Barbara Hannigan
Conductor / Soprano

“Barbara Hannigan is simply superb – faultless pitching, crystal clear words, a shining tone and total empathy with the composer’s message.” (BBC Music Magazine)

Contacts

Jasper Parrott +44 (0)20 7229 9166
Tuğçe Tez +44 (0)20 3725 9148
Arnold Klugkist +44 (0)20 3725 9106

Biography

Barbara Hannigan is known worldwide as a soprano of vital expressive force directed by exceptional technique. She is now bringing that same high energy and expertise to her varied activites as a conductor while continuing to work, as a singer, with the most prominent maestros, including in recent seasons Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Ludovic Morlot, David Zinman, Alan Gilbert and Reinbert De Leeuw.

Blessed with a voice at once pure and hot, she has arrived, through challenging and diverse repertory choices, at a point of complete control, intensity and versatility. She also possesses an exciting stage presence, whether in opera or on the concert platform.

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Barbara Hannigan is known worldwide as a soprano of vital expressive force directed by exceptional technique. She is now bringing that same high energy and expertise to her varied activites as a conductor while continuing to work, as a singer, with the most prominent maestros, including in recent seasons Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Ludovic Morlot, David Zinman, Alan Gilbert and Reinbert De Leeuw.

Blessed with a voice at once pure and hot, she has arrived, through challenging and diverse repertory choices, at a point of complete control, intensity and versatility. She also possesses an exciting stage presence, whether in opera or on the concert platform. Much sought after in contemporary music (she has given over 80 world premieres), she is no less brilliant and devoted a performer of Baroque and Classical music. Bringing freshness to older music and authority to new, she is among the very few singers whose every performance is an occasion.

She is a frequent guest of the Berliner Philharmoniker, who commissioned for her Hans Abrahamsen’s symphonic song cycle let me tell you, a work which her performances has rapidly launched around the world. In 2014 she had the rare honour of an invitation as Artiste Étoile to the Lucerne Festival, where she conducted, gave master classes, and presented a work written for her by Unsuk Chin.

György Ligeti and Henri Dutilleux both regarded her as their soprano of choice. Her startling dramatic interpretation of Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre has been acclaimed widely, as has her expressive fullness in Dutilleux’s Correspondances. Her recording of this work has garnered awards from Grammophone, Edison, and Victoires de la Musique. Other awards include "Sängerin des Jahres" (Opernwelt, 2013), Personalité Musicale de l'Année (Syndicat de la Presse Francaise, 2012), 

Part of Hannigan’s outstanding quality comes from bringing to the concert platform the dramatic verve and character one might expect on the opera stage – and from retaining, as an opera performer, all the musicianship she displays as a concert artist.  She is, whether in concert hall or opera house, a full being. And she has worked tirelessly with directors and conductors to achieve that fullness, and to go on expanding it.

Unforgettable opera appearances have included most recently an extraordinary embodying of the title role in Lulu, in Krzysztof Warlikowski’s staging at La Monnaie, and a fearless interpretation of Marie as a flame in the darkness of Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten at the Bayerische Staatsoper, a hugely acclaimed presentation directed by Andreas Kriegenberg and conducted by Kirill Petrenko. To the premiere production of George Benjamin's Written on Skin she brought a gripping portrayal of a young woman in dawning self-realization. She has also worked with choreographer Sasha Waltz on productions of Hosokawa’s Matsukaze and Dusapin’s Passion, thoroughly utilizing her physical as well as vocal agility. In future seasons she will add Mélisande, Elle in La Voix humaine and the title role in Gerald Barry’sAlice in Wonderland to the repertory of characters she vividly inhabits.

She is steadily developing her range as a conductor. From a first and much applauded experience conducting Stravinsky’s Renard at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, she has gone on to work with orchestras including the Göteborgs Symfoniker, Prague Philharmonic, WDR Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, l'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Avanti Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Orchestra della Toscana, and Gulbenkian Orchestra. As a performer herself, she enjoys a warm rapport with orchestral players, and this communicates itself in her concerts, while her programming has music old and new striking sparks off each other. Her conducting debut at the Concertgebouw with Ludwig Orchestra, won the Ovatie 2014 award for best classical concert of the year in the Netherlands. 

Her 2014-15 season includes return engagements with the Berliner Philharmoniker, to sing the new Chin piece and Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, both with Rattle conducting. She gives the world premieres of works by Magnus Lindberg, with the London Philharmonic under Vladimir Jurowski, and Salvatore Sciarrino, with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia under Antonio Pappano. As artist-in-residence at the Toronto Symphony New Creations Festival she presents let me tell you and Written on Skin. She is Donna Anna in a new Don Giovanni at La Monnaie, again directed by Warlikowski, and repeats her performances as Marie in Munich and Agnes in New York. Not least, she makes her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic, singing Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child.

Author: Paul Griffith

This biography is not downloadable. Please contact Arnold Klugkist for biography enquiries.

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Contacts

Jasper Parrott +44 (0)20 7229 9166
Tuğçe Tez +44 (0)20 3725 9148
Arnold Klugkist +44 (0)20 3725 9106

Reviews

"Hannigan is always brought in when it comes to making the trickiest modern music sound so natural and attractive that everyone thinks in the auditorium: I can do that. Her light and lyrical voice seem to set no limits in that realm. But Hannigan also has a maelstrom of stage presence, and she is a gorgeous actress who effortlessly creates the animated and puppet-like contortions that the director Andreas Kriegenburg demanded on this memorable evening. With all this, she is a very, very great stroke of luck in the opera business." (Reinhard J. Brembeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 2014)

"You could not have better singing. Barbara Hannigan is the dark centre of gravity of this

...

"Hannigan is always brought in when it comes to making the trickiest modern music sound so natural and attractive that everyone thinks in the auditorium: I can do that. Her light and lyrical voice seem to set no limits in that realm. But Hannigan also has a maelstrom of stage presence, and she is a gorgeous actress who effortlessly creates the animated and puppet-like contortions that the director Andreas Kriegenburg demanded on this memorable evening. With all this, she is a very, very great stroke of luck in the opera business." (Reinhard J. Brembeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 2014)

"You could not have better singing. Barbara Hannigan is the dark centre of gravity of this performance, her Marie racing, leaping, and dancing, with seeming effortlessness, across the stage...throughout all the vocal acrobatics." (Jörn Florian Fuchs, Wiener Zeitung, 26 May 2014)

"The conducting debut of Barbara Hannigan in the Concertgebouw was nothing less than a miracle. Graceful, feminine (yes), but also clear, compelling and inviting...This can be added to the list of Unforgettable Moments in the Concertgebouw....I cannot imagine any man that could imitate her - it was a revolution in conducting....A stunning display of musicality." (Het Parool, April 2014)

"As for the performers. Benjamin tailor-made the roles for them, starting with the stunning Barbara Hannigan: we will eventually run out of adjectives to describe this extraterrestrial whose kaleidoscopic voice brings to contemporary music all the rules of bel canto." (Le Figaro, November 2013)

"The vocal lines, in constant change, were moulded with eloquence, elasticity and a palette of subtle nuances by Barbara Hannigan - definitely one of the great operatic actresses of our time." (Diapason, November 2013)

“Barbara Hannigan is simply superb – faultless pitching, crystal clear words, a shining tone and total empathy with the composer’s message.” (Roger Nichols, BBC Music Magazine, May 2013)

“She made her belated entry unexpectedly from stage left, smokily and slinkily, scantily clad, a Lulu to a T. It wasn’t only magical theatre, but musical bliss: the top register spine-­tinglingly in tune, the articulation breath­taking and her ­sub­­sequent assumption of the Countess Geschwitz role no less riveting.” (Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, May 2013)

"The main event began during the second piece [of Berg’s Lulu Suite], as the extraordinary Barbara Hannigan strolled on, lounged against a wall like a high-heeled hooker at a bus-stop, then prowled through the orchestra as though searching for prey. This Canadian soprano’s stage presence is always mesmerising whatever she does, but when she shook off her furs – revealing a skimpy nightdress – to begin ‘Lulu’s Song’, the physical provocation was both compounded and counteracted by the coloratura purity of her singing (and by the psychopathic innocence of her song). Her concluding number – fifteen heartfelt words from her fictional lesbian lover - had comparable impact." (Michael Church, The Independent, April 2013)

"The concert was billed as Spring Shock?! Well, not so much of a shock, but rather a surprise party of rare sort - no one else could have achieved anything close to Barbara Hannigan’s musical and theatrical performance. The Overture from L’Italiana in Algeri was an elegant whirlwind experience. After that came Mozart… Hannigan communicated with her whole body what her beautiful soprano voice was expressing. The orchestra could do nothing else but become one with her interpretation. This was in the best possible way chamber music, although still, in essence, opera." (Håkan Dahl, Göteborgs-Posten, April 2013)

“What this brilliant Canadian soprano and her Dutch accompanist did with Berg’s Seven Early Songs and Schoenberg’s Four Songs, Op 2 was extraordinary.” (Michael Church, The Independent, January 2013)

“If today’s foremost composers have a single muse, she is Barbara Hannigan. The Canadian soprano is willowy, beautiful, a mesmerising actress and possessed of the grace of a trained dancer (which she is). But those are just her incidental qualities. What chiefly marks her out is her astounding ability to embody the most complex modern scores, then project them with white-hot intensity and an extraordinary vocal range and precision.” (Richard Morrison, The Times, January 2013)

“Barbara Hannigan proved to be ideal for the demanding title role, her soprano excitingly secure throughout the range, her stage presence utterly convincing as the spoilt, capricious, amoral heroine.” (John McCann, Opera, February 2013)

“At times, Lulu also wore ballet shoes and a tutu and her own pointe work was superb. Nabbing slim, agile Barbara Hannigan for the title role was a stroke of genius. She picked off the high notes with ease while managing to phrase exquisitely; quite simply, the best Lulu I have ever seen on stage.” (Francis Carlin, Opera Now, January 2013)

“Barbara Hannigan in the role of Lulu accomplishes the feat of satisfying all of these psychological demands brilliantly remaining credible while at all times. She dances pointe, leaps acrobatically like a deer, sings like an angel and fights like a man.” (Eleonore Büning, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 2012)

"Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan gives a shattering, definitive performance as Agnès." (The Wall Street Journal, July 2012

 “Barbara Hannigan has all the sensual physicality you could dream of for the role. She can convey dangerously repressed passion and sing meltingly rich high notes at the same time; she makes us believe every second of her part.” (Financial Times, July 2012)

“The cast is remarkable, too. Barbara Hannigan compellingly charts Agnès’s growing self-awareness, and wraps her voice ravishingly around Benjamin’s high-lying vocal lines.” (The Guardian, July 2012)

"...it still sends shivers down the spine, and none of the previous London performances I've heard has had such a remarkable soprano soloist as Hannigan, whose beauty of tone and understanding of Boulez's melismatic vocal writing are quite extraordinary. Finally, one senses, Pli Selon Pli has received the consummate performance its compositional virtuosity demands." (The Guardian, September 2011)

"Boulez's ear is fabled for its precision and this was a stunningly meticulous reading, with Barbara Hannigan the soprano soloist. Boulez has frequently revisited Pli selon Pli over three decades. As its mysterious layers fragmented and cohered, one sensed, without necessarily comprehending specific meanings of text or music, a cosmic unfolding. For nearly an hour and a quarter we were taken to a realm far beyond everyday experience." (Evening Standard, September 2011)

"What felt new here, with Boulez’s deliberate baton guiding the silky playing of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and the extraordinary Hannigan somehow finding a cool voluptuousness in every vertiginous leap her voice took, was the sheer sensuality of it. Debussy wandered all over the diaphonous harmonies. Once past the initial thunderclap that begins the piece, Hannigan’s first seductive utterance had the headiness of Ravel’s Shéhérazade. For a while it seems as if Boulez’s folds on folds will keep you in this free-floating state for ever. The masterstroke comes when poetic infinity becomes finite, and death enters the fray. A convulsive, addictive shiver scythes through the orchestra. Hannigan, reduced to just one line from the climactic poem, whispered the final word — “la mort” — as if her whole being had drained into it." (The Times, September 2011)

"The performance in KKL, which was a milestone in the history of the Lucerne Festival Academy, showcased the immediate sensuality of the music...It may also have been due to the soprano Barbara Hannigan, who gave her part much emphasis, through a broad dynamic spectrum and a rich. By the end of the month an ensemble composed of members of the Lucerne Festival Academy and the Ensemble Intercontemporain will be on a European tour in six different cities with Boulez and “Pli selon pli”. Could anyone imagine a better calling card?" (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, September 2011)