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. In 2016 she released Revive, a personal choice of repertoire (by Verdi, Massenet, Cilea, Saint-Saëns and Berlioz, among others) that reflected the way in which her voice was developing, enabling her to venture into new and challenging territory. Revive received widespread critical acclaim, with The Daily Telegraph summing it up as “an exciting recital by one of the world’s greatest vocalists”. Garanča has also contributed to many complete-opera recordings, including Carmen, Anna Bolena, La Cenerentola, I Capuleti e i Montecchi and, most recently, La Favorite, recorded live at the Bavarian State Opera.
Her latest solo album, Sol y vida, is set for international release in May 2019. Another very personal selection of music, recorded with the Orquesta Filarmónica Gran Canaria and Karel Mark Chichon, Sol y vida is also Garanča’s first album of entirely non core-classical repertoire. It features popular songs from Italy, Spain and Latin America, including numbers more often associated with the tenor voice, such as Core ’ngrato and Turna a Surriento, as well as two gems of the Latin American repertoire in which she is joined by guitarist José María Gallardo del Rey: Gracias a la vida and Piazzolla’s Yo soy María.
On stage, Garanča’s 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 Covent Garden debut 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 Met 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, she 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 March 2016, she made a critically acclaimed role debut as Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, in the Met’s first ever production of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, and in October 2016 she made her highly-anticipated first stage appearances as Léonor de Guzman in the Bavarian State Opera’s premiere production of Donizetti’s La Favorite (a role she first played in concert at the Salzburg Festival in 2014). The 2016–17 season also saw Garanča make her debut in a dramatic, verismo role – that of Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana at the Paris Opéra – and her final appearances as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, at the Metropolitan Opera.
In the 2017–18 season she made a much-praised debut as Princess Eboli in the Paris Opéra’s new production of Don Carlos (the Financial Times noted her “extraordinary depth and complexity” in the role). She also made successful returns to Covent Garden (as Santuzza) and Munich (as Carmen) and, in another role debut, starred as Dalila in Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila at the Vienna Staatsoper.
She launched the current season with further performances of Samson et Dalila, this time at the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Classical Review praising her rendition of “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” as “a stunning interpretation … with long, breathing phrases, giving the music a slow-burning sensuality to match the scene”. She reprises the role of Santuzza in March 2019 at the Vienna Staatsoper and gives concert performances of Carmen at the Seoul Arts Center in April. Stage highlights of the 2019–20 season will include La Damnation de Faust at the Metropolitan Opera and Don Carlos in Munich and at Covent Garden.
In addition to her operatic work, Elīna Garanča also maintains a busy concert and recital schedule. In the last twelve months, this has once again taken her around the world, with performances in cities such as Madrid, Baden-Baden, Salzburg, Vienna, Kraków, London, Moscow and New York. Forthcoming highlights of the current season include performances of Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Riccardo Muti at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, a series of recitals in Germany with the NDR Radio Philharmonie and Karel Mark Chichon which will feature repertoire from Sol y vida, and Mahler’s Rückert Lieder with the MET Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall.