Cheryl Studer

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Cheryl Studer (born October 24, 1955) is a Grammy Award winning American dramatic soprano[1] who has sung at many of the world's major opera houses. Studer has performed more than eighty roles ranging from the dramatic repertoire to roles more commonly associated with lyric sopranos and coloratura sopranos, and, in her late stage, mezzo-sopranos. 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 Carl W. Studer and Elizabeth (née Smith) Studer, as one of three children.[2]

She studied piano and viola as a child, and began voice lessons at age 12 with Gwendolyn Pike, a local opera singer and voice teacher.[3]

She 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 a 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.[3] She won several awards and competitions during this time, including the High Fidelity/Musical America Award in 1977 and the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1978.[citation needed]

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 later invited her for a series of concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall during the 1978-79 season.[citation needed]

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.[5] In 1979, she won the Franz-Schubert-Institut-Preis for excellence in Lied interpretation.[6]



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.[7] 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.[8]

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. She made her US opera debut the same year with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Micaëla in 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 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. She sang Agathe in Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz at the Théâtre Musical de Paris.[10]

In 1989, she 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, she 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.[11]


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. She sang the role of Gilda in Act III of Verdi's Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera's 25th Anniversary Gala, opposite Luciano Pavarotti and Leo Nucci.[12] In 1990, she also sang Odabella in Verdi's Attila at La Scala and Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Vienna State Opera. In 1991, she also shared the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording with fellow artists for a recording of Wagner's Götterdämmerung.[citation needed] In May 1991, she joined pianist Bruno Canino, conductor Claudio Abbado, and the Berlin Philharmonic for the first Europakonzert held in Prague's Smetana Hall. In 1992, Studer returned to the Salzburg Festival to perform the role of the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten. That same year, Studer embarked upon her first big European tour, giving 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.[citation needed]

In 1993, she 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.[citation needed] 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 received a second Grammy Award for her recording of Floyd's Susannah.[citation needed]

She 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 and made her Carnegie Hall debut in a Lieder recital accompanied by pianist Irwin Gage. She returned to Carnegie Hall in 1996 to perform Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs with the Staatskapelle Dresden under the baton of Giuseppe Sinopoli.[citation needed]

In 1995, she sang the role of Princess von Werdenberg in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier for the first time at the Salzburg Festival. Also in 1995, Studer appeared in concert with her hometown orchestra, the Midland Symphony Orchestra, in Midland, Michigan, during the orchestra's 60th anniversary season.[13] 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 and revisited the title role in Aïda opposite Waltraud Meier as Amneris in performances at the Bavarian State Opera. She sang Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio at the Salzburg Festival in 1997 under the baton of Sir Georg Solti.[8]

In 1998, she sang Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and Sieglinde in Die Walküre at the Bavarian State Opera.[14] That same year she also sang Primadonna/Ariadne in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at the Munich Nationaltheater.[15]

In February 1998 she teamed up with Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, and Craig Rutenberg to perform I Hear America Singing at the Barbican Centre in London. In April 1998, Studer sang the Marschallin in a gala performance of the complete opera (Der Rosenkavalier) at the Dresden Semperoper celebrating the 450th anniversary of the orchestra.[citation needed] In July 1998, she sang a Liederabend for the Richard Wagner Society at the Markgräfliches Opernhaus (Margravial or Margrave's Opera House) in Bayreuth celebrating the 250th anniversary of the house. 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 performances.[16]


In 2000 Studer returned to the Metropolitan Opera to sing the role of Princess von Werdenberg (the Marschallin) in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. That same year, Studer sang the title role of Richard Strauss' Arabella at the Zürich Opera. She also filled in as a last minute Sieglinde in Die Walküre at the Bayreuth Festival substituting for an ailing Waltraud Meier.[8] and sang the role of Primadonna/ Ariadne in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos with the Vienna State Opera in Yokohama, Japan.[citation needed]

In 2000, she also sang Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs with the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of David Zinman substituting for an ailing Claudio Abbado. In February 2001, Studer sang the role of the Kaiserin (Empress) in Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Dresden Semperoper under the baton of Giuseppe Sinopoli. She revisited the role at the Vienna State Opera in 2002 in the Robert Carsen production. Around this time, Studer also sang back-to-back performances of the Kaiserin and the Marschallin at the Semperoper under the baton of Dietfried Bernert. In June 2001, Studer sang Elisabeth in performances of Werner Herzog's production of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser at the Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[17]

In February 2002 she made a rare U.S. appearance singing Isolde's Liebestod with the Indianapolis Symphony. In September 2002, Studer sang the role of Leonore/Fidelio in staged performances at the Opera Thessaloniki, Greece.[citation needed]

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.[18] In January 2003, she sang the Marschallin in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier at La Scala in Milan in performances conducted by Jeffrey Tate. In May 2003, she sang her last performances as Senta in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Later that year, in another series of rare U.S. appearances, 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.[citation needed]

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 criticizing the management of the St. Louis Symphony for "dropping the baton" in promoting the performances.[19] Also in 2003, she gave a Liederabend "In Memoriam Maria Callas" in Athens, Greece with pianist Charles Spencer,[20] featuring songs and Lieder by Verdi, Wagner, Barber, Richard Strauss, and Copland.

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. In November 2005 it was reported, but never confirmed, that Studer had suffered a mild heart attack, forcing her to cancel a number of scheduled concerts in Spain.[21]

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, she 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.[22] 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.[23][24]

In November 2008, she gave another recital in Germany with Dutch pianist Fred Oldenburg featuring Lieder by Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, and Richard Strauss.[25] 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.[26]

2010 – present[edit]

In 9 July 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.[27] 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.[citation needed]

In May 2011, she was honored by Portugal's Royal Family with the prestigious Terras sam Sombra International Prize.[28] Later that year, in November 2011, she appeared in concert in Nuremberg and Antwerp, Belgium, 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,[29] were recorded and will be released as part of the orchestra's "Nürnberger Symphoniker Live" series.[30]

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.[31] She revisited the role in 2013, also in Hamburg. In 2012 she was a recipient of the Ovation Award by the Interlochen Center for the Arts.[32]

In her 39th year before the public, May 2014 saw her debut as Adelaide in Richard Strauss' Arabella at the Hamburg State Opera.[33] In October 2014, Studer will once again preside over the 38th International Maria Callas Grand Prix for Opera to be held in Athens, Greece.[34] In February 2015 Studer will debut as Madame de Croissy in Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites at the Stadttheater Klagenfurt [35] in Austria. Concert appearances in Denmark and Hong Kong follow in 2015.

Future plans include a collaboration with German composer Stefan Heucke[36] on a new opera composition set to premiere during 2016/17.[37][38] and Herodias in Strauss' Salome.[39]

Studer has announced that she intends to publish an autobiography.[40]

Concert work[edit]

Studer 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 Gurrelieder, 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]

Masterclasses, opera workshops, adjudication[edit]

Since October 2003, Cheryl Studer has a lifetime professorship from the Bavarian State and teaches at the University of Music in Würzburg. She is also honorary Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Cheryl Studer conducts a yearly series of master classes and opera workshops at her own North Aegean Music Festival in the island of Lesbos, Greece.[41] She conducts Master Classes internationally (USA, Greece, South Korea, China, Spain, Italy and Germany)[42] and is often jury member for voice competitions, including the Concurso Internacional de Canto Julián Gayarre, ARD Wettbewerb, Maria Callas Grand Prix, and Internationale Schubert-Wettbewerb Dortmund.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Studer is married to Greek tenor Michalis Doukakis and has lived in Germany 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, is a pop music singer. Her first solo album, Happy, was released in January 2014.[43]


Complete opera recordings[edit]

Concert recordings[edit]

Solo recordings[edit]



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  14. ^ "Opera season: Munich". New York Times. November 7, 1997. Retrieved June 13, 2014. 
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  16. ^
  17. ^ "Folha de S. Paulo". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  18. ^ unesco heute online Nr. 3/2003,; accessed June 5, 2015.(German)
  19. ^ "St. Louis Post-Dispatch Archives". 
  20. ^ "Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  21. ^ Ben Mattison (November 22, 2005). "Soprano Cheryl Studer Suffers Mild Heart Attack in Spain". Playbill Arts. Retrieved March 25, 2008. 
  22. ^ "Diario de Jerez". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Drake Digital News". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Nicholas Roth". October 1, 2008. 
  25. ^ "Gigablast". 
  26. ^ "I Hear Voices". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Bayerische Kammeroper" (in German). Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Blog Familia Real Portuguesa". 
  29. ^ "Wilfried Van den Brande". 
  30. ^ Alexander Shelley. "Singleview". Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
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  32. ^ "Interlochen Center for the Arts". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  33. ^ "Hamburgische Staatsoper - Arabella" (in German). May 30, 2014. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Michael Cacoyannis Foundation". 
  35. ^ "Stadttheater Klagenfurt". 
  36. ^ "Stefan Heucke". 
  37. ^ "Forum Opera". 
  38. ^ Schütte, Christian (December 14, 2011). "Rückkehr auf die Opernbühne". Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Opera News". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  40. ^ Cheryl Studer (September 8, 2012). "Cheryl Studer's singing and teaching blog". Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  41. ^ "North Aegean Music Festival". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  42. ^ "Cheryl Studer Masterclasses". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  43. ^ "Senta Studer website". Retrieved June 5, 2015. 

External links[edit]