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Sandrine Piau

Although coloratura soprano Sandrine Piau has sung and recorded other types of music, she is best known for her Baroque opera roles. She is an international star with a large catalog of solo recordings. Piau was born in the southwestern Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux on June 5, 1965. She studied at Collège Lamartine and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique du Paris, where she received several citations and prizes for her vocal interpretations in Baroque and other repertory. She also became proficient on the harp. Piau initially established her reputation in Baroque repertory, most notably in the operas of Handel (Tamerlano, Xerxes, and others), but she quickly branched out into the Mozart operas, scoring numerous triumphs in such roles as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Servilia in La Clemenza di Tito. She has hardly limited herself to the Baroque and Classical periods, however, and her repertory encompasses the Brahms Requiem, Massenet's Werther, and Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress as well as other 19th and 20th century staples. Piau possesses a small but versatile and quite lovely lyric-coloratura soprano voice, consistently even in range and exuding a sense of warmth. By the late '80s, Piau's career was in the ascendant, and soon she was invited to appear in concerts led by some of Europe's leading conductors, including Philippe Herreweghe, William Christie, Gustav Leonhardt, and many others. She also began singing regularly in the more prestigious opera houses at home and abroad: at the Grand Théâtre de Genève, she sang Ismène in Mozart's Mitridate, and at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, she scored a great success as Pamina. Piau has also appeared at Covent Garden, the Amsterdam Opera, and at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Piau began to gain international acclaim for her recordings in the 1990s. Among her more successful early efforts was a pair of William Christie-led performances: Handel's Messiah on Harmonia Mundi (1994) and Purcell's King Arthur on Erato (1995), both demonstrating her superior talent in Baroque music. For the 1999-2000 opera season, Piau added another role to her growing list when she sang Aennchen in Weber's Der Freischütz. In the new century, she sang Zdenka in Richard Strauss' Arabella and Nannetta in Verdi's Falstaff, among others. Notable recordings have included the releases of Mozart's Mass in C minor (2005), under conductor Emmanuel Krivine, the all-Vivaldi disc In furore, Laudate pueri e concerti sacri (2006), with conductor Ottavio Dantone, both on the Naïve label, and Frank Martin's Le vin herbé (2007), conducted by Daniel Reuss, for Harmonia Mundi. In 2006, the French government honored her as Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. By the late 2000s decade and the early 2010s, the Piau name on a recording was a major draw for opera lovers, and she released one or more solo recordings in most years. Many of them were on the Naïve and Alpha labels, and while they focused on Baroque music, Piau remained an adventurous figure who recorded Schumann's Dichterliebe song cycle in 2019 and Clair-Obscur, a recital of songs by Richard Strauss, Berg, and Zemlinsky in 2021. In 2022, Piau released the album Handel: Enchantresses, featuring the Baroque orchestra Les Paladins.
© Robert Cummings & James Manheim /TiVo


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