Barbara Hannigan

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Barbara Hannigan
Barbara Hannigan - cropped.jpg
Hannigan performing in Milan in 2008
Born8 May 1971 (1971-05-08) (age 49)
Years active1988–present

Barbara Hannigan CM (born 8 May 1971)[1] is a Canadian soprano and conductor, known for her performances of contemporary opera.[2]


Hannigan's initial musical education came from music teachers in her hometown of Waverley, Nova Scotia in Halifax.[2]

After growing up in Waverley, Hannigan moved to Toronto at the age of 17.[3] 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.[4] 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.


Hannigan is known 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.[5] 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 her.[6] Hans Abrahamsen wrote the symphonic song cycle let me tell you for Hannigan.[7]

Hannigan 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); in 2011 she began to conduct the work in addition to singing the vocal part.[5] Her work in contemporary opera has included singing in the premieres of Louis Andriessen's Writing to Vermeer,[8] Gerald Barry's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant[9] and The Importance of Being Earnest,[10] Jan van de Putte's Wet Snow, Kris Defoort's House of the Sleeping Beauties, and George Benjamin's Written on Skin.[11] She has worked with choreographer Sasha Waltz on productions of Toshio Hosokawa's Matsukaze and Pascal Dusapin's Passion.[12] Hannigan received critical acclaim for her performance in Alban Berg's Lulu, which included dancing on pointe.[13] In 2014, Hannigan sang the role of Marie in Bernd Alois Zimmermann's opera Die Soldaten at the Bavarian State Opera,[14] a production that was streamed live on the internet. For her performance as Marie, she won the 2015 Der Faust (award) in Germany.[15]

Hannigan regularly performs in concert as both soprano and conductor.[16] She has worked with the Berlin Philharmonic,[17] Münchner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony,[18] Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France,[19] Göteborgs Symphoniker, Prague Philharmonic, Mahler Chamber Orchestra,[20] Avanti! Chamber Orchestra,[21] Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Britten Sinfonia, Gulbenkian Orchestra,[22] and The Cleveland Orchestra. 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.[23]

In 2016, Hannigan was made a Member of the Order of Canada, one of Canada's highest civilian honours.[24] She 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."[25]

Other awards include Personalité Musicale de l'Année (Musical Personality of the Year) (Syndicat de la Presse Française, 2012),[26] Singer of the Year (Opernwelt, 2013), and Ehrenpreise, Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik 2018.[27]

Selected discography[edit]

Hannigan's 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)[28] 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.[40] Written on Skin received the Gramophone Award 2014 in the category "Contemporary".

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.[41]

Hannigan's artistic career 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,[42] Dutch television's Canadees Podiumdier (NTR 2014),[43] as well as Mathieu Amalric's short film, C'est presque au bout du monde.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Hannigan was previously married to Dutch theatre director Gijs de Lange [nl].[45][46] Since 2017, she has lived in Paris, France.[47] Since 2015, she has been in a long-term relationship with French actor Mathieu Amalric.[48]


  1. ^ "Sagen Sie jetzt nichts, Barbara Hannigan", Süddeutsche Zeitung, 8 March 2018 (in German)
  2. ^ a b Ivan Hewett (25 September 2011). "Barbara Hannigan: 'You must go all the way'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  3. ^ Roberts, Maria (15 September 2011). "The Spellbinding Ms Hannigan". International Arts Manager. 7 (17): 17, 19. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  4. ^ Cynthia Macdonald (Summer 2004). "Barbara Hannigan". UofT Magazine. University of Toronto. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b Shirley Apthorp (23 September 2011). "In the premiere league". Financial Times. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  6. ^ Barbara Hannigan (Winter 2007). "Gerald Barry: the performer's perspective" (PDF). Oxford Music Now. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  7. ^ Rebecca Schmid (December 2013). "Soprano of our time: Barbara Hannigan". Gramophone.
  8. ^ 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).
  9. ^ Tom Service (16 September 2005). "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Coliseum, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  10. ^ Andrew Clements (27 April 2012). "The Importance of Being Earnest – review (Barbican, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  11. ^ Andrew Clements (8 July 2012). "Written on Skin – review (Grand Théâtre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence)". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  12. ^ Barbara Hannigan. "Creative Moves" (PDF). Opera Canada.
  13. ^ Loomis, George (23 October 2012). "One 'Lulu' Has Little New to Say, While Another Can Do No Wrong". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  14. ^ Die Soldaten Archived 6 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine, performance details, Bavarian State Opera
  15. ^ "Der Faust 2015". Deutscher Bühnenverein (in German).
  16. ^ James R. Oestreich (19 August 2014). "Barbara Hannigan Sings and Conducts at the Lucerne Festival". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Andris Nelsons and Barbara Hannigan". digital Concert Hall. 21 December 2013.
  18. ^ Trish Crawford (5 October 2015). "Barbara Hannigan to sing while conducting in TSO gig". The Star.
  19. ^ "Barbara Hannigan à la tête de l'Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France". France Musique (in French). 26 October 2017.
  20. ^ Sarah Batschelet (18 August 2014). "Barbara Hannigan: What the Hell is Going On? – review (Lucerne Festival)". Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  21. ^ Robert Everett-Green (27 February 2015). "Soprano Barbara Hannigan and a career built on fearless performances". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  22. ^ Tom Service (14 March 2013). "Hannigan: 'Where's the crazy stuff?'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  23. ^ "LUDWIG wint De Ovatie 2014". Concertgebouw. 20 July 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  24. ^ "Olympians, jurists, researchers among 113 new appointments to Order of Canada". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  25. ^ "A mathematician, a logician, a soloist and an Italian avant-gardist are awarded the Rolf Schock Prizes 2018". The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 15 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Barbara Hannigan survole les prix de la critique". Diapason Mag. 24 June 2013.
  27. ^ "Ehrenpreise 2018: Barbara Hannigan". Schallplattenkritik (in German).
  28. ^ Steve Smith (29 June 2008). "Classical Recordings: Of Minimalism, Avant-Garde and Beethoven's Sonatas". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  29. ^ Kim Butterweck (24 November 2015). "Abrahamsen wins music award for let me tell you". Grawemeyer Awards.
  30. ^ "Preis für Barbara Hannigan und Das BR-Symphonieorchester". BR Klassik (in German). 24 November 2015.
  31. ^ "Palmarès des Diapason d'Or 2016". France Musique (in French). 23 November 2016.
  32. ^ "Winnaars Edison Klassiek 2016 Bekend". Edisons (in Dutch). 27 November 2016.
  33. ^ Kate Molleson (5 May 2016). "Barbara Hannigan/Satie: Socrate CD review – artful, intimate confessionals". The Guardian.
  34. ^ "Crazy Girl Crazy". Outthere Music.
  35. ^ "Winners Best Classical Vocal Performance – GRAMMY". GRAMMY awards. 28 January 2018.
  36. ^ "Junos 2018: the complete list of winners". CBC News, 25 March 2018
  37. ^ "Winner 2018 Juno Award: Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral". JUNO Awards. 25 March 2018.
  38. ^ "Beste internationale cd – klassiek: Crazy Girl Crazy". Klara. 15 March 2018.
  39. ^ Anthony Tommasini; James R. Oestreich; David Allen; Seth Colter Walls; Joshua Barone (23 August 2016). "The 25 Best Classical Music Recordings of 2017". The New York Times.
  40. ^ Wendalyn Bartley (30 January 2015). "Barbara Hannigan – Being the Music". The Whole Note. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  41. ^ Ivan Hewett (16 January 2015). "Simon Rattle with Barbara Hannigan and London Symphony Orchestra, Barbican, review: 'in his element'". The Telegraph.
  42. ^ "Barbara Hannigan: Concert and Documentary". Opera News. November 2015.
  43. ^ "Canadees Podiumdier". NTR Podium (in Dutch). 30 March 2014.
  44. ^ "C'est presque au bout du monde". Opéra de Paris 3e Scene.
  45. ^ Christine Lemke-Matwey (26 May 2016). "Sie kann, was sie will". Zeit Online (in German). Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  46. ^ Ben Lawrence (17 September 2017). "Barbara Hannigan interview: 'I serve the music, not the audience'". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  47. ^ Shirley Apthorp (31 May 2019). "Soprano Barbara Hannigan: 'I like the alchemy of the rehearsal room'". Financial Times. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  48. ^ Barone, Joshua (10 October 2019). "The Unsingable Music That Stumped a Diva". Retrieved 20 May 2020 – via

External links[edit]