Deborah Voigt’s Successes As a Wagnerian Soprano

By Arya Roshanian

Within the last quarter of the 20th century, there was perhaps no dramatic soprano as influential as Deborah Voigt. Born August 4th, 1960, the American soprano is most celebrated for her interpretations by Strauss and Wagner, and other German composers.

Though Voigt’s repertoire ranges from bel canto to new American premieres, the “down to earth diva” had most of her career milestones with Richard Wagner. To celebrate Voigt’s 57th birthday, here’s a look at five of her most iconic portrayals of Wagnerian heroines.

Sieglinde ― “Ring Cycle”

Voigt’s performed her first Sieglinde in the Metropolitan Opera’s “Die Walküre” in 1996, alongside Plácido Domingo and Robert Hale. At the time, she’d only sung at the Met for a few seasons. It was a gamble to place the young Voigt in this role, though it was already clear she was destined for stardom. She eventually graduated to Brünnhilde some fifteen years later, but opera veterans will always remember her beginnings as the troubled yet rambunctious housewife.

Elisabeth  ― “Tannhäuser”

“Dich, teure halle” may be the most famous aria from “Tannhäuser,” but the show itself seems to be seldom performed. Voigt has sung Elisabeth in New York City and in houses abroad. However, her best performance of the aria was during James Levine’s 25th Anniversary Gala at the Met (which, thankfully, can be found online).

Elsa ― “Lohengrin”

Like Elisabeth, the role of Elsa is well-known for her Act I aria “Einsam in trüben Tagen.” Voigt’s Elsa never garnered as much attention as her other performances, though she was praised by Bernard Holland, who mentioned she sang Elsa “beautifully and purely.”

Brünnhilde ― “Ring Cycle”

Voigt made her highly anticipated debut as Brünnhilde in April 2011 in Robert Lepage’s new production of  “Die Walküre” at the Metropolitan Opera. Though she had already garnered rave reviews as Sieglinde from years past, Voigt’s first performance marked the beginning of a new era in her career ― from performer to veteran. Of the performance, Anthony Tommasini wrote he had “seldom heard the role sung with such rhythmic accuracy and verbal clarity.”

Isolde   “Tristan und Isolde”

At the time Voigt debuted as Isolde at the Vienna State Opera in 2003, she was the first American soprano to have a new production of “Tristan und Isolde” created for her, and the first American soprano to even sing the role in about 20 years. She sang the role for about 10 years before shelving it, but not without making a striking impact in the opera community and securing her place as one of the most influential sopranos of the 20th and 21st century.


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