ Vier letzte Lieder 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.