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Jane Eaglen was born 4 April 1960 in Lincoln, England, in the East Midlands. It was a neighbour who first spotted Jane's musical interest, and she started piano lessons at the age of five, continuing until she was sixteen. Her piano teacher then suggested she take singing lessons, and for a year she studied with a local teacher. "One day you will sing Norma and Brünnhilde", her teacher told her to which Jane asked "Are they good?" "Yeah, yeah", her teacher replied, "they're pretty good". Eaglen confesses she didn't know anything about opera back then. She just knew her voice sounded like a choirboy's - sweet and pure - and that the sound wasn't suited to pop music.
After having been turned down by the Guildhall School in London, Jane auditioned at age eighteen for Joseph Ward, the voice professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Ward recognized her potential, and took Ms. Eaglen on as a student. Within weeks Ward had directed her toward the roles such as Norma and Brünnhilde. "He spotted four or five notes in the middle of my voice that sounded like something", Eaglen recalls. "He believed that I'd sing the opera of Bellini and Wagner eventually, so we might as well start finding a way to make my voice travel by beginning to learn the music and the styles. We worked on bits from Bellini and Wagner from the time I was 18. But it was only the bits I could sing - lines from 'Casta Diva' from Norma or Sieglinde's music from Die Walküre, but without the high notes" Said Ward, "It's better to learn the style of what you will sing, even if you don't have the notes".
In 1984 she joined the English National Opera, and spent a couple of years singing the First Lady in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Berta, the servant in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. Other roles included Leonora in Verdi's Il Trovatore. When she was cast as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, audiences went wild.
Eaglen broke into the major opera scene when she was cast as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Scottish Opera. She went on to sing Brünnhilde and the title roles in Tosca and Norma with that company. She made her American debut as Norma in 1994 with Seattle Opera as a last-minute replacement for Carol Vaness, and followed, two weeks later with Brünnhilde at Opera Pacific, a last-minute replacement for Ealynn Voss.
Eaglen has played the contrasting roles of Isolde (for the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Gran Teatro del Liceu (Barcelona), Lyric Opera of Chicago, and in Puerto Rico), Leonore, and Brünnhilde (performed in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Milan, New York and the UK).
Other major performances include Bellini's Norma (performed for the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Ravenna Festival with Maestro Muti, and the Bastille); Ariadne for Seattle Opera and in London; Senta (Der Fliegende Holländer) in concert with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; Ortrud (Lohengrin) for Seattle Opera; La Gioconda in Chicago and London; Donna Anna in New York, Vienna, Los Angeles, Munich and Bologna; and many others.
Her work on the concert platform includes performances of Strauss’ Four Last Songs with Daniel Barenboim with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Gerard Schwarz with the Czech Philharmonic; Strauss’ final scene of Salome with Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, and Sir Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra; Wagner’s Immolation Scene with both Bernard Haitink and Jeffrey Tate and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Zubin Mehta and the NY Phil; Verdi's Requiem with Daniele Gatti and the Orchestra of St Cecilia, Rome; Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with Klaus Tennstedt; Nabucco with Riccardo Muti for the Ravenna Festival; Gurrelieder with Claudio Abbado for the Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals; Die Walküre and Siegfried with James Conlon in Cologne; and many others.
Eaglen's many solo albums include arias by Wagner and Bellini, arias by Strauss and Mozart, Strauss’ Four Last Songs and other song cycles, and Italian Opera Arias. Her recording of Wagner’s Tannhäuser with Daniel Barenboim for Teldec earned a Grammy for 'Best Complete Opera'. She may also be heard in Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with Chailly for Decca; in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with Abbado for Sony; as Tosca for Chandos; as Norma with Muti for EMI, and in the title role of Opera Rara’s recently re-released Medea in Corinto. In addition, Eaglen is featured on Sony’s soundtrack for the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
Her 2007 season included Isolde in Tristan und Isolde in Spain; Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at Vancouver; Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer in the U.S.; Tosca in Japan; Ariadne auf Naxos in Hungary; and Brünnhilde in Die Walküre in Norway. She will appear in concert in Washington, D.C., Montreal, Italy, Budapest, Seattle, Prague, Barcelona, the UK, and other venues worldwide.
While continuing to perform, Eaglen has increased her educational and pedagological endeavors. She was named an honorary Doctor of Musical Arts in 2005 from McGill University, Montreal. Formerly a member of the voice faculty at Baldwin-Wallace College, she currently teaches at New England Conservatory and is on the artistic faculty of the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program. In conjunction with her performance travel, Ms. Eaglen works with artist programs such as the Merola Opera Program and the Cardiff International Academy of Voice, and frequently teaches master classes.
In July 2009 Jane Eaglen received an honorary Doctorate from Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln. She became a Doctor of the University College.
In 2010, Jane was named International Fellow in Voice at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow, where she will give master classes and recitals. She is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music.
Audio and Video Recordings
- Jane Eaglen: Italian Opera Arias (2001)
- Jane Eaglen: Four Last Songs (2000)
- Jane Eaglen: Mozart & Strauss (1998)
- Jane Eaglen: Bellini & Wagner (1996)
- Wagner: Götterdämmerung (2006-Haitink)
- Mahler: Complete Symphonies (2005-Chailly)
- Beethoven: Symphony 9 (2004-Abbado)
- Pasatieri: Letter to Warsaw (2004-Schwarz)
- Puccini: Turandot (2002-Parry)
- Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer (2002-Barenboim)
- Wagner: Tannhäuser (2002-Barenboim)
- Verdi: Aida (2001-Parry)
- Bellini: Norma (1999-Muti)
- Bruckner: Messe No.3 and Te Deum (1997-Welser-Most)
- Puccini: Tosca (1996-Parry)
- Schulhoff: Flammen (1996)
- Bellini: Norma (1995-Muti)
- Mayr: Medea in Corinto (1994-Parry)
- Wagner: Götterdämmerung (1991-Haitink)
- Escape Through Opera (2001)
- Great Arias & Ensembles Vol 2 (2001)
- Sony Classical - Great Performances 1903-1998 (1999)
- Great Arias & Ensembles (1999)
- Opera Rara Collection (1998)
- Lost Empires Sdtk (1995)
- Sense and Sensibility Sdtk (1995)
- Jane Eaglen - Wagner (1995)
- Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (2004-Levine)
- Last Night of the Proms 2000 (2002)
- "Fellows and Honorary Members". Royal Northern College of Music.
- Eaglen's official website
- University of Washington School of Music, Faculty Biography
- Seattle Opera
- Merola Program
- Cardiff International Academy of Voice