Fidelio at the San Francisco Opera

“Russell Thomas and Elza Van Den Heever have well-matched heroic voices that exhibit great beauty of tone when buoyed up by Conductor Eun Sun Kim’s large, musically colorful orchestra. Van Den Heever’s “Abscheulicher, wo eilst du hin?” (“Monster, where are you hurrying”) showed her ability to sing in a florid style with splendid, long, Bel Canto phrases and a modicum of accurate coloratura. She easily encompassed the cold fury of the opening phrases and the warmth of the ensuing rainbow-clad dream. A fine actor as well, she communicated a wife’s love for her husband whenever she did not have to pretend to be a male prison guard.”

Broadway World

“Her flak jacket emblazoned with a giant SECURITY logo on the back, van den Heever was endearingly klutzy and vocally self-effacing in her male disguise. But when she launched her vow to save her imprisoned husband’s life, her lustrous soprano rang out in gorgeously ascendant arches.”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“Soprano Elza van den Heever, in what is effectively the title role of Leonore, and tenor Russell Thomas as her husband Florestan, rose to their respective star moments — a luminous account of the Act 1 aria “Komm, Hoffnung” for her…”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Soprano Elza van den Heever sang the heroine Leonore/Fidelio, making her long-awaited return to San Francisco. Van den Heever sang with ardor and luster, her voice tender and filled with longing in early scenes. When she sheds her disguise in Act two, revealing herself to be Leonore, her voice was full of passion and heroism. […]

By Act two, Van den Heever’s vocal and physical energy surged. She embodied Leonore’s determination to save Florestan in her actions and the power of her voice, which was sinuous and rich, as she sang of her courage to go to any lengths to free her beloved. When she drops the Fidelio disguise, she liberates both herself and Florestan from all layers of imprisonment, repudiating separation, injustice, and false accusation.”


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Wagnerians in Concert

“The program began with van den Heever in TANNHAUSER’s well known Dich, teure Halle,” an ode to a beloved hall (which certainly could describe the concert’s venue in Wiesbaden). The soprano’s voice has certainly blossomed since I first heard her in her role debut as Fidelio at Caramoor. But even though Wagner’s music is the definition of music that singers have to warm up for, she was a pleasure in Dich…” and I look forward to hearing her in the full role.”

Broadway World

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Frau ohne Schatten / Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

“Tout change quand paraît l’Impératrice. Timbre d’argent cousu d’or, avec un aigu agile comme le vol de l’hirondelle, un galbe de la phrase aux souplesses félines, Elza van den Heever est la grande triomphatrice de la soirée. L’incarnation aura besoin de se libérer, mais pour une première fois, c’est déjà un accomplissement, qui impose l’artiste parmi les grands sopranos Strauss d’aujourd’hui.”


“La soprano sud-africaine Elza van den Heever illumine le rôle de l’Impératrice d’un timbre rayonnant et doux, nullement gênée par les acrobaties de l’écriture au I er acte, et offre un chant orné à la fois aigu et sombre de soprano ”jugendlich dramatisch” (dramatique juvénile). Intéressante est la progression dans une partie ingrate, jusqu’à une identification sensible à l’acte III, avec des accents profonds à l’heure de l’ultime renoncement et du refus d’aller plus avant dans les plans de la rusée Nourrice.”

ON Magazine

“Elza van den Heever, dont c’est il nous semble la prise de rôle, effectue une entrée dans les éthers absolument splendide. Elle sautille en riant entre les embûches de Richard Strauss jusque dans les écarts redoutables du troisième acte. Elle aussi possède cette habilité à darder des aigus dès les attaques de phrase et à enfler la voix. Surtout le timbre conserve son brillant et sa rondeur dans toutes les circonstances.”

Forum Opéra

“Mais on retiendra surtout la prise de rôle d’Elza van den Heever en Impératrice… son gran soprano lyrique qui ne demande qu’à s’épanouir dans un aigu qu’elle saura rendre encore plus translucide. D’ores et déjà une éclatante victoire, qui a mis la salle à genous.”

Le Figaro

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Wozzeck/Metropolitan Opera

““Wozzeck” requires the central character to take hold of the drama and become its emotional core. In this performance, that honor belonged to Elza van den Heever’s Marie. The soprano managed to portray a character full of complexity and contradiction. She was gentle in her expressions toward her son, but in her confrontations with the Drum-Major, she was assertive and aggressive. She resisted him before seizing control of the situation, blasting out intense sound as she pushed him into the room. In a latter scene, she made the Drum-Major chase her. Her scenes with Wozzeck hinted at a combination of fastidiousness but also tenderness, while her shining moment at the start of the third Act, allowed her to express her deep fear and inner turmoil.

It was during this particular moment where van den Heever, after a number of scenes showcasing a bright and vibrant sound, suddenly pulled back and allowed for something far slenderer and more intimate. When she told him to “Fort!” her voice cut through like a jagged knife in one of the viscerally pained moments of the evening. And just like that, she pulled back to the tender vocalism that had commenced the scene, giving it a great sense of external and internal tension; she was afraid of what Wozzeck might due, but also about her conflicted emotions toward her son.”


“Singing with fervor and silvery tone, Ms. van den Heever played Marie as a young woman of allure and depth who, you could imagine, impulsively turns to Wozzeck in a weak moment. When she erupts in defiance, Ms. van den Heever sent phrases slicing through Berg’s orchestra, and you understood the character’s frustrated power. It wasn’t surprising that she is drawn to the alpha Drum Major (the tenor Christopher Ventris) when he passes by and flirts.”

The New York Times

“Elza van den Heever’s voluptuous, clarion soprano made Marie a vivid figure, full of desires and regrets. Her red dress, the one brightly colored garment among Greta Goiris’s otherwise olive drab or earth-toned costumes, proclaimed her vitality, though its sack-like cut avoided the sexiness cliché.”

Wall Street Journal

“Soprano Elsa van den Heever was Marie. Her shining voice was a lovely contrast to those of all the men, especially the accumulated falsetto passages that Berg gave them. She was as empty as Wozzeck, but in a different way—while forces pushed down on the soldier, they pulled Marie into their embrace.”

New York Classical Review

“Marie is handsomely handled by Elza van den Heever. The voice is solid… and she uses a raspy tone with Wozzeck in their second act confrontation which is both sneering and disrespectful.”


“La sensualité et la vie sont entrées avec les jambes nues et la robe rouge d’Elza van den Heever, présence animale et voix de feu. En cédant aux avances du Tambour-Major, Marie a scellé son destin et celui de son enfant, un grand pantin au visage d’effaré, marionnette créée par la Handspring Puppet Company.”

Le Monde

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La Vestale/Theater an der Wien

“Die Südafrikanerin Elza van den Heever lässt ihren fülligen Sopran bruchlos verströmen. Die hochexpressiven Passagen dieser Schlüsselszene, mit der Spontini das Tor zur Romantik weit aufstößt, liegen van den Heever sogar noch besser.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine

“Elza van den Heever aus Südafrika schreckten die übergroßen Vorbilder nicht und nicht die Strapazen der Rolle. Fast allein trägt sie den drei Stunden langen Abend durch, veredelt die lyrischen Momente und packt mit dramatischen Ausbrüchen.”

Kleine Zeitung

“…die geniale Elza van den Heever hervorzuheben. Die Sängerin im Zwischenfach ist schon mehr im Dramatischen als im Lyrischen. Und trotzdem füllt sie jedes Piano, jedes Forte mit Leben und mit Sinnlichkeit.”

Klassik begeistert

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Mahler’s Symphony No. 8/ Bregenz Festspielhaus

“Entre las voces femeninas brilló con luz propia Elza van den Heever, con una técnica depuradísima y una proyección impecable.”

Platea Magazine

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La Clemenza di Tito / The Metropolitan Opera

“As the manipulative Vitellia, Elza van den Heever is dramatically flamboyant and vocally powerful.”

Classical Source

“Soprano Elza van den Heever, a most versatile singer who seems at home both in lyric and increasingly dynamic repertoire, took on the challenging part of Vitellia, an angry and vengeful princess who is repentant in the end and wins Tito’s forgiveness. Appearing in a dramatic but awkward costume in the middle part of the opera, she negotiated the wide range of the role with aplomb and finesse, while she was most challenged in the lower register. Her high notes had both warmth and steel, and her Act 2 aria “Non più di fiori” was one of the highlights of the evening, as she expressed her conflicting emotion with melancholy and determination.”


“As Vitellia, the woman who feels so narcissistically scorned by Tito that she plots his death and manipulates Sesto into carrying out her plans, van den Heever was magnetic. The soprano sang with appreciable power… The rich color of her voice was also a terrific contrast with the glowing sweetness of soprano Ying Fang’s singing as Servilia.”

New York Classical Review

“Best of all for me, perhaps, was soprano Elza van den Heever as the “villain” of the piece (until she turns the corner and repents), shining brightly in a role that doesn’t quite offer her the showstopping quality of her last Mozart outing at the Met–Elettra in IDOMENEO–but makes up with it in quantity, though none better than Non piu di fiori.”

Broadway World

“As Vitellia, Elza van den Heever spit out witheringly disdainful lines of recitative and turned “Non più di fiori” into a mad scene. The role demands a mezzo’s earthy lower register, a soprano’s shining high notes, and agility with coloratura; van den Heever delivered all three.”

Classical Voice America

“She was not so much a villainess as a weapons-grade drama queenas ferociously stagy as, say, Faye Dunaway might have been in The Favourite.”

The Observer

“…with her flame-drawn singing, she brought a welcome over-the-topness to a work filled with conflicted-but-noble characters.”

The New York Times

The boldest, not to say wildly flamboyant performance, bursting through the formality of opera seria, came from Elza van den Heever as Vitellia; she really let ‘er rip.

Opera Magazine

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Elektra / Lyric Opera

“As Chrysothemis, Elektra’s relatively normal sister, Elza van den Heever proved a vocally well-matched sibling for Stemme’s anti-heroine. The statuesque singer unleashed reams of luxuriant soprano tone in her big moments yet also conveyed the timid, fearful qualities of a woman longing to escape this royal house of horrors for the haven of a simple domestic life.”

Chicago Classical Review

“The forthright meeting of the two sisters — an argument, really — was an early musical and dramatic high point. The flitting radiance of South African soprano Elza van den Heever, as a sparkling and quite feminine Chrysothemis who longs for love and motherhood, made a thrilling counterpoint to Elektra’s heedless determination. One sister’s wish had no place in the other sister’s plan, notwithstanding the heavenly blend of their paired voices. Yet the easy, intimate nature of their body language made them instantly believable as sisterly combatants.”

Chicago Sun Times

“Elza van den Heever makes a deeply sympathetic, crucially feminine Chrysothemis, Elektra’s pitiable sister. With a graceful stage presence and sweet but full lyric voice, van den Heever is the perfect foil to Stimme’s angular embodiment of madness.”


“Elza van der Heever was a wonderful Chrysothemis, her voice warm and bronzed, with beautiful high notes sustained by a powerful middle range. I was impressed by her legato in the upper register, which helped in painting Chrysothemis as a tragic figure, a stark contrast to the weak, silly girl that she sometimes results.”


“Vital to this production, and in the spirit of Strauss’s conception, is Elektra’s interactions with others – both in and beyond her immediate family. The hesitant notes expressed by Van Den Heever’s entrance prompt Elektra to dwell on the potential malleability of her sister in securing an ally. The voices of both sopranos mingle, at rimes, in lyrical union until the failure of any cooperation becomes clear to the initiator of vengeful plans.”

Opera Today

“Elza van den Heever brought a full, gleaming sound to Chrysothemis, her portrayal making clear the younger sister’s stirrings of feminine yearning for a domestic existence far removed from Klytemnestra’s decadent court”

Opera Magazine

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