Cheryl Studer

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Cheryl Studer (born October 24, 1955) is a Grammy Award winning American dramatic soprano who has sung at many of the world's major opera houses.[1] A singer with unusual versatility, Studer has performed more than eighty roles ranging from the dramatic repertoire to roles more commonly associated with lyric sopranos and coloratura sopranos. Because of her ability to sing many different kinds of roles, some critics have compared Studer's voice to that of Lilli Lehmann.[2] She is most admired for her interpretations of the works of Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner.

Early life and education[edit]

Studer was born in Midland, Michigan to parents Carl W. Studer and Elizabeth S. Studer (formerly Smith, later Peterson), in a family of three children.[3] She began studying the piano at age five and a few years later the viola. She became interested in becoming an opera singer after listening to the album Callas à Paris at the age of 12. Her mother and stepfather, Carl A. Peterson, Jr., responded by giving her voice lessons with Gwendolyn Pike, a local opera singer and voice teacher. Studer attended Herbert Henry Dow High School,[4] then transferred to the Interlochen Arts Academy for her junior and senior years and graduated from there in 1974. Following high school, Studer studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music but left the program after only one year, deciding to move with her family to Tennessee. She continued her studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance in 1979.[5] Studer won several awards and competitions during this time, including the High Fidelity/Musical America Award in 1977 and the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1978.[6]

While in college, Studer attracted the attention of Leonard Bernstein, who offered her full scholarships to study for three consecutive summers at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood (1975 to 1977), where she studied with Phyllis Curtin. She debuted at Tanglewood in 1976 in J. S. Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Seiji Ozawa. Ozawa was so impressed with Studer's performance that he invited her for a series of concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall during the 1978/1979 season.

In the summer of 1979, Studer attended a course for foreign students on the art of the German Lied at the Schubert Institute in Baden bei Wien, Austria. In this program, Studer's teachers included Irmgard Seefried, Brigitte Fassbaender, and Hans Hotter. Hotter convinced Studer to remain in Europe to study further with him at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst, Vienna. Studer studied with Hotter for one year before launching out on her professional career.[7] In 1979, she won the Franz-Schubert-Institut-Preis for excellence in Lied interpretation.[5]



In 1981, Studer was hired as a permanent member of the Bavarian State Opera by Wolfgang Sawallisch. She remained with the company for two consecutive seasons, singing mostly minor roles in their productions. Her lead roles at the Bavarian State Opera included the title role in Carl Maria von Weber's Euryanthe and Mařenka The Bartered Bride.[8] It was while working with the Bavarian State Opera that Studer was first encouraged to study the works of Richard Wagner and the dramatic soprano repertoire. Up to this point she had focused mostly on the bel canto repertoire, with her only foray into German repertoire up to that point being through lieder. She made her professional opera debut with the company as Helmwige in Wagner's Die Walküre.[2] At the end of the 1981/82 season, she left the Munich ensemble to join the Staatstheater Darmstadt for two seasons. In the spring of 1983, Studer's big breakthrough came when she was cast as Violetta in Verdi's La traviata with the Staatstheater Braunschweig. This was followed by two more important roles the following summer: Irene in Wagner's Rienzi and Drola in Wagner's Die Feen, under the direction of Wolfgang Sawallisch at the Bavarian State Opera's Summer Music Festival. In 1984, Studer left the Staatstheater Darmstadt to become a permanent member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin ensemble. She stayed with the company for two full seasons. Also in 1984, Studer made her US opera debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen.

In 1985, Studer garnered international attention with her performance of Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser under the baton of Giuseppe Sinopoli at the Bayreuth Festival. Positive reviews of this performance quickly led Studer to leading roles in the world's most prestigious opera houses.[9] In 1986, Studer made her debut at the Liceu as Freia in Wagner's Das Rheingold and her debut at Opéra de Paris as Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. That same year, she also made her debut with the San Francisco Opera as Eva in Wagner's Die Meistersinger. In 1987, Studer made her debut with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser and her debut at La Scala as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni. In 1988, Studer made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen. That same year she returned to La Scala to perform the role of Mathilde in Rossini's William Tell.[10] She also sang the role of Agathe in Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz at the Théâtre Musical de Paris.[11] In 1989, Studer made her Vienna State Opera and Salzburg Festival debuts playing the same role, Chrysothemis in Richard Strauss' Elektra. That same year, Studer received the Grand Prix du Disque – Prix Maria Callas. Also in 1989, Studer returned to La Scala to perform the role of La Duchesse Hélène in Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani and made her debut with the Opera Company of Philadelphia in the title role of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.[12]


In 1990, Studer returned to the Metropolitan Opera to sing the role of Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni. That same year, Studer sang the role of Elsa in Richard Wagner's Lohengrin at the Vienna State Opera. In 1991, Studer performed two more roles at the Met, Elettra in Mozart's Idomeneo and Violetta in Verdi's La traviata.[13] That same year, Studer sang the role of Odabella in Verdi's Attila at La Scala and Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Vienna State Opera. Also in 1991, Studer shared the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording with fellow artists for a recording of Wagner's Götterdämmerung. In 1992, Studer returned to the Salzburg Festival to perform the role of the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten.[10] That same year, Studer embarked upon her first big European tour, giving acclaimed recitals of mostly German Lieder. With the London Symphony Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus she sang the title role in Rossini's Semiramide and recorded it, also in 1992.

Studer is particularly admired for her interpretations of Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf.[7] In 1993, Studer was chosen by an international jury as the first recipient of the International Classical Music Award (London) in the category Best Female Singer of the Year. That same year, she also received the Wilhelm Furtwängler Prize. Also in 1993, Studer performed the role of Madama Corstese in Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims with the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1994, Studer was chosen as Musical America's Vocalist of the Year. That same year she also received a second Grammy Award for a recording of Floyd's Susannah. Studer sang the title role opposite Samuel Ramey. Also in 1994, Studer returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to sing the title role in Verdi's Aïda.[10]

In 1995, she sang the role of Princess von Werdenberg in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier for the first time at the Salzburg Festival. In 1996, Studer sang the same role at the Vienna State Opera. That same year, Studer returned to the Royal Opera to sing the title role of Richard Strauss' Arabella.[14] She also sang the role of Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio at the Salzburg Festival under the baton of Sir Georg Solti.[2] In 1998, Studer sang the role of Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and Sieglinde in Die Walküre at the Bavarian State Opera.[15] That same year she also sang the role of Primadonna/ Ariadne in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at the Munich, Nationaltheater.[16] During the late 1990s, Studer had a period of vocal problems that led to the Bavarian State Opera canceling her contracts in 1998, but after a brief time off the stage, her performances indicated a return to form and the Bavarian State Opera renewed her contract for fourteen more productions.[6]


In 2000 Studer returned to the Metropolitan Opera to sing the role of Princess von Werdenberg (the Marschallin) in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.[13] That same year, Studer sang the title role of Richard Strauss' Arabella at the Zürich Opera.[17] She also filled in as a last minute Sieglinde in Die Walküre at the Bayreuth Festival.[2] and sang the role of Primadonna/ Ariadne in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos with the Vienna State Opera in Tokyo, Japan.[18] In September 2002, Studer sang the role of Leonore/Fidelio in staged performances at the Opera Thessaloniki, Greece, conducted by Dejan Savic.[19]

In January 2003, Studer sang the soprano part in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in Berlin during UNESCO's official designation of the symphony's manuscript as Memory of the World.[20] Also in January 2003, Studer sang the Marschallin in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier at La Scala in Milan in performances conducted by Jeffrey Tate. Later that year Studer performed excerpts from Richard Wagner operas with the St. Louis Symphony, tenor Mark Baker and bass Eric Halfvarson under the direction of Asher Fisch.[21] St. Louis Post-Dispatch music critic Sarah Bryan Miller praised the performances which included Act I of Die Walküre and Isolde's Liebestod. A week after the concerts, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article by Bryan Miller justifiably criticizing the management of the St. Louis Symphony for "dropping the baton" in promoting the performances.[22] Also in 2003, Studer gave a Liederabend "In Memoriam Maria Callas" in Athens, Greece with pianist Charles Spencer,[23] featuring songs and Lieder by Verdi, Wagner, Barber, Richard Strauss, and Copland. The recital was taped for TV and is now uploaded to YouTube (link can be found under "Television and DVD appearances" on this page).

In October 2005, Studer sang the role of Sieglinde in Richard Wagner's first-ever Ring Cycle in China, at Beijing's Poly Theatre. The cycle was produced by Stephen Lawless for the Staatstheater Nürnberg and the performances were conducted by Philippe Auguin.[24]

In November 2005 it was falsely reported that Studer suffered a mild heart attack, forcing her to cancel a number of scheduled concerts in Spain.[25] Studer actually cancelled one recital because of ill health and has to date never suffered any kind of heart attack.

In June 2007, Studer gave a series of Masterclasses and an all-Richard Strauss Lieder recital with pianist Semyon Skigin in St. Petersburg, Russia. In August 2007, also with pianist Semyon Skigin, Studer sang an all-Richard Strauss Lieder recital at Villa Wahnfried, Bayreuth.

In February 2008, Studer gave a Lieder recital at Teatro Villamarta in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain with pianist Jonathan Alder, featuring Lieder by Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, and Richard Strauss.[26] Later that year in October 2008, Studer gave another Lieder recital at Drake University with pianist Nicholas Roth, featuring songs and Lieder by Rossini, Ravel, Massenet, Albéniz, Brahms, Barber, and Richard Strauss.[27][28] In November 2008, Studer gave another recital in Germany with Dutch pianist Fred Oldenburg featuring Lieder by Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, and Richard Strauss.[29]

In August 2009, Studer sang Richard Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder in Berlin, Germany as part of the short-lived Berlin International Music Festival. Michael Wendeberg conducted the Festival orchestra.[30]

In July 9, 2010, Studer made her official directorial debut in a new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Bayerische Kammeroper (de) in Würzburg, Germany.[31] Also in 2010, Studer directed a production of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at the University for Music in Würzburg, Germany, where she is a professor.

In May 2011, Studer was honored by Portugal's Royal Family with the prestigious Terras sam Sombra International Prize.[32] Later that year, in November 2011, Studer appeared in concert in Nuremberg, Germany,[33] and Antwerp, Belgium,[34] with the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra and its Chief Music Director, Alexander Shelley. The all-Wagner concerts, also featuring Belgian bass-baritone Wilfried Van den Brande,[35] were recorded and will be released as part of the orchestra's "Nürnberger Symphoniker Live" series.[36]

Studer has begun a transition into mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. In December 2011 Studer appeared as Gertrud, her role debut, in performances of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel at the Hamburg State Opera.[37] She revisited the role in 2013, also in Hamburg.

In her 39th year before the public, in May 2014 Studer will debut as Adelaide in Richard Strauss' Arabella at the Hamburg State Opera.[38] In addition, Studer will once again preside over the 38th International Maria Callas Grand Prix for Opera to be held in Athens, Greece in October 2014.[39]

Future plans include her debut as Madame de Croissy in Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites in Austria during 2015/16.[40] Studer is also working with German composer Stefan Heucke [41] on a new opera composition set to premiere during 2016/17. [42] In addition, Studer is reportedly preparing the role of Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal, her 14th Wagner role to date, and presumably that of Countess Madeleine in Richard Strauss' Capriccio as well.[43]

By her own admission, Studer is writing her autobiography.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Studer is married to Greek tenor Michalis Doukakis and resides in Germany as she has for most of her life. From previous marriages, Studer has two daughters, Elsa and Senta, named after characters from Richard Wagner operas. The elder, Senta Studer, is a gifted and accomplished pop music singer. Senta's first solo album, Happy, was released in January 2014.[45] From her new album, hear Senta Studer in "Paper Boat".

Concert work[edit]

From the mid-1980s up until today Studer has performed with some of the world's finest orchestras as a concert soloist. She has sung with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the China Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic among many others. Her concert repertoire includes the great symphonic works and orchestral Lieder by Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi, Bruckner, Rossini, Dvořák and Mahler, Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder and final scenes from Salome and Capriccio, Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder, Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder, Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Ravel's Shéhérazade. Studer has toured extensively as a recitalist, performing throughout Europe and the United States and parts of Asia and South America. Her current recital repertoire includes art songs by Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, R. Strauss, Mahler, Ravel, Massenet, Albéniz, de Falla, Verdi, Rossini, Copland and Barber, among others.

Opera roles[edit]


Complete opera recordings[edit]

Concert recordings[edit]

Solo recordings[edit]

Television and DVD appearances[edit]



  1. ^ BBC Wales – Sopranos and mezzo-sopranos
  2. ^ a b c d Barrymore Laurence Scherer (December 2000). "Cheryl Studer: Chapter Two". Opera News. Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  3. ^ National Obituary Archive(NOA) –
  4. ^ Herbert Henry Dow High School 1973 Charger yearbook
  5. ^ a b Cheryl Studer (Soprano) – Short Biography
  6. ^ a b Cheryl Studer: Information and Much More from
  7. ^ a b Cheryl Studer on Sony BMG Masterworks
  8. ^ Alan Blyth, Grove Music Online
  9. ^ Cheryl Studer | Encompass Arts
  10. ^ a b c Studer, Cheryl – Hutchinson encyclopedia article about Studer, Cheryl
  11. ^ Cheryl Studer Sings Agathe: Der Freischütz – Paris, 1988
  12. ^ Allan Kozinn (26 October 1999). "A Safe Bet and a Risk in Philadelphia". New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Metropolitan Opera Association
  14. ^ World report: reviews of opera from around the world: International
  15. ^ Opera Season 1998
  16. ^ Cheryl Studer Society Bulletin, Winter 1995
  17. ^ Cheryl Studer: Photographs
  18. ^ Opera japonica/Archives/Past Productions 1995–2000
  19. ^ Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini – Dejan Savic – curriculum
  20. ^ unesco heute online Nr. 3/2003
  21. ^ Saint Louis Symphony
  22. ^ "St. Louis Post-Dispatch Archives". 
  23. ^ "Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien". 
  24. ^ Hosting Account Has Expired
  25. ^ Ben Mattison (22 November 2005). "Soprano Cheryl Studer Suffers Mild Heart Attack in Spain". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  26. ^ "Diario de Jerez". 
  27. ^ "Drake Digital News". 
  28. ^ "Nicholas Roth". 
  29. ^ "Gigablast". 
  30. ^ "I Hear Voices". 
  31. ^ "Bayerische Kammeroper". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  32. ^ "Blog Familia Real Portuguesa". 
  33. ^ Nürnberger Symphoniker. "Nürnberger Symphoniker | Konzertdetails". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  34. ^ Nürnberger Symphoniker. "Nürnberger Symphoniker | Konzertdetails". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  35. ^ "Wilfried Van den Brande". 
  36. ^ Alexander Shelley. "Singleview – Journal //". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  37. ^ Opera Nederland review
  38. ^ [1]
  39. ^ "Michael Cacoyannis Foundation". 
  40. ^ "Berlin Summer University of the Arts". 
  41. ^ [2]
  42. ^ "Forum Opera". 
  43. ^ Schütte, Christian (14 December 2011). "Rückkehr auf die Opernbühne". Retrieved 27 May 2012. 
  44. ^ [3]
  45. ^ "Senta Studer's website". 
  46. ^ Cheryl Studer at the Internet Movie Database


External links[edit]