Thursday, June 26, 2014

Johanna Meier Opera Theater Institute To Close Doors After 17 Years

An early portrait of Johanna Meier who made her Metropolitan Opera
company debut in 1972 as Donna Anna  (Don Giovanni) and her house
debut in 1976 as Ariadne (Ariadne auf Naxos). She went on to sing over
75 performances with the MET, until her last as the Empress in 1989
(Die Frau ohne Schatten).
"A Black Hills State University opera company is closing out a 17-year run with a pair of final performances this weekend. The Johanna Meier Opera Theater Institute began in 1998, and Meier told the Black Hills Pioneer ( that she's grateful for having been able to share the beauty and gift of music through the years. 'Music has given substance and joy to our efforts and brings something new and special to each of us,' she said. 'It has been a good run.' The retired internationally acclaimed opera singer and Spearfish resident said she been involved in theater and music since she was an infant, and she would like a few years to relax and do other things. Meier said the nonprofit institute, where she has acted as artistic director, involves an extensive amount of work year-round — 'getting out information about the program to students across the country and engaging faculty, ultimately listening to the audition tapes we receive and selecting the students who will come and on the basis of that decision, what the repertoire will be and who will sing what.' This year, 22 students are performing. Meier said several former students have since had successful singing careers, including one South Dakotan who recently made a debut at the Metropolitan Opera. 'Every year, something particularly memorable happens — either a very fine young singer taking their first big steps or a production which we feel has really reached the audience,' Meier said." [Source] To learn more about the Black Hills University performances, click here. Read more about Johanna Meier, and watch a clip of her singing the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival, after the jump.
"Johanna Meier (born 1938) is an American operatic soprano. She has been described as 'one of the foremost Wagnerian sopranos of her era.' She had an international career, including fourteen years at the Metropolitan Opera and three summers singing the role of Isolde in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for the Bayreuth Festival—the Festival's first American Isolde. Born in Chicago, Meier was raised in Spearfish, South Dakota and continues to contribute to the State, having founded the School of Opera
Performing in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's production of
Tristan und Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival.
and Vocal Arts as part of the Black Hills State University Summer Institute of the Arts, for which she also serves as Artistic Director. As her family was touring with the Lünen Passion Play when she was born, she had her stage debut at five weeks and grew up playing various parts; she continued the family's tradition through 2008, staging the play with her husband each summer in Spearfish, with Meier playing the role of Mary. Meier trained at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music and received the school's first Distinguished Alumnus Award. She also studied under John Brownlee at the Manhattan School of Music before beginning her professional career in 1969 at the New York City Opera, where she sang Mozart roles, slowly adding in roles from Richard Strauss's operas before finally taking on the Wagnerian roles for which she is best known. The City Opera recognized that she was talented both as a
Johanna Meier (right) receiving the
2014 National Opera Association
Lifetime Achievement Award.
singer and as an actress and cast her in several leads. Meier's debut at the Metropolitan Opera came earlier than planned: she had been scheduled to debut in December 1976, playing Marguerite in Faust, but was sent onstage in April as a last-minute replacement for Montserrat Caballé as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos. During her fourteen years at the Met, she played fifteen roles, including Chrysothemis, Senta, Leonore, the Empress, the Marschallin, Elisabeth, Ellen Orford, Donna Anna, Tosca, Sieglinde, Brünnhilde and Isolde. Meier was seen in the title role of Vanessa (with Christopher Keene conducting), when it was televised from the Spoleto Festival USA, in 1978. She began her stint at Bayreuth in 1981 in the widely praised production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (q.v.); this production was eventually recorded on video. Her final professional performance, in 1994, was as Elektra. In 2003, she received an honorary doctorate from Black Hills State University. She has been married to Guido Della Vecchia since 1960." [Source]

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