Elettra / Metropolitan Opera

“With One Aria, Elza van den Heever Steals the Met’s Idomeneo … In van den Heever’s hands, nearly four hours into the work, Elettra–yes, the same Elektra, daughter of Agamemnon, to whom Richard Strauss devoted a whole opera–takes rejection and makes it into a thrill ride. While ”D’Oreste, d’Aiace” is not exactly a mad scene–it’s more about rage–it did manage to drive the audience wild. Van den Heever’s high-flying performance soared, cajoled, and cried “unfair!” while never forgetting that this was Mozart.

When van den Heever–who made such a huge impression as Elisabetta in the Met’s MARIA STUARDA, opposite both Joyce DiDonato and Sondra Radvanovsky–delivered this final aria (she also had earlier, less showy ones), it was a great moment to be in the house.”

Richard Sasanow, Broadway World

“Van den Heever was excellent as Elettra, rivaling Sierra for the beauty of her singing and relishing the sheer excitement of the character’s music. Where Ilia expresses various degrees of love, tenderness, and duty, Elettra is, well, Elettra, full of barely concealed violent passions and murderous rages. Van den Heever handled this entire range with her voice (although the impressive architecture of her dress was nearly a character in itself), and managed to be not only gripping but sympathetic. She burned with controlled intensity in her Act I aria “Tutte nel cor,” and the mad scene and collapse in Act III, when she realizes she has lost Idamante to Ilia, was stupendous (with the unintentionally comic touch of the audience cheering for her as a cohort of supernumeraries carried her catatonic body offstage).”

George Grella, New York Classical Review

“Vocally and dramatically, the role is a tough assignment. The soprano Elza van den Heever triumphs in it. This Elettra has a very fragile majesty. When she gets her way, she turns vulnerable, singing with sensuality and warmth. But when crossed, she erupts with unhinged intensity and steely sound, as in her furious final aria”

Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

“Elza van den Heever lavishes broad bravado on the mean smirks of Elettra, and makes the quasi-devil sing like a quasi-goddess.”

Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times

“Elza van den Heever sang very creditably as Elettra and reveled in a role that—as directorially conceived—requires flamboyant camping and storming about. The crowd duly went wild for “D’Oreste, d’Ajace” (given, as always here, with the accompanied recit that is actually its alternate) … van den Heever deserved her cheers.”

David Shengold – Opera News

“Elettra is the Ying to Idomeneo’s Yang, her selfish nature echoing his and yet also matching his sense of guilt. After all, she murdered her mother and he is tasked with murdering his son. Finding someone that can create the same sense of darkness and yet similar empathy as he does is always a tall order for the interpreter of this role. Not for Elza van den Heever.

……van den Heever’s violent potential reached its apex in an unhinged “D’Oreste, D’Aiace,” the opera’s most famous aria. It was a vicious rendition performed with abrasive tone quality and forceful accents throughout, Elettra’s venom being spewed with every word that came from van den Heever’s rich voice. But the more slime she threw about the more out of control she was of her physical nature, the character slowly imploding until she collapsed to the ground, a few shudders and shakes emerging as if her body remained possessed by some demon. The moment was so dramatically effective that van den Heever won arguably the most enthusiastic ovation of the night.”

David Salazar, Operawire.com 

“At her side, superb in a sumptuous black and silver dress, Elza van den Heever puts on a dazzling Elettra, one of the few to sing her three arias with the same happiness. Moving from the panting rhythm of “tutte nel cor vi sento” to the melancholy of “Idol mio” before letting the voice speak to evoke the “Soavi zeffiri” is not easy, the soprano reaches it via a sovereign technique and a perfect control of her breath. In the third act, her timbre with the perfect arc and her high-pitched range allows her to offer a hallucinating “D’Oreste, Aiace”  which earned her a merited ovation from the Met audience.”

{A ses côtés, superbe dans une somptueuse robe noire et argent, Elza van den Heever campe une Elettra éblouissante, l’une des rares à chanter ses trois airs avec le même bonheur. Passer du rythme haletant de « tutte nel cor vi sento » à la mélancolie de « Idol mio » avant de laisser planer la voix pour évoquer les « Soavi zeffiri » n’est pas chose aisée, la soprano y parvient grâce à une technique souveraine et un parfait contrôle du souffle. Au troisième acte, son timbre au galbe parfait et ses aigus percutants lui permettent d’offrir un « D’Oreste, d’Aiace » hallucinant qui lui vaut une ovation méritée de la part du public du Met.}

Christian Peter, forumopera.com

Top 5 Performances of 2017: …When you add in Elettra portrayed by Elza van den Heever – who shame on me I was seeing sing for only the second time – the result was sensational and I wandered onto the streets of Manhattan thoroughly satisfied as the clock neared midnight.

Santosh Venkataraman, OperaWire

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White-Hot Aria, Engulfing Bass: This Week’s 8 Best Classical Moments

A Sudden Scene-Stealer – During the majestic conclusion of Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” all the crises are resolved. Neptune forgives Idomeneo, the king of Crete, for his rashness, then blesses the union of Idamante, the king’s son, and Ilia, a Trojan princess. But the fiery Elettra, who loves Idamante and must now cede him, has to be dealt with. The situation seems ripe for a burst of furious denunciation, a chilling moment. Guess again. Instead, Mozart gives Elettra a heated, scene-stealing aria, which the compelling soprano Elza van den Heever ran away with in the Metropolitan Opera’s revival.

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

Read our review of the Met Opera’s “Idomeneo.”

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Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) / Wiener Staatsoper

“At his side, however, Peter also had a few impressive friends. Elza van den Heever portrayed Ellen Orford, who was almost already bel canto, and who, with her full vocal commitment, had already made an impression in her moralizing speech to the village community. In the dispute with her stage partner she elevated herself to the pioneer of the assistant Peter with fine phrasing and a commanding top register.”

{An seiner Seite wussten aber auch Peters wenige Freunde zu beeindrucken. Elza van den Heever gab eine fast schon als belcantesk zu bezeichnende Ellen Orford, die nachhaltig mit vollem stimmlichem Einsatz schon in ihrer moralisierenden Ansprache an die Dorfgemeinschaft im ersten Aufzug Eindruck hinterließ. Im Streitgespräch mit ihrem Bühnenpartner steigerte sie sich zur Vorkämpferin des Gehilfen Peters mit feiner Phrasierung und souverän geführter Höhe.}

Bachtrack

“Elza van den Heever conveys the teacher’s attempts to direct the coarse log into the marina, with conciseness in sound and gesture.”

{Die Versuche der Lehrerin wiederum, den groben Klotz in den Ehehafen zu lenken, vermittelt Elza van den Heever mit Prägnanz in Klang und Geste.}

Wiener Zeitung

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Norma / Canadian Opera Company

“…van den Heever makes a very beautiful sound, without a cutting edge. She is also a very fine actress, her Act 2 very moving. Her more lyric sound is closer in timbre and volume to the Adalgisa of Isabel Leonard, and the two blended very beautifully in “Mira, o Norma.”

Musical Toronto

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Fidelio / Caramoor

“South African soprano Elza van den Heever, best known locally for her stints as Elisabetta in the Met’s Maria Stuarda, here sang her first Leonore. The voice was heroically scaled; the top enormous. She articulated the awkward passagework in “Abscheulischer!” with a dauntlessness that attested not only to her solid technique, but also informed the character herself.”

Fred Cohn, Opera News

“South African soprano Elza van den Heever has long had a ‘date’ with Beethoven’s Leonore, in his only completed opera FIDELIO. It wasn’t exactly a blind date–she has known for years that, eventually, she would take it on, she told me–but it was a roaring success in her role debut, at the Venetian Theatre at the Caramoor Festival, under Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Taking on a role for the first time in public is surely a daunting challenge for a singer. Yet, van den Heever pulled it off with finesse, her burnished voice, flexibility and fine acting providing a fine look at this woman driven to save her spouse. Her “Abscheulicher!“–revealing the depth of her devotion to Florestan–was a stellar achievement and her later scene with him in their wonderful duet, “O namelose Freude,” was incredibly moving …”

Richard Sasanow, Broadway World

“I had heard van den Heever, Groves, Sigmundsson and Jarman in other roles and always with great pleasure. In particular, van den Heever caught my eye and ear as a young artist (she still is quite young) because she is a superb singer and actress. Her memorable 2012 Met debut (captured on DVD) was as Queen Elizabeth I opposite Joyce DiDonato in the title role of Maria Stuarda. Van den Heever famously shaved her head and wore wigs, making her feel closer to the way the formidable monarch might have felt. She later was a powerful Donna Anna at the Met, and we will hear her as Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo when that opera is scheduled to be revived in March 2017 with James Levine conducting.

While van den Heever — who is from South Africa but lives in France and did much of her training in the United States — showed early on her abilities in romantic dramatic repertory (Wagner, Weber, some Verdi), Leonore is still an audacious step. Arias such as “Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?”, with some of the most treacherous passages in opera, have challenged the likes of Birgit Nilsson and Hildegard Behrens. And yet van den Heever sang it at Caramoor with seeming ease, making beautiful sounds where even the most accomplished singers have sounded labored. The audience recognized how rare this was and gave her a huge ovation.”

Fred Plotkin, WQXR Operavore

“While this performance was cast to perfection from top to bottom, the success of Sunday’s presentation was due in no small part to the incredible Leonore of Elza van den Heever, her first performance of the part. Statuesque and wielding a sizeable, gleaming voice, van den Heever, known primarily to New York audiences for her performances of Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, commanded the stage from her first entrance. In Beethoven’s majestic, sometimes-bombastic music, she never feared to play with dynamics and spun layered meaning out of every word of Joseph Sonnenleiter‘s libretto. Her portrayal delivered majorly in both vocal power and restraint and was elevated by sensitive acting in this semi-staged presentation. And the b-flat when she exclaims, “Tödte erst sein Weib!” (“I am his wife!”), revealing her true identity to her husband and the prison guards, was full-throated, spot-on, and one of the most thrilling moments I’ve experienced at the opera.”

Opera Teen, The Huffington Post

“Beethoven requires much from his soprano, with extended passages of ornamentation, often written for the single syllable of a word. Elza van den Heever brought her formidable and agile instrument to the part, leaping through the difficult passages of the “Abscheulicher!” monologue and aria including the torturous fioratura writing above the stave. She became the focal point of the action from the moment she stepped onstage, capturing the character’s outer deception and inner distress. In Act II, her confrontation with the evil Don Pizarro brought white-knuckle excitement.”

Superconductor

“… Fidelio which was especially memorable for South African soprano Elza van den Heever’s thrilling first-ever Leonore … van den Heever, whose wide-ranging and plush dark soprano rang out sensationally … Hers was an intriguingly introverted Leonore, one who even in a semi-staged performance rarely gestured keeping her riveting intensity very inward.

Often one perceives a Leonore cautiously husbanding her energies until after “Abscheulicher,” but not the bold van den Heever—she easily soared over the quartet and the oft-derided but delicious trio with Rocco and Marzelline. Her fierce, nervous duets with Rocco demonstrated a touching chemistry with Sigmundsson. For me the ultimate test of a Leonore is her triumphant cry of “Töt erst sein Weib!” in the dungeon scene and van den Heever’s B-flat sailed out splendidly momentarily quelling the chaos … it was exceptionally gratifying to witness deeper, more complex aspects of her artistry. Her Elettra in Idomeneo at the Met next season immediately becomes a must-see …”

Christopher Corwin, Parterre

“Elza van den Heever Shows What the Voice Can Do … While the cast was superb throughout, Elza Van Den Heever shone, even shocked, as Lenore … All attention is on her superb acting and particularly the voice. It floats totally supported by the breath. Huge and resounding, it seems effortless to produce, although perfection often does sound deceptively simple. Not only did Van Den Heever put on a singularly detailed and satisfying performance, she also acted generously with all her partners, particularly Paul Groves. Their duet which combines reconciliation and escape was very personal and intimate …”

Susan Hall, Berkshire Fine Arts

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Peter Grimes / San Francisco Symphony

“Former San Francisco Opera Merola and Adler Fellow Elza van den Heever, who made her debut in the role of Ellen Orford opposite Skelton in the English National Opera‘s “Grimes” earlier this year, continues to show why she is a singer to watch and hear at any opportunity. Here, she maintains a dramatically significant control in Ellen’s early scenes. The voice is clear, precise, reflecting Ellen‘s quiet determination to stand up to the villagers in her defense of the man she hopes to marry. … Later, when she discovers a bruise on the neck of the new apprentice… and wavers in her belief in Peter, van den Heever unleashes a glorious lyrical ribbon of pain and beauty, every bit of loneliness and heartbreak spilling out of her. Her rendition of the “Embroidery Aria” in the third act, that quiet moment meant to suggest the calm between an ebbing and crashing wave, was etched in wistful resignation.”

David Weigand, San Francisco Chronicle

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Anna Bolena / Opéra National de Bordeaux

“Elza van den Heever moves us deeply, enthrals and captivates… she delighted us with her powerful and controlled voice, with a splendid midrange that does not exclude dazzling high notes. But those extreme notes are never sung without purpose; they are used to convey meaning, in the same way as volume or colour offer expression.”

Christophe Rizoud, Forum Opéra

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Don Giovanni / The Metropolitan Opera

“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.”

Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

“van den Heever was excellent all evening. She conveyed real dignity and personal loss in the opening scene, and her singing of “Non mi dir” was stunning, her musicality and expression surpassing her tremendous technique.”

George Grella, New York Classical Review

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