Malena Ernman

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Malena Ernman
Ernman in 2012
Sara Magdalena Ernman

(1970-11-04) 4 November 1970 (age 53)
Uppsala, Sweden
SpouseSvante Thunberg
Children2, including Greta Thunberg
RelativesOlof Thunberg (father-in-law)
Musical career
Years active1998–present
  • Bis
  • Sony
  • Opus Arte
  • Roxy Recordings Stockholm

Sara Magdalena Ernman (born 4 November 1970) is a Swedish mezzo-soprano opera singer. Besides operas and operettas, she has also performed chansons, cabaret, jazz, and appeared in musicals. She is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. Ernman represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 with the song "La Voix", finishing in 21st place.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Ernman performing at Skansen in Stockholm during the Swedish National Day in June 2016

Early life[edit]

Ernman was born in Uppsala, Sweden, spent her childhood and school years in Sandviken, and was educated at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, the Music Conservatory in Orléans, France, and the school of the Royal Swedish Opera.[2] She is married to actor Svante Thunberg, with whom she had appeared in a 2000 Swedish television musical documentary about the composer Joseph Martin Kraus, played by Thunberg.[3] Together they have two daughters: singer Beata Ernman,[4] and climate activist Greta Thunberg.[5]


In 1997, Ernman sang in the premiere of Ivar Hallström's 1897 opera Liten Karin in Vadstena; Opera magazine noted that "the mezzo Malena Ernman was very expressive as Princess Cecilia, King Erik XIV's sister".[6] In 1998, her Rosina in The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera in Stockholm was described as "displaying impressive technique" and "shaping the character with mocking good humour".[7] The same year, she sang Kaja in the premiere of Sven-David Sandström's Staden under Leif Segerstam also at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, where one reviewer commented that "in vocal focus and expression, her full, rich voice is not that far behind Bartoli".[8] In July 1999, Ernman sang the trouser role of Ziöberg in the premiere of Jonas Forssell's Trädgården (The Garden) at the Drottningholm Palace Theatre in Stockholm, conducted by Roy Goodman, the first new opera to be premiered at the theatre in modern times.[9]

In Brussels in 2000, her Nerone in Handel's Agrippina, alongside Rosemary Joshua's Poppea and Anna Caterina Antonacci's Aggripina was described as "the most convincingly brattish young man imaginable".[10]

In 2001, Ernman sang Sesto in Handel's Giulio Cesare at the Drottningholm Festival.[citation needed] She sang at the Glyndebourne Festival, in the Summer of 2002 as Nancy in Albert Herring[11] and the next summer as Prince Orlovsky in Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus,[12] which was also performed at the BBC Proms that year.[13]

In 2002/2003 Ernman appeared in Vienna as Diana in La Calisto. In 2003/2004 she sang the part of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni at La Monnaie in Brussels and appeared at the Aix-en-Provence Festival as Lichas in Hercules by George Frideric Handel, with Les Arts Florissants under conductor William Christie, revived at the Paris Opera and at the Vienna Festival.[12]

In the spring and summer of 2005, Ernman created the title role in Philippe Boesmans's Julie, appearing at la Monnaie, at the Vienna Festival, and in Aix-en-Provence.[12] In 2006 she sang as Nerone in L'incoronazione di Poppea in Brussels and Berlin, then as Dido in Dido and Aeneas with William Christie at the Vienna Festival.[14] She also sang in Agrippina at Oper Frankfurt.[12]

In August 2006, Ernman made her debut at the Salzburg Festival as Annio in La clemenza di Tito under conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.[12] In 2007, her roles included Sesto in Giulio Cesare with René Jacobs in Vienna, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro with Daniel Harding in Aix-en-Provence, and Nerone in L'incoronazione di Poppea in Amsterdam. In 2008 she sang Angelina in La Cenerentola with the Royal Swedish Opera and Dido and Aeneas with Christie and the Opéra-Comique in Paris. In 2009 she reprised Angelina in La Cenerentola with Oper Frankfurt and the Swedish Royal Opera, and Dido in Dido and Aeneas with Christie in Vienna and Amsterdam. In 2010, she sang the castrato role of Idamante in Idomeneo under Jérémie Rhorer at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, where her "feisty" portrayal of the prince was "as if to the gender born, her efforts rewarded by the inclusion of the usually cut aria 'No, la morte'.[15] Vienna saw her in the title role of Serse by Handel in October 2011 at the Theater an der Wien,[16] and the following season she sang Eduige in the Nicolas Harnoncourt-led production of Handel's Rodelinda at the same house, later released on DVD. Back in the city as Elena in La donna del lago in August 2012, she was "impressive... dealing with the vocal difficulties with aplomb and managing the extra dramatic demands made on her with genuine expressivity".[17] She added Béatrice to her repertoire in 2013 in performances at Theater an der Wien of Berlioz's late opéra-comique.[18] Also in 2013 she returned to the part of Aggripina at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, in a production by David McVicar conducted by Harry Bicket.[19]

Ernman has sung several major roles with the Staatsoper Berlin, including Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and Zerlina in Don Giovanni, both under conductor Daniel Barenboim. She also performed Rosina in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia with Staatsoper Berlin and the Finnish National Opera. With the Royal Opera Stockholm she has also sung the title role in Carmen.[12]

Ernman worked with conductor René Jacobs in the roles of Nerone in Agrippina, Roberto in Scarlatti's Griselda and Diana in Cavalli's La Calisto.[12]

In 2018, she sang Gabriella in the Swedish musical Så som i himmelen (As It Is in Heaven), based on a 2004 film of the same name, with words by Kay Pollak and Carin Pollak and the score by Fredrik Kempe, which premiered at the Oscarsteatern in September 2018.[20]


Early recitals on Swedish Radio included Rachmaninov in 1994, The airconditioned nightmare by Olov Olofsson, songs by Gunnar de Frumerie, and an eclectic mix of Fauré, Debussy, Jolivet, Ravel, Bizet, Barber, Ives and Lehrer in 1996, Brahms lieder, and works by Carlid, Mahler and Berio in 1998.[21] Ernman has performed several concert pieces as well. At the Salzburg Festival she sang Mozart's "Waisenhausmesse" with conductor Frans Brüggen. She performed Berio's "Folksongs" with the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Carlo Rizzi, and at the Verbier Festival with Gustavo Dudamel. She sang the world premiere of "Nachtgesänge" by Fabian Müller with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. In Minneapolis she sang Mozart's "Requiem" with Arnold Östman.[12]

2009 Melodifestivalen and Eurovision[edit]

Ernman at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest

On 28 November 2008, it was announced that Ernman would enter Melodifestivalen 2009 for the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 with the song "La voix," written by Fredrik Kempe. On 28 February 2009, Ernman competed in the 4th semi-final of Melodifestivalen in Malmö and became a finalist.[22] She went on to win the final on 14 March at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, and to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow. She qualified as a finalist on 12 May and performed in the finals on 16 May, where she finished 21st with 33 points.[23] "La voix" was the first Swedish entry to contain a substantial amount of French lyrics; it was written by Ernman herself, who speaks French fluently.[23] Prior to the competition a documentary about the life and career of Ernman was broadcast on Swedish television entitled 'Rösternas Malena' ('The voice of Malena').[24]

Ernman revealed that the dress for her Eurovision performance cost 400,000 kronor (€37,471) and was made by designer Camilla Thulin.[25] Singer Dea Norberg joined Ernman as one of the choirgirls. Ernman later participated in the Second Chance round of Melodifestivalen 2015 as a guest singer for Behrang Miri's entry.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Ernman is married to Swedish actor Svante Thunberg.[27] Their first daughter Greta Thunberg rose to worldwide prominence when she initiated the School Strike for Climate.[28] She also has a younger daughter, who is three years younger. Ernman's career was taking off when Greta was born, and Svante stayed at home to look after their children.[29]

In August 2014, 11-year-old Greta suddenly stopped eating, talking, reading, or wanting to do anything. This condition lasted for several months, until she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. The acute period of her daughter's condition affected Ernman and her family to such an extent that she had three breakdowns during her professional activity and five performances had to be cancelled. After the crisis was overcome, she turned to the nationwide daily newspaper Expressen, which reported it in detail, because she wanted to help other families in a similar situation.[30]

Ernman has been politically active in support of the Paris Agreement; in June 2017 she wrote a collaborative debate piece in Dagens Nyheter.[31] With her husband, she co-wrote the book Scenes from the Heart about her family, the environment, and sustainability. It was published in August 2018.[32]




  • 2000: Naïve (KMH) – songs by Olov Olofsson, Bo Linde, Bror Samuelson, Sandström, among others, with ensemble directed by Chrichan Larson
  • 2001: Cabaret Songs – songs by William Bolcom, Kurt Weill, Friedrich Hollander and Benjamin Britten; with Bengt-Åke Lundin, piano (BIS)
  • 2003: Songs in Season (Nytorp Musik) – songs related to nature and the seasons by Mendelssohn, Grieg, Respighi, Storm, Copland, Koechlin, Mahler, Gefors, Schreker, Fauré, Liszt, Finzi, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and Jennefelt. With Francisca Skoogh (piano), recorded in January 2002 at Swedish Radio in Stockholm.
  • 2003: My Love – opera arias (by Rossini, Bizet, Mozart) and songs (by Ravel, Legrand, Mozart, Schubert, Ellington, Lindberg, Nilsson) arranged with guitar accompaniment from Mats Bergström (BIS)
  • 2009: La Voix du Nord – 'pop works', 'One Step From Paradise', 'La voix', 'Min plats på jorden', 'Sempre libera', 'What Becomes of Love', 'Un bel dì', 'Breathless Days', 'Perdus', 'Tragedy', 'All the Lost Tomorrows'; and arias 'Quando me n'vò' (Puccini), 'Voi che sapete' (Mozart), Solveig's song from Peer Gynt (Grieg), 'O mio babbino caro' (Puccini), 'Vedrai, carino' (Mozart), 'Una voce poco fa' (Rossini), 'Lascia ch'io pianga' (Händel), 'Caro mio ben' (Giordani), 'Non più mesta' (Rossini), 'Ombra mai fu' (Händel) and 'When I am laid in earth' (Purcell), conducted by Alberto Hold-Garrido. The record is dedicated to "my daughters Greta and Beata and to my husband Svante".
  • 2010: Santa Lucia – En klassisk jul (Christmas album)
  • 2011: Opera di Fiori (Roxy Recordings/Universal)
  • 2013: I decembertid
  • 2014: SDS (Fyra sånger för Malena and Missa brevis by Sven-David Sandström, with the Musica Vitae, Gustaf Sjökvist Kammarkör conducted by Gustaf Sjökvist)
  • 2015: Advent
  • 2016: Sverige


  • 2009: "La voix" - sung at the Eurovision Song Contest 2009
  • 2010: "Min plats på jorden"


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Climate Activist Greta Thunberg's Mom Is a Pop Star — Watch Her Sing!". 8 October 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  2. ^ Ernman, Malena. "Bio". Mezzo-Soprano Malena Ernman. Archived from the original on 28 September 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  3. ^ Final credits of 'Joseph – musikens förförare' (Joseph, music's seducer) (The programme, on YouTube accessed 12 November 2021.)
  4. ^ Welle (, Deutsche. "Greta Thunberg's sister launches her singing career | DW | 18 February 2020". DW.COM. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  5. ^ Macdonald, Kyle (2 October 2019). "Greta Thunberg's mother is actually an incredible opera singer". Classic FM. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  6. ^ Guillaume Maijeur. Vadstena – Wider horizons. Opera, 1997 Annual Festival Issue, p127.
  7. ^ Åsa Mälhammar. Sweden – Stud-farm 'Figaro'. Opera, April 1999, Vol.50 No.4, p459.
  8. ^ Claes Wahlin. Sweden – Big city blues. Opera, February 1999, Vol.50 No.2, p213-214.
  9. ^ Allison, John. Sweden: Down 'The Garden' path – Drottningholm. Opera, November 1999, Vol.50 No.11, p1345-46.
  10. ^ John McCann. Belgium – Handel to perfection. Opera, September 2000, Vol. 51, No.9, p1083-84.
  11. ^ Andrew Porter, Report from Glyndebourne, Opera, October 2002, Vol.53 No.10 p. 1254
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h "About the Performer: Malena Ernman". LA Phil. Archived from the original on 29 January 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  13. ^ Proms Archive – Prom 23 Monday 4 Aug 2003 Royal Albert Hall Die Fledermaus, accessed 1 August 2019.
  14. ^ Christopher Norton-Welsh, Report from Vienna, Opera, September 2006, Vol.57 No.9, pp. 1062–63. The production was later mounted at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and filmed.
  15. ^ John McCann. Report from Brussels. Opera, July 2010, Vol. 61, No.7, p827.
  16. ^ Christopher Norton-Welsh. Report from Vienna. Opera, January 2012, Vol.63 No.1, p34.
  17. ^ Christopher Norton-Welsh. Report from Vienna. Opera, January 2013, Vol 64 No.1, p42-43.
  18. ^ Gerhard Persché. Reports from Vienna. Opera, July 2013 Vol.64 No.7, p869.
  19. ^ Xavier Cester. Report from Barcelona. Opera, March 2014, Vol 65 No.3, p324.
  20. ^ Expressen report 'Malena Ernman har publiken i sin hand' mentioning the musical, accessed 18 April 2019.
  21. ^ Svensk Mediadatabas for Malena Ernman, 1990–99 accessed 28 June 2019.
  22. ^ Clas Svahn (28 February 2009). "Agnes och Malena Ernman till Globen". DN.SE. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  23. ^ a b "Sweden: Malena Ernman to Moscow! | News | Eurovision Song Contest – Baku 2012". 14 March 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  24. ^ Swedish media database entry for Rösternas Malena accessed 12 November 2021.
  25. ^ "Här är Malenas finalklänning | Melodifestivalen | Expressen Nöje | Nöjesnyheter Musiknyheter Filmnyheter". 30 April 2009. Archived from the original on 20 September 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  26. ^ "Behrang Miris kamp – därför ställer Malena Ernman upp i Melodifestivalen 2015". Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  27. ^ "Malena Ernman om familjekrisen och klimatkrisen". Dagens Nyheter. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  28. ^ O'Malley, Katie (24 April 2019). "Greta Thunberg's mother is a former Eurovision contestant and Twitter is ecstatic". The Independent. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  29. ^ Simon Hattenstone, Greta Thunberg: 'I really see the value of friendship. Apart from the climate, almost nothing else matters', The Guardian, 25 September 2021, accessed 12 January 2023
  30. ^ Christer Olsson: "Det har varit ett helvetiskt år (That has been a hell of a year)", Expressen, Stockholm, 20 May 2015.
  31. ^ Ernman, Malena; et al. (3 June 2017). "I den akuta klimatkrisen väljer vi nu bort flyget" [In the acute climate crisis, we are now opting out of flight]. Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Stockholm, Sweden. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  32. ^ Lambeck, Petra (6 May 2019). "'Scenes From the Heart': Backstory of 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg". Live Wire. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  33. ^ "Anna Larsson, Malena Ernman and Miah Persson are appointed court singers". Swedish Royal Court. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  34. ^ "Artisten Malena Ernman och biologen Rebecka Le Moine utsedda till Årets Miljöhjältar av WWF". WWF Sweden. 5 October 2017.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by