Barbara Hannigan

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Barbara Hannigan
Barbara Hannigan - cropped.jpg
Hannigan performing at the Piccolo Teatro Strehler in Milan on 6 September 2008
Born 1971 (age 46–47)
Waverley, Nova Scotia, Canada
Years active 1988–present

Barbara Hannigan CM (born 1971) is a Canadian soprano and conductor, and one of the world's leading performers of contemporary opera.[1]


Hannigan's initial musical education came from the music teachers in her hometown of Waverley, Nova Scotia in Halifax.[1]

After growing up in Waverley, Hannigan moved to Toronto at the age of 17.[2] She studied music at the University of Toronto, where her teachers included Mary Morrison. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1993 and a Master of Music degree in 1998.[3] She continued her studies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Festival, and the Centre d'arts Orford. She also studied for one year at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, where her teachers included Meinard Kraak. Other teachers have included Neil Semer.


Hannigan is particularly renowned for her performances of contemporary music. Her advocacy of contemporary music began in her youth, and she sang her first world premiere at the age of 17. As of 2011, she has premiered approximately 75 contemporary compositions.[4] These include One by Michel van der Aa (2002), the song cycle Auf der Suche nach meinem Gesicht by Friedrich Cerha (2007), and La plus forte by Gerald Barry (2007), which the composer wrote specifically for Hannigan.[5] Hans Abrahamsen wrote the symphonic song cycle let me tell you for Hannigan.[6]

She is particularly noted for her performances of György Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre (a concert version of a scene from his opera Le Grand Macabre), and in 2011, she began to conduct the work in addition to singing the vocal part.[4] Her work in contemporary opera has included singing in the premieres of Louis Andriessen's Writing to Vermeer,[7] Gerald Barry's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant[8] and The Importance of Being Earnest,[9] Jan van de Putte's Wet Snow, Kris Defoort's House of the Sleeping Beauties, and George Benjamin's Written on Skin.[10] She has worked with choreographer Sasha Waltz on productions of Toshio Hosokawa's Matsukaze and Pascal Dusapin's Passion.[11] Hannigan received critical acclaim for her performance in Alban Berg's Lulu, which included dancing on pointe.[12] In 2014, Hannigan sang the role of Marie in Bernd Alois Zimmermann's opera Die Soldaten at the Bavarian State Opera,[13] a production that was streamed live on the internet. For her performance as Marie, she won the 2015 Der Faust (award) in Germany.[14]

Hannigan regularly performs in concert as both soprano and conductor.[15] She has worked with the Berlin Philharmonic [16], Münchner Philharmoniker, Toronto Symphony [17], l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, [18], Göteborgs Symphoniker, Prague Philharmonic, Mahler Chamber Orchestra,[19] Avanti! Chamber Orchestra,[20] Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Britten Sinfonia and Gulbenkian Orchestra.[21] She won the Ovatie 2014 award for her performance as soprano/conductor with her conducting debut at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with the Ludwig Orchestra.[22]

In 2016, Hannigan was made a Member of the Order of Canada, one of Canada's highest civilian honours.[23] Barbara Hannigan was a recipient of the Rolf Schock Prize 2018 in the Musical Arts. The jury commented: "Hannigan is an extraordinary and innovative performer with a dynamic and intensive approach to the music she performs, often pure virtuoso stage interpretations, in which she often simultaneously assumes both the role of soloist and conductor. Her repertoire covers an impressive field, with great interest in new music. For a number of years she has also run a unique mentoring project, Equilibrium Young Artists, which focuses on young and newly professional musicians around the world." [24]

Other awards include Personalité Musicale de l'Année (Musical Personality of the Year) (Syndicat de la Presse Francaise, 2012) [25], Singer of the Year (Opernwelt, 2013), and Ehrenpreise, Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik 2018. [26]

Selected discography[edit]

Her commercial recordings in contemporary music include the premiere recording of Henri Dutilleux's Correspondances (Deutsche Grammophon) and Louis Andriessen's Writing to Vermeer (Nonesuch), music of Luca Francesconi (Kairos)[27] and of Harry Freedman (Centrediscs). She is also featured on four Naxos recordings of vocal works of George Frideric Handel, L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, Gideon, Rinaldo, and Tobit.

In 2014 two DVDs were released: Alban Berg's Lulu (Bel Air Classiques) and George Benjamin's Written on Skin. [37] Written on Skin received the Gramophone Award 2014 in the category "Contemporary".

Barbara Hannigan is featured on the London Symphony Orchestra DVD Stravinsky, released in 2017 on the LSO Live label, Simon Rattle conducting, performing Alban Berg's Three Fragments from Wozzeck and Gyorgy Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre. [38]

Barbara Hannigan’s life as an artist has been the subject of two documentaries: Accentus Music’s documentary I’m a creative animal, produced at Lucerne Festival 2014 where she was Artiste Etoile [39], Dutch television's Canadees Podiumdier (NTR 2014) [40], as well as Mathieu Amalric's short film, C'est presque au bout du monde.[41]


Hannigan's ex-husband is the Dutch theatre director Gijs de Lange (nl).[42][43]


  1. ^ a b Ivan Hewett (2011-09-25). "Barbara Hannigan: 'You must go all the way'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  2. ^ Roberts, Maria (15 September 2011). "The Spellbinding Ms Hannigan". International Arts Manager. 7 (17): 17, 19. 
  3. ^ Cynthia Macdonald (Summer 2004). "Barbara Hannigan". UofT Magazine. University of Toronto. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  4. ^ a b Shirley Apthorp (2011-09-23). "In the premiere league". Financial Times. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  5. ^ Barbara Hannigan (Winter 2007). "Gerald Barry: the performer's perspective" (PDF). Oxford Music Now. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-29. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  6. ^ Rebecca Schmid (December 2013). "Soprano of our time: Barbara Hannigan". Gramophone. 
  7. ^ Trochimczyk, Maja, "Writing to Vermeer: A View of a 'Filmic' Opera" (Chapter 12), from The Music of Louis Andriessen (Maja Trochimczyk, editor). Routledge (Taylor & Francis, New York City), p. 259 (ISBN 0-8153-3789-2).
  8. ^ Tom Service (2005-09-16). "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Coliseum, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  9. ^ Andrew Clements (2012-04-27). "The Importance of Being Earnest – review (Barbican, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  10. ^ Andrew Clements (2012-07-08). "Written on Skin – review (Grand Théâtre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  11. ^ Barbara Hannigan. "Creative Moves" (PDF). Opera Canada. 
  12. ^ Loomis, George (2012-10-23). "One 'Lulu' Has Little New to Say, While Another Can Do No Wrong". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-29. 
  13. ^ Die Soldaten, performance details, Bavarian State Opera
  14. ^ "DER FAUST 2015". Deutscher Bühnenverein (in German). 
  15. ^ James R. Oestreich (2014-08-19). "Barbara Hannigan Sings and Conducts at the Lucerne Festival". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  16. ^ "Andris Nelsons and Barbara Hannigan". digital Concert Hall. 2013-12-21. 
  17. ^ Trish Crawford (2015-10-05). "Barbara Hannigan to sing while conducting in TSO gig". The Star. 
  18. ^ "Barbara Hannigan à la tête de l'Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France". France Musique (in French). 2017-10-26. 
  19. ^ Sarah Batschelet (2014-08-18). "Barbara Hannigan: What the Hell is Going On? – review (Lucerne Festival)". Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  20. ^ Robert Everett-Green (2015-02-27). "Soprano Barbara Hannigan and a career built on fearless performances". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  21. ^ Tom Service (2013-03-14). "Hannigan: 'Where's the crazy stuff?'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  22. ^ "LUDWIG wint De Ovatie 2014". Concertgebouw. 2014-07-20. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  23. ^ "Olympians, jurists, researchers among 113 new appointments to Order of Canada". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  24. ^ "A mathematician, a logician, a soloist and an Italian avant-gardist are awarded the Rolf Schock Prizes 2018". The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 2018-03-15. 
  25. ^ "Barbara Hannigan survole les prix de la critique". Diapason Mag. 2013-06-24. 
  26. ^ "Ehrenpreise 2018: Barbara Hannigan". Schallplattenkritik (in German). 
  27. ^ Steve Smith (2008-06-29). "Classical Recordings: Of Minimalism, Avant-Garde and Beethoven's Sonatas". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  28. ^ Kim Butterweck (2015-11-24). "Abrahamsen wins music award for let me tell you". Grawemeyer Awards. 
  29. ^ "Preis für Barbara Hannigan und Das BR-Symphonieorchester". BR Klassik (in German). 2015-11-24. 
  30. ^ "Palmarès des Diapason d'Or 2016". France Musique (in French). 2016-11-23. 
  31. ^ "Winnaars Edison Klassiek 2016 Bekend". Edisons (in Dutch). 2016-11-27. 
  32. ^ Kate Molleson (2016-05-05). "Barbara Hannigan/Satie: Socrate CD review – artful, intimate confessionals". The Guardian. 
  33. ^ "Crazy Girl Crazy". Outthere Music. 
  34. ^ "Winners Best Classical Vocal Performance - GRAMMY". GRAMMY awards. 2018-01-28. 
  35. ^ "Beste internationale cd - klassiek: Crazy Girl Crazy". Klara. 2018-03-15. 
  36. ^ Anthony Tommasini, James R. Oestreich, David Allen, Seth Colter Walls, Joshua Barone (2016-08-23). "The 25 Best Classical Music Recordings of 2017". The New York Times. 
  37. ^ Wendalyn Bartley (2015-01-30). "Barbara Hannigan – Being the Music". The Whole Note. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  38. ^ Ivan Hewett (2015-01-16). "Simon Rattle with Barbara Hannigan and London Symphony Orchestra, Barbican, review: 'in his element'". The Telegraph. 
  39. ^ "Barbara Hannigan: Concert and Documentary". Opera News. 2015-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  40. ^ "Canadees Podiumdier". NTR Podium (in Dutch). 2014-03-30. 
  41. ^ "C'est presque au bout du monde". Opéra de Paris 3e Scene. 
  42. ^ Christine Lemke-Matwey (2016-05-26). "Sie kann, was sie will". Zeit Online (in German). Retrieved 2017-05-11. 
  43. ^ Ben Lawrence (2017-09-17). "Barbara Hannigan interview: 'I serve the music, not the audience'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-09-17. 

External links[edit]