Wednesday 10 December 2008

Waltraud Meier

Waltraud Meier


Waltraud Meier, German mezzosoprano. Born 1956, Würzburg, Germany.
Education: No formal music education.

It is widely agreed that Waltraud Meier is the only truly compelling female Wagnerian singer on stage today.

After language studies in Würzburg, Waltraud Meier was engaged at the Würzburg Opera in 1976. After engagements with various German opera houses,
Waltraud Meier´s big breakthtrough came after she, on her own initiative, phoned up the Bayreuth Festival, asked for an audition and subsequently was hired as Kundry in 1983, 27 years old at the time. Becoming virtually famous overnight, her career took off from there and since then she has appeared in all the major opera houses.
Waltraud Meier considers Bayreuth her artistical home and was a cornerstone presence between 1983-2000, as Kundry 1983-93 (released on CD), Isolde 1993-99 (released on DVD), Sieglinde (2000), Waltraute in the Barenboim/Kupfer Ring (released on DVD) as well as Brangaene (1985). In 2000 she left the Festival after a conflict with the Festival Management.
The companies, with which she has the closest associations are the Berlin State Opera and Bavarian State Opera, where she has performed her entire Wagnerian repertoire. Past seasons have seen several appearances at the Paris Bastille Opera (Isolde, Kundry and Ortrud) as well as the Metropolitan Opera (Kundry, Santuzza, Sieglinde, Marie, Waltraute, Isolde).

At the Metropolitan Opera, she made her debut as Fricka 1987 when the Schenk/Levine Ring was new, and has subsequently returned as Kundry, Carmen, Venus, Santuzza, Fidelio, Isolde (one performance only), Sieglinde, Marie and Waltraute.

Her closest artistical collaboration is with Daniel Barenboim for more than 20 years, resulting in countless performances and recordings of, amongst other things, her entire Wagnerian repertoire. Waltraud Meier:

"It frustrates me that pitch is half a tone higher than it was in Wagner's time. If it was that bit lower, I could sing Brünnhilde, as well as Strauss's Salome and Verdi's Lady Macbeth. But today they lie just too high for me - I could not get them into my throat."

"Kundry is bottomless, and is still after more than twenty years a source of inspiration and will probably always remain so."

Emphasizing concert and lieder singing, Waltraud Meier devoted the 2003-4 season to lieder.
Vocally, Waltraud Meier is a mezzo-soprano with a flexibility towards the top allowing her for (limited however) ventures into the soprano repertoire, most notably with Isolde, but also with Fidelio-Leonore, while other of her cornerstone parts such as Sieglinde, Wozzeck-Marie and Ortrud may be considered zwischen-fach.

Waltraud Meier´s floating expressivity comes fully to its right in Wagner, where, on good nights, her voice cuts through the orchestra like a razor-blade and the high Cs are effortless thrown out. She has a tendency to be sharp in the high register, which on off-nights may result in a not negligeable amount of off-pitch singing as well as considerable difficulty with the topnotes.

However, Waltraud Meier is a formidable presence on stage with entirely compelling acting skills and maximal expressivity, vocally as well as dramatically. None of her recordings come even close to capture the electricity she generates in live performances.
Waltraud Meier´s most important parts are Kundry, Isolde, Ortrud and Sieglinde, where she is virtually unequalled as a singer-actress.

"The most important thing for me is: What happens on the stage must have something to do with the piece! Directorial liberty is too often misunderstood! You consider the audience to be fools if you think a problem may only be understood if it takes place in a present-time setting.. Of course I am not advocating old-fashioned productions... Directors like Ponnelle, Friedrich, Bondy or Chéreau are the true masters as I see it. I feel that several directors - especially in spoken theater - abuse the pieces for their own vanities sake, rather than have the courage to write a piece of their own."


Kundry (Parsifal) - Waltraud Meier´s signature part, with countless performances since her debut 1982 in Dortmund. Most notably in Bayreuth 1983-92, Metropolitan Opera from 1992 (released on DVD), Baden-Baden Festival 2004 (released on DVD), La Scala 1991, Berlin State Opera (countless performances), Paris Bastille Opera 2008, Vienna State Opera (many performances, latest in 2011).

Isolde - Waltraud Meier´s other signature role, with which she made her debut in Bayreuth 1993. Countless performances, and three DVD releases. Most important productions: Bayreuth 1993-99 (Müller/Barenboim - released on DVD), Bavarian State Opera (Konwitschny/Mehta - released on DVD), Salzburg Festival 2000 (Grüber/Mehta), Vienna State Opera (Everding production), Berlin State Opera ( continuously in Kupfer/Barenboim prod), Paris Bastille Opera 2005, 2008 (Sellars/Viola), La Scala 2007, 2009 (Chéreau/Barenboim - released on DVD), 2008 Metropolitan Opera.

Waltraud Meier has publicly stated the 2007 La Scala production to be the most revelatory Isolde production she has participated in, "completely overwhelmed" by Chéreau´s capabilities as a stage director.

Ortrud (Lohengrin) - debut 1998 at the Bavarian State Opera. Most important productions include: London Royal Opera, Berlin State Opera, Baden-Baden Festival 2006
(released on DVD), Paris Bastille 2007, Munich 2010-11

Sieglinde - 1992 debut in Vienna with Plácido Domingo. Important productions include the Munich Ring (Alden), London Ring (Warner), Berlin State Opera Ring (Kupfer), Bayreuth Ring 2000 (Jürgen Flimm), Paris Châtelet Ring (Wilson), La Scala Walküre with Muti, Barenboim-Cassiers Berlin-La Scala Ring (2010-12), Metropolitan Schenk Ring (2009)

Venus (Tannhäuser) - performance include Bavarian State Opera 1995 (released on DVD), Baden-Baden Festival 2008 (released on DVD)

Carmen - Waltraud Meier´s Carmen in the 1997 Zeffirelli-directed new production at the Met was probably the low-point of her career, and the only time she received over-all negative reviews. Waltraud Meier says:
"I have enormous respect for Zeffirelli, but our two styles just didn't match. The staging was folkloristic, with horses on stage and that sort of thing. It was the most horrible time, but I don't think about it any more. A mistake? Well, my philosophy is that there are no faults, only errors. You learn from your mistakes and come through knowing more."

Subsequently she sang the part in Dresden 2005, but now seems to have retired it.

Marie (Wozzeck) - Berlin State Opera 1994 (released on DVD), Paris (2009), Munich (2010-12), Met (2011)

Fidelio - Debut 1998 with Barenboim in Chicago. Notable productions include La Scala 1999 (Muti), Metropolitan Opera (Flimm), Bavarian State Opera , Valencia 2006 (available on DVD), Berlin State Opera, Vienna State Opera 2011

Other non-Wagnerian parts include Eboli (on DVD from Châtelet), Amneris, Santuzza (Met 2010), Didon, Giulietta (notably in Salzburg 2003), Klytemnestra (Salzburg 2010 - on DVD). Currently only Fidelio, Santuzza, Marie and Klytemnestra seems to be in Waltraud Meier´s active non-Wagnerian repertoire.


Waltraud Meier swill sing Klytemnestra in the new Patrice Chéreau Elektra production at the Met around 2013.


Isolde (Tristan and Isolde), Barenboim 1995.
Kundry (Parsifal), Levine 1985.
Kundry (Parsifal), Barenboim 1991.Kundry (Parsifal). Thielemann, 2006.Sieglinde (Walküre). Mehta, 2002.
Ortrud (Lohengrin), Abbado 1994.
Venus (Tannhäuser), Barenboim 2002.
Fidelio, Barenboim 2006.

Frauenliebe und leben - Lieder by Brahms, Schubert and Schumann, 1998.
Mahler orchestral songs, Maazel 1999.Various Mahler, Wagner, Wolf. Barenboim 1999.
Wagner Gala, Abbado 1993.


Don Carlos (Paris Châtelet 1996, d: Bondy, c: Pappano)

Elektra (Salzburg 2010, d: Lehnhoff, c: Gatti)
Fidelio (Valencia 2006)Lohengrin (Baden-Baden Festival 2006, d: Lehnhoff, c: Nagano)

Ring des Nibelungen (Waltraute 1991, d: Kupfer, c: Barenboim)
Tannhäuser (Bavarian State Opera 1995, d: Alden, c: Mehta)
Tannhäuser (Baden-Baden 2008, d: Lehnhoff, c: Jordan )
Tristan and Isolde (Bayreuth Festival 1995, d: Müller, c: Barenboim)
Tristan and Isolde (Bavarian State Opera 1998, d: Konwitschny, c: Mehta)
Tristan and Isolde (La Scala 2007, d: Chéreau, c: Barenboim)
Parsifal (Metropolitan Opera 1992, d: Schenk, c: Levine)
Wozzeck (Berlin State Opera 1994, d: Chéreau, c: Barenboim)

I follow a voice within me - portrait DVD, 2002

Waltraud Meier - Isolde´s liebestod (Chéreau/Barenboim, La Scala 2007):

Waltraud Meier as Ortrud (with Tom Fox) - (Lehnhoff/Nagano, Baden-Baden 2006):


Fidelio - Bavarian State Opera 2007
Ortrud (Lohengrin) - Paris Bastille Opera 2007
Isolde - Bavarian State Opera 2007, La Scala 2007, Madrid Teatro Real 2008, Berlin State Opera 2008, Paris Bastille Opera 2008
Kundry (Parsifal) - Paris Bastille Opera 2008 , Berlin State Opera 2009 (twice)
Sieglinde (Walküre) - Act 1 in concert, Bavarian State Opera 2007
Sieglinde (Walküre) - complete in concert, Barcelona 2008
Sieglinde (Walküre) - Act 1 in concert, Berlin Waldbühne 2008


Waltraud Meier official website
All posts on mostly opera related to Waltraud Meier
Wikipedia biography on Waltraud Meier


Anonymous said...

Il me semble que Meier a renoncé à Brünnhilde et que c'est Stemme qui va la remplacer.

mostly opera... said...

As I understand it, Nina Stemme was priginally supposed to sing Sieglinde in that Walküre. However, these things change, however..

Anonymous said...

The thing I love the most about WM is her skills as an actress. If you look close into Tannhäuser (Mehta & Kollo) or Tristan (J-F West)she follows and show her feelings i a very good way. She reaches the same levels as any "ordinary" movie/theatre actress, but then again she has to sing at the same time.


Anonymous said...

An interesting article in the Times about Waltraud and her upcoming appearance at the 2009 Proms.

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