Barbara Hannigan

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Barbara Hannigan
Barbara Hannigan.jpg
Barbara Hannigan performing with Reinbert de Leeuw
Background information
Born 1971
Waverley, Nova Scotia, Canada
Genres contemporary opera
Occupation(s) Opera singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1988–present
Labels Deutsche Grammophon

Barbara Hannigan (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 the 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 Hosokawa’s Matsukaze and Dusapin’s Passion. [11] In 2014, Hannigan sang the role of Marie in Bernd Alois Zimmermann's opera Die Soldaten at the Bavarian State Opera,[12] a production that was streamed live on the internet.

Hannigan regularly performs in concert as both soprano and conductor.[13] She has worked with the Göteborgs Symphoniker, Prague Philharmonic, Mahler Chamber Orchestra,[14] Avanti Chamber Orchestra,[15] l'Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Britten Sinfonia and Gulbenkian Orchestra.[16] She won the Ovatie 2014 award for her performance as soprano/conductor with her conducting debut at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam with the Ludwig Orchestra.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Hannigan is married to the Dutch theatre director Gijs de Lange (nl).[18] The two of them worked together on stage in a production of The Mikado in 2006.[19]

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)[20] 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 DVD's were released: Alban Berg's Lulu (Bel Air Classiques) and George Benjamin's Written on Skin.[21] Written on Skin received the Gramophone Award 2014 in the category "Contemporary".[22]


  1. ^ a b Ivan Hewett (2011-09-25). "Barbara Hannigan: 'You must go all the way'". 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. 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. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  6. ^ Rebecca Schmid (December 2013). "Soprano of our time: Barbara Hannigan". Gramophone Magazine. 
  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 (2010-12). "Creative Moves" (PDF). Opera Canada. Retrieved 2010-12.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^ Die Soldaten, performance details, Bavarian State Opera
  13. ^ James R. Oestreich (2014-08-19). "Barbara Hannigan Sings and Conducts at the Lucerne Festival". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  14. ^ Sarah Batschelet (2014-08-18). "Barbara Hannigan: What the Hell is Going On? – review (Lucerne Festival)". Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  15. ^ Robert Everett-Green (2015-02-27). "Soprano Barbara Hannigan and a career built on fearless performances". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  16. ^ Tom Service (2013-03-14). "Hannigan: 'Where's the crazy stuff?'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  17. ^ "LUDWIG wint De Ovatie 2014". Concertgebouw. 2014-07-20. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  18. ^ Frederike Bernsten (2010-10-14). "Sopraan Barbara Hannigan zingt Britten in Amsterdam". Telegraaf. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  19. ^ Peter van der Lint (2006-12-08). "'The Mikado' blijkt na twee jaar nog steeds sprankelend". Trouw. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  20. ^ Steve Smith (2008-06-29). "Classical Recordings: Of Minimalism, Avant-Garde and Beethoven's Sonatas". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  21. ^ Wendalyn Bartley (2015-01-30). "Barbara Hannigan – Being the Music". The Whole Note. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  22. ^ Maria Jean Sullivan (2014-09-23). "Gramophone Magazine's Classical Music Awards Winners". Classicalite. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 

External links[edit]