Artist Profile: Waltraud Meier, A Consummate Isolde

By David Salazar

Waltraud Meier, born on Jan. 9, 1956, would become one of the most successful German artists of the late 20th century and beyond.

Meier was born in Würzberg and sang in choral groups throughout her youth. Despite starting her graduate studies in English and Romance languages, in 1976, she shifted her focus to singing and made her debut at the Würzberg Opera and became a regular at the opera house in Mannheim from 1976-78.

In 1980, she made her debut at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires as Fricka in “Die Walküre.” She would continue finding great success all over Germany, making her Bayreuth debut in 1984. Her Royal Opera House debut came in 1985 followed by her first Met appearance in 1987. Debuts in Paris, Milan, and Vienna, came thereafter.

To this point, she was singing mezzo-soprano roles, but in the 1990s she shifted to dramatic soprano roles.

In 2009, she completed what was her reported 2,000 professional engagement of her career.

She has made a number of recordings and earned honors as “Kammersängerin” from both the Bavarian State Opera and Vienna State Opera and Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres from the French Government.

 Signature Roles

Meier is one of the renowned interpreters of the German repertoire of the late 20th century. Her most important roles are those of Wagner, specifically “Tristan und Isolde” and “Parsifal.”

She was widely seen as one of the great interpreters of the role from the end of the 1990s through the early 2000s. “Over the past 20 years, for many listeners Ms. Meier has been Isolde, and Isolde has been Ms. Meier,” said David Allen in a New York Times piece on Meier’s final Isolde in 2015. “Her last incarnation of this career-defining role was formidable, charting with unique acuity a voyage from desolation through anger and hope to radiance.”

She was also a prominent interpreter of the role of Kundry in “Parsifal,” in addition to other roles in the “Ring.”

Read More on Meier

Her Non-Wagner Roles

Watch and Listen

Here is one of her “Tristan und Isolde” performances.

And here she is in the second Act of “Parsifal.”


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