At the Festival
Friday18June 2021


The internationally renowned soprano Nina Stemme is performing the major role of her life this year at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence: Isolde, in Wagner’s opera that recounts the twists and turns of the legendary couple that she forms with Tristan. Of Swedish origin, Nina Stemme started out studying economics while simultaneously training to be an opera singer at the Stockholm Opera Studio. Singing won out, and she began her onstage career in Chérubin in 1989. She was barely thirty years old when she won the first Operalia world opera competition, organised by Plácido Domingo, who invited her to join him in a series of concerts held on leading opera stages, and later to record the Wagnerian role at his side.

As an artist, Nina Stemme takes the time to discover the characters she brings to life through her voice. After playing the roles of Pamina, the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Agathe, and Eva, she gradually broadened her palette with scores for operatic, and then dramatic, sopranos. Mimi, Manon, Tosca, Aida and Turandot rub shoulders with Wagnerian and Straussian characters: The Marschallin, Elsa, Brünnhilde, and even Chostakovitch’s Lady Macbeth de Mzensk. Her performances as Elektra and Salomé immediately placed her among the greatest dramatic sopranos of the twentieth century, alongside Kirsten Flagstad and Birgit Nilsson.

She wins over audiences and critics thanks to her full and powerful voice, and the ease with which she sings scores that provoke dread in others, and yet manages to make them look effortless. Her vocal stamina and the flexibility of her entire vocal range make Nina Stemme an artist without equal, whether it be in an opera or in concert. She knows how to adapt to the broadest variety of stories and genres: alongside her title role, she will also be performing a joint recital, with pianist Magnus Svensson, in a programme that expands on the German opera and the theme of eternal love.

The role of Isolde marked a decisive step in her career. She performed it for the first time in 2003, onstage at the Glyndebourne Festival; her performance was eye-opening, and unanimously amazing. This score, which she worked on with Birgit Nilsson herself, is one of the most demanding of the repertoire. Performing the part of Isolde is immensely challenging. “You’re never ready to sing such monumental roles,” explains the soloist. The music requires a certain state of mind that not everyone possesses, for it is a veritable marathon. It is impossible to play this woman in love without throwing yourself, body and soul, into the musical battle; and you must allow yourself to be entirely inhabited by the Wagnerian universe of Tristan and Isolde. Regularly invited to sing and record the role in the most renowned venues in the world, Nina Stemme is indisputably the greatest Isolde of our time!