Elīna Garanča – Biography

“A throwback to another musical age, when style was grand and voices were plush, the regal Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča is a rare and exotic creature [and] one of the tiny élite of truly great singers active in the world today.” (The Daily Telegraph, December 2015)

Born into a musical family in the Latvian capital Riga, Elīna Garanča entered the Latvian Academy of Music at the age of 20 and was soon on her way to becoming one of the world’s most outstanding mezzo-sopranos. She started as she meant to go on: while still a student she stepped in at just ten days’ notice to perform the role of Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, uncovering a love affair with the bel canto repertoire which has since seen her through countless breathtaking performances.

When she graduated from the Academy she joined the Meiningen Staatstheater in Germany, appeared as a resident artist with the Frankfurt Opera, sang at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, was a finalist in the 2001 BBC’s Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and won the Mirjam Helin Singing Competition in Finland. She consolidated her early career singing at the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Helsinki Opera’s Rossini Festival, in Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Lucerne and Graz, and in 2003 made a guest appearance for Deutsche Grammophon when she joined Anna Netrebko in a scene and cavatina from Lucia di Lammermoor on Netrebko’s debut album, Opera Arias.

In 2005 her extraordinary gifts were recognised with an exclusive contract from the Yellow Label. Her first solo recording, Aria Cantilena, came in 2007, winning great acclaim and an Echo Klassik Singer of the Year award. She followed it with Bel Canto in 2009, winning another Echo Klassik award and a BBC Music Magazine Award. Habanera was released in 2010, Romantique in 2012 and Meditation in 2014, the latter two albums taking further Echo Klassik awards. Time and again, critics and music-lovers alike have found themselves bowled over by her vocal agility and dramatic presence, and by the sheer beauty of her voice. Reviewing Meditation, Classic FM praised her “creamy, rich voice which imbues every phrase with feeling and subtlety,” adding that the album “should reinforce her position as one of today’s outstanding voices and performers”.

Elīna Garanča has also contributed to many opera releases, including Carmen, Anna Bolena, La Cenerentola and I Capuleti e i Montecchi. On stage, her early roles included Annio and Sesto in La clemenza di Tito, Charlotte in Werther, Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. She made her house debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 2007 and her Metropolitan Opera debut the following year. In 2009 she returned to Covent Garden in the title role of Bizet’s Carmen, then starred in a new production of the work at the Metropolitan Opera which was broadcast in more than a thousand cinemas worldwide. She was named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year 2010 and won the MIDEM Classical Award as Singer of the Year. In 2013, Garanča became one of the youngest recipients of the Vienna State Opera’s “Kammersängerin” award, marking her 140 performances of 18 roles since her debut in the house in 2003.

In 2014 her stage roles included those of Léonor de Guzman, the eponymous “favourite”, in concert performances of Donizetti’s La Favorite at the Salzburg Festival, and Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Having returned to the Metropolitan Opera early in 2015 as Carmen, she then starred again as Octavian at the Vienna State Opera – Der Standard praised her for “a stage presence verging on the magical”, an ability to invest “even the smallest gesture with great meaning” and a voice “in a class of its own”. She will reprise the role opposite Renée Fleming’s Marschallin at the Metropolitan Opera in April/May 2017.

Last season’s stage appearances included her portrayal of Charlotte at the Paris Opéra and a critically acclaimed role debut as Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, in the Met’s first ever production of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, for which she was applauded by The New York Times in the following terms: “… it is true luxury casting to have the great mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča bring her sumptuous voice and charisma to the role”. Highlights of the 2016–17 season, meanwhile, include her much-anticipated first stage appearances as Léonor in the Bavarian State Opera’s premiere production of La Favorite, and her debut in a dramatic, verismo role – that of Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana at the Paris Opéra – as well as her reprise of Octavian in New York.  

In addition to her operatic work, Elīna Garanča also maintains a busy concert and recital schedule. In the last twelve months alone, this has seen her perform repertoire ranging from Bach to Duparc in Moscow, St Petersburg, Geneva, London, Paris, Zagreb, Liège, Vienna, Linz, Düsseldorf and Nuremberg, among other places, with such fellow leading artists as Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Malcolm Martineau and her husband, conductor Karel Mark Chichon. Forthcoming highlights include a concert tour of Germany and Austria (February 2017), a Carnegie Hall recital (March 2017), Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera’s 50th-Anniversary gala at Lincoln Center (both May 2017).

In early November 2016, Deutsche Grammophon will release Elīna Garanča’s latest solo album, Revive. Here the singer draws on both her wide-ranging operatic expertise and her broader life experience as she channels her insight into a collection of arias drawn from the great Romantic repertoire, exploring the inner worlds of some of opera’s most powerful women. Recorded in Valencia with Roberto Abbado and the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Revive includes music from Verdi’s Don Carlo, Massenet’s Hérodiade and Saint-Saëns’s Henri VIII, as well as celebrated set-pieces from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila, Berlioz’s Les Troyens, and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, among others. Elīna Garanča’s very personal choice of repertoire reflects the way in which her voice is developing, enabling her to embrace new and challenging territory, such as Verdi and verismo. Her new album will give audiences a tantalising glimpse of the many delights that are still to come from this versatile and passionate mezzo.