The Canadian coloratura soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan, born in 1971 in Waverley, Nova Scotia, really isn’t like any other artist. Her home country, where they sing all kinds of music without any preconception, has probably helped her follow a musical path unlike any other, whose originality couldn’t fail to inspire the numerous composers who have written and still continue to write works for her.
She’s a special artist. Vocally first of all: her voice is unique, as much by its technical virtuosity, always expressive, as by the various colours she dons it, which allows her to sing everything with a formidable versatility. Second of all, synthetically: by letting her fiery theatrical temperament explode, Barbara Hannigan also knows how to bring her body and fascinating stage presence into play. And last of all, by combining genres as well, because this gifted all-around artist proves to be equally at ease conducting an orchestra, by triumphing as much in London, Munich, Brussels (at the Théâtre de La Monnaie), Milan (at the Scala), New York (at the Lincoln Center), etc., as in France at the Opéra de Paris, at the Châtelet, in Aix-en-Provence, where we see her stand at the side of great figures like Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux or the greatest directors—an extremely rare occurrence for a singer at such an international level (we saw Placido Domingo, José Cura, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Peter Schreier try their hand at this, but only for a few limited attempts). Since 2011, Barbara Hannigan has had a privileged relationship with the “Ludwig” orchestra, composed of the best instrumentalists coming from various Dutch and international formations.
If Barbara Hannigan is first and foremost a great performer of the repertoire from the 20th and 21st centuries (Ligeti, Stockhausen, Andriessen, Knussen…) and a regular of the places that bring it to life (Manifesto Festival, Ircam…), she tackles the repertoire from the previous centuries—from Handel to Britten, to Gluck, Mozart, Janáček or even Stravinsky—, but always having her own take on it to make it an almost new creation. Because everything she sings is in close affinity with her soul and sensibility. To accompany her, some beautiful phalanges and conductors fight over her (the London Sinfonietta, Bamberger Symphoniker, Berliner Philharmoniker, Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre National de France…, conducted by Peter Eötvös, Jonathan Nott, Sir Simon Rattle, Reinbert de Leeuw, Peter Rundel, Michael Gielen…).
© Qobuz / GG (2017)
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