Early life and education
Erika Sunnegårdh was born in Danderyd in Stockholm County. Her parents were both prominent voice teachers: her father, Arne Sunnegårdh, worked with Birgit Nilsson and Jussi Björling and was chorus master at the Royal Swedish Opera and a professor at the Stockholm Conservatory, and her mother, Margareta Backer-Sunnegårdh, was a coloratura soprano. Her half-brother Thomas Sunnegårdh is a tenor.
As a student in Sweden Erika Sunnegårdh attended Adolf Fredrik's Music School in Stockholm. She lived in the U.S. for 23 years starting in 1985; she moved there at 19 to dance, graduated from the Manhattan School of Music in 1992 and earned an M.A. from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, and worked as a waitress, caterer and tour guide in New York, singing at recitals and as a cantor.
Sunnegårdh made her operatic debut in September 2004 at the Malmö Opera in Puccini's Turandot. She subsequently sang Turandot again in Sweden, gave orchestral concerts there, and performed the title role in Beethoven's Fidelio with the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee.
Having already signed a contract with the Metropolitan Opera in May 2004, she made her debut there at short notice at a Saturday matinee on April 1, 2006, singing the title role in Fidelio as a substitute for Karita Mattila. The performance was broadcast in the live Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts series, and she appeared on NBC's Today show the following morning. She was also understudy for Elsa in Wagner's Lohengrin that season and was engaged to sing in the Ring that season, in Mozart's The Magic Flute the following season, and then in spring 2007 as joint lead in Turandot and again in Fidelio. In the event she first sang Turandot there a few weeks in advance of her first scheduled appearance, stepping in for Andrea Gruber.
In Europe, Sunnegårdh sang Turandot at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in January–March 2012, and has performed several times in the title roles in Puccini's Tosca, including as a replacement at the Royal Swedish Opera, and Richard Strauss' Salome, as Lady Macbeth, including at Glyndebourne, and at the Malmö Opera in the title role in Janáček's Jenůfa. She made her singing debut in her hometown of Stockholm as Turandot at the Royal Swedish Opera in autumn 2013. She has also continued to give concert recitals, including of contemporary music such as Carl Unander-Scharin's The world as I see it, to texts by Albert Einstein, with the percussion ensemble Kroumata.
Sunnegårdh has a powerful voice that she has described as "like a wild horse"; coaching from her mother was important in enabling her to gain control of it. Her first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera was greeted warmly by the audience and most of the press, although writing for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini found her hesitant, especially in Act One. The following year, Bernard Holland wrote of her first scheduled appearance in Turandot that she "should be pleased with herself" and that "[s]he is the rare Turandot who both sings like an object of hopeless desire and looks like one".
Since 2011 Sunnegårdh has lived in Vienna, Austria, also the home of her voice teacher Glenys Linos, a retired Greek mezzo-soprano. In 1999 she founded In time with Music, a community outreach program benefiting school children in Queens, New York.
- Mahler, Symphony 8, conducted by Riccardo Chailly. DVD. 2011, Accentus Music.
- Who might sing in all the muted woods? Erika Sunnegårdh sings songs created by Joel Mandelbaum. 2002. Capstone.
- Title role in Leoš Janáček's Jenufa. Malmö Opera. Dir. Marko Ivanovic. DVD. Arthaus 101665.
- Helmwige in Richard Wagner's Die Walküre. Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Grand Théâtre de Provence. conducted by Simon Rattle. 2007. DVD. BelAirClassiques BAC034.
- Excerpts from Fidelio, Tannhäuser, Der fliegende Holländer and Salome; Strauss’s Four Last Songs, with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Will Humburg.
- Ole Rothenborg, "Rösten som bara växte och växte", Dagens Nyheter, September 11, 2004 (in Swedish)
- Clas Barkman, "Sopranen som misstror det perfekta", Dagens Nyheter, July 16, 2006 (in Swedish)
- "Thomas Sunnegårdh artist portrait" Opera Soloists Foundation (in Swedish)
- Erika Sunnegårdh, sopran - MSO "Erika Sunnegårdh, sopran", Medverkar i Julkonserten den 18–20/12, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, retrieved December 25, 2013 (in Swedish)
- Marcus Boldemann, "Skönsång", Dagens Nyheter, February 7, 2007 (in Swedish)
- Daniel J. Wakin, "Stepping Onstage as a Waitress, She May Exit the Met as a Star", The New York Times, April 1, 2006.
- Anthony Tommasini, "Pressure Abounds as Determined Soprano Makes Debut", The New York Times, April 2, 2006, revised April 9, 2006.
- Lennart Pehrson, "Sopranen från ingenstans", Dagens Nyheter, April 2, 2006 (in Swedish)
- Bernard Holland, "A Substitute No More, a Soprano Gets Her Own Spotlight", The New York Times, April 24, 2007.
- George Hall, "Macbeth: Glyndebourne, Sussex", The Guardian, July 15, 2010.
- Erika Sunnegårdh: Lördag 15 juli 2006 kl 13:05, Sommar & Vinter i P1, Sveriges Radio, retrieved December 19, 2013 (in Swedish)
- "Debut Solo Album with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra", Kickstarter, October 29, 2013 – December 1, 2013.
- Daniel J. Wakin, "Thrust Onto an Opera Stage, And Greeted by a 'Wall of Love'", The New York Times, April 2, 2006.
- "Brunch for Erika Sunnegardh", Nordstjernan, July 18, 2011
- "Erika Sunnegårdh", Oper Frankfurt artist portrait season 2013/2014, retrieved December 22, 2013.