Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter is an international sensation. She has appeared in operas across the globe and with numerous symphony orchestras. Furthermore, she has proven that she is equally capable of excellence in the genres of lieder, oratorio, Scandinavian songs and melodies.
Anne Sofie von Otter was born in Stockholm on 9 May 1955. She studied first in Stockholm before beginning her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Dance in London with Geoffrey Parsons and Vera Rosza. In addition, she had lessons with Erik Werba in Vienna.
In 1983, von Otter began her two-year engagement with the Basle Opera, where she first appeared in Haydn’sOrlando paladino as Alcina. In the following years, she made her débuts in both Covent Garden (1985) and at the Metropolitan Opera (1988) as Cherubino.
Her early success led to numerous other roles including Dido (Purcell), Orpheus (Gluck), Idamante, Dorabella, Sextus (La clemenza di Tito), Tancredi, Romeo (Bellini) Octaviaand Hänsel. She also appeared at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris as Alceste in Gluck’s opera of the same name.
Von Otter has especially made a name for herself with the role of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. She has performed in this role at the Royal Opera House, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opéra national de Paris and the Wiener Staatsoper. She later returned to this role with the Metropolitan Opera under James Levin and for a performance in Japan under Carlos Kleiber.
As a recording artist, von Otter’s complete opera repertoire is even greater, including the role of Octavia in Monteverdi’sL’incarnatione di Poppea and roles in the Handel operasAriodante, Aggripina, Giulio Cesare, Hercules and Serse. She has also recorded Gluck’sIphigénie en Aulide as Clytemnestra, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin as Olga, Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle as Judith and Stravinsky’s Oedipus asJocasta. She has recorded under conductors such as James Levine, John Eliot Gardiner, Marc Minkowski and Giuseppe Sinoppoli.
Some of von Otter’s most recent opera highlights include her performance for De Nederlandse Opera’s production ofIphigenie en Aulide as Clytemnestre in a production by Pierre Audi and conducted by Mark Minkowski. Her work in the role of Geneviève inPelléas et Mélisande with conductor Philippe Jordan for the Opéra national de Paris is equally impressive. Both of these performances are available on DVD.
Other recent roles include Countess Geschwitz in Lulu at the Metropolitan Opera with conductor Fabio Luisi and her debut role as Charpentier’s Médeé for Oper Frankfurt.In 2012, von Otter appeared together with Cecilia Bartoli and Andreas Scholl in an all-star performance ofGiulio Cesare at the Salzburg Festival. The following season, she starred three very different operas—Les contes d’Hoffmann at Madrid’s Teatro Real, Götterdämmerung at the Deutsche Oper Berlin under Sir Simon Rattle and Stravinsky’sThe Rake’s Progress at Theater an der Wien under Michael Boder.
In addition to her opera roles, von Otter also maintains an impressive concert schedule that takes her all over the world. Recently, she had appeared with conductors Sir Simon Rattle, David Robertson, Alan Gilbert, Daniele Gatti, Christoph Eschenbach and Sakari Oramo with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Washington’s National Symphony and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, respectively.
Anne Sofie von Otter also performed Wesendonck Lieder at the Wagner bicentenary with the hr-Sinfonieorchester Franfurst under Paavo Järvi and the National du Capitole de Toulouse under Marc Minkowski.
She also participated in a televised concert on the 100th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s death together with Jonas Kaufmann and the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Claudio Abbado, in which they performedDas Lied von der Erde.
In the last several years, von Otter has expanded her repertoire even further, beyond traditional opera, oratorio and lieder. She collaborated with the legendary popstar Elvis Costello on the albumFor the Stars before releasing her first recording on the Naïve label in October 2010. This album,Love Songs, was a collaboration with the well-known jazz pianist Brad Mehldau.
She released a Grammy Award nominated album in 2012 entitled Sogno Barocco, which is filled with Italian baroque arias along with scenes and duets with Leonardo García-Alarcón and Cappella Mediterranea.
For her fourth album with Naïve, von Otter recorded a double album of mélodies and chansons entitledDouce France, which was released in October 2013.
The majority of Anne Sofie von Otter’s recordings are on the Deutsche Grammophon label, with which she enjoyed a long and exclusive partnership. Their collaboration resulted in a number of awards including an International Record Critics’ Award for recording artist of the year, a Grammy Award for best classical vocal performance for her performance of Mahler’sDes Knaben Wunderhorn and also a Diapason d’Or for her recording of a collection of Swedish songs together with her pianist Bengt Forsberg. Among these recordings are cantatas by Handel and songs by a variety of composers, recorded together with Forsberg, such as Beethoven, Meyerbeer, Spohr, Berlioz, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg.
Now in her 60s, von Otter is still in demand worldwide.
Photos © Mats Bäcker