Few singers attain the stature of Elīna Garanča, who over the past decade has emerged as one of opera’s brightest stars. The Latvian mezzo-soprano is consistently praised for her iconic portrayals of the leading roles in her repertoire. Forging deep connections with each part she plays, she is a consummate artist whose distinctively dark, sultry voice boasts a power and warmth to which her regal bearing and alluring looks provide the perfect counterpoise. She regularly headlines landmark productions at the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Bavarian State Opera, and Vienna State Opera, where she recently became the youngest female singer to be honored with a Kammersängerin Award. Since becoming an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist in 2005, she has amassed an extensive discography, highlighted by six solo albums – three of them ECHO Klassik Award-winners – and DVDs that capture her most definitive live performances. Besides starring in numerous opera and concert broadcasts, she frequently appears in documentaries and talk shows, and is the subject of the award-winning documentary Primadonna on rollerskates (2002). Her memoir, Wirklich wichtig sind die Schuhe (“The Shoes Are Really Important”), was published by Austria’s Ecowin Verlag last year; in it she explains, “My feet must feel free so that my soul and voice can soar.”
It was Garanča’s triumphant 2003 Salzburg Festival debut, as Annio in La clemenza di Tito with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, that was responsible for her international breakthrough. She made her Vienna State Opera debut as Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana and became a regular with the company, initially specializing in Mozart roles before becoming equally dominant in bel canto and Romantic repertoire. Her Viennese appearances included Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro with Riccardo Muti, and seminal accounts of two roles on which she would indelibly put her stamp: Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and Charlotte in a new, televised staging of Massenet’s Werther. To date, she has sung more than 150 performances with the company. Engagements followed in Helsinki, Lucerne, Graz, Paris, and Aix-en-Provence, where she starred in Patrice Chéreau’s production of Così fan tutte, available on Erato DVD. In 2007 she made house debuts at London’s Royal Opera House as Dorabella in Così fan tutte, and the Berlin State Opera as Sesto in La clemenza di Tito. For her sensational 2008 Metropolitan Opera debut she sang Rosina, a role with which her name was already synonymous in Europe, in Bartlett Sher’s staging of Il barbiere di Siviglia, and returned to the company the following season to headline another Rossini opera: La Cenerentola.
In 2009 Garanča headlined Carmen opposite Roberto Alagna at both Covent Garden and the Met, where her definitive performance in Richard Eyre’s production was broadcast Live in HD to more than 1,000 movie theaters worldwide. She returned to the Met as Mozart’s Sesto. Both her Sesto and Cenerentola were also transmitted to cinemas around the globe in the company’s Live in HD series, and all three were subsequently shown on PBS TV’s “Great Performances at the Met.” The mezzo’s iconic performances as Carmen and La Cenerentola have since been issued on DG DVD, and she was chosen to join Julie Andrews, Audra McDonald, Itzhak Perlman, and other stars at a televised concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Great Performances” series.
The mezzo collaborated with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko on recordings including Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Fabio Luisi and the Vienna Symphony, and Donizetti’s Anna Bolena at the Vienna State Opera, which was televised and released on DVD. The pair appeared together in an Opera Gala of the Stars at Baden-Baden that was broadcast live to a German television audience of over two million and issued on DVD. Among Garanča’s other distinguished concert recordings are Verdi’s Requiem with Daniel Barenboim at La Scala, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden, and a New Year’s Eve Concert with Gustavo Dudamel and the Berlin Philharmonic. She sang in Vivaldi’s Bajazet with Fabio Biondi on the Erato label, which was nominated for a Grammy and won a MIDEM Classical Award. As an exclusive DG recording artist, she has released six solo albums. The first, Aria Cantilena, won the ECHO Klassik “Singer of the Year” award; she scored a second with Bel Canto, also a BBC Music magazine award-winner; and Romantique took ECHO Klassik’s 2013 award for “Best Solo Recording.”
Garanča launched the 2014-15 season with the release of her most personal album to date, Meditation, which spans four centuries of sacred and spiritual music. She and Alagna reprise their leading roles in the Met’s Carmen, and Bizet’s gypsy serves as the vehicle for her house debut at La Scala. Strauss’s Octavian takes her back to Vienna and Berlin. She sings Berg under James Levine at Carnegie Hall, and undertakes a European concert tour with Karel Mark Chichon. After making recital debuts at Carnegie Hall and La Scala last season, she rejoins pianist Malcolm Martineau for lieder recitals in London, Zurich, Graz, Vienna, and Salzburg. Her summer season includes the return of her popular “Elīna Garanča and Friends” concerts in Austria and performances as Charlotte in Werther at the Salzburg Festival.
A laureate of Finland’s 1999 Mirjam Helin Singing Competition, Garanča was a finalist in the 2001 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and won Musical America’s “Vocalist of the Year” 2010 and MIDEM Classical’s “Singer of the Year” 2010. She received Latvian Great Music Awards in 2000 and 2010, and a Three-Star Order granted by the Latvian State in 2007. In 2006, during a televised gala at the Semperoper Dresden, she was presented with the European Culture Prize.
Elīna Garanča was born into a musical family in Riga, Latvia, where her father was a choral conductor and her mother a singer, under whom she learned at the Latvian Academy of Music before continuing her studies in Vienna and the United States.