Deborah Voigt life and biography

Deborah Voigt picture, image, poster

Deborah Voigt biography

Date of birth : 1960-08-04
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Chicago, Illinois,U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-03-05
Credited as : operatic soprano, The Four Last Songs album, Deborah Voigt/Vero Beach Opera Foundation's Protegee Mentoring Program

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Deborah Voigt is an American operatic soprano. Voigt regularly performs in opera houses and concert halls worldwide.

Deborah Voigt, according to a Town & Country magazine article, "has a voice so magnificent that it has made her the world's foremost dramatic soprano." A noted interpreter of German opera--highly acclaimed for her interpretations of Strauss and Wagner--the American singer is in demand on stages from Manhattan to Moscow.

Born in 1960 in Illinois, Voigt cut her musical teeth on piano lessons and the church choir. By the time she attended high school in California, musical theatre had attracted her attention; she told Marty Umans in an Opera News article how she played the comic foil Agnes Gooch in a high school production of Mame, calling her characterization "hysterical, if I may say so myself." Voigt continued: "In those days, being an opera singer never entered my mind. I had sung since I was a small child, but it was primarily church music. I played the piano in church, I taught the children's choir, I sang all the time." But, she added, "I don't think I even knew what the Metropolitan Opera was until I was in my late teens, and if I did, it was just sort of a vague notion that this thing called opera was something that other people did."

At Chapman College in Orange, California, Voigt studied choral conducting. But she wasn't happy and dropped out to work as a computer operator for a couple of years while pondering her next career move. Her course became clear when she won a vocal scholarship at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. The funding enabled her to enroll in the voice program at California State University at Fullerton. There "I just happened to find a great teacher named Jane Paul, who was a phenomenal inspiration musically and personally," as Voigt told Umans. "I studied with her for about eight years."

Voigt's studies were followed by an apprenticeship at the San Francisco Opera's Merola Program. "Fabulous training, wonderful people," she remarked in Opera News. "I covered maybe seven major roles in those two years." In 1988 she won the Pavarotti Competition and made her bow at New York's Carnegie Hall, then won the 1989 Verdi Competition in Bussetto and the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. The following year Voigt made waves in Boston singing the title role in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. A rave review in the New York Times helped cement her growing reputation: "My mother couldn't have written anything nicer," Voigt said to Umans. She went on to reprise the role of Ariadne over the next several years, including a 2002 production in San Francisco.

When New York's Metropolitan Opera came calling, Voigt was ready. In 1991 she made her Met debut as Amelia in Gian Carlo Menotti's Amelia al ballo (Amelia Goes to the Ball). The next season Voigt returned to garner ovations as Chrysothemis, the conflicted sister of the title character in Elektra. By 1992 she had become a star, filling her season with appearances in Paris, Venice, Cologne, and Amsterdam; closer to home, she sang for the Washington Concert Opera, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Over the next five years the soprano was part of no fewer than five dozen major productions, including a Beethoven concert in Israel; a lyric symphonia in Berlin; a role as Elisabeth in the Wagner classic Tannhauser; and a turn as Lady Macbeth in Verdi's adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy.

Voigt has assumed some of opera's the most challenging roles, including Seiglinde in Wagner's Die Walkure (The Valkyries). In Verdi's Salome she demanded the head of John the Baptist in a performance that "was not some jaded decadent," according to Opera News reviewer Patrick Giles, "nor did she play her with those unfortunate sulks and pouts that can make the Judean princess into an overripe Playboy bunny. Voigt's Salome was unaffectedly sensual. Eroticism, greed, necrophiliac passion and exultation were expressed with youthful wonder, a kind of sweet ruthlessness that was, by turns, surprising, funny, often very disturbing." Giles added, however, that the soprano's portrayal "remains a work-in-progress. At her best, she bears a sound so mighty and beautiful that it registers only a shade or two below glorious. But her soprano doesn't always work as it should. Voigt can sound under-powered at the top of her voice, especially when she has to ascend gradually on a long line."
When asked by Umans how she dealt with such a wide variety of roles, Voigt replied: "Technique, I think, is the common thread that takes you from one role to another--more so, perhaps than an understanding of style or interpretation. Being able to sing the Verdi roles that are particularly high keeps my voice more youthful and more flexible than if I were to have a steady diet of just Strauss and Wagner."

In a 2000 article for New Criterion, Jay Nordlinger singled out Voigt and mezzo soprano Susan Graham as two of the leading lights of contemporary opera--American singers in "superb form." Nordlinger remarked that Voigt's voice "comes as something of a shock, even if you have heard it before. Quite simply, it is hard to fathom that such a sound is coming from a human being. It is an enormous sound--about as big as voices get--but a beautiful, luxuriant one, not a battle-hardened, rough-and-ready one." Thus it struck Nordlinger as something of a disappointment that the singer's recording of Strauss's Four Last Songs seemed "jarringly blunt, lacking in introspection and transport. Voigt was not in particularly good voice on this occasion; some of her middle notes are hard and metallic." When the soprano "lands juicily on a note, the effect is wonderful," the writer added, "but these songs call for more than voice."

The Four Last Songs compilation was one of several by Voigt. She recorded her Ariadne and Chrysothemis roles as well as Strauss's lesser-known Friedenstag; her discography also includes renditions of Les Troyens, Fidelio, and Eine florentinische Tragodie. As a concert singer, Voigt has recorded Alexander Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony and Alban Berg's Der Wein. Teamed with opera legend Placido Domingo, Voigt released the album Wagner: Love Duets. The two sang selections from Tristun und Isolde and Seigfried. "[I]t is a pleasure to hear Wagner sung by highly intelligent musicians, impressively alert to rhythmic values, accents and dynamics," commented Anthony Tommassini of the New York Times.

Voigt first sang Verdi's Egyptian queen Aida in 1999; she reprised the role in a 2001 revival at the Metropolitan Opera. Tommassini compared the two productions, noting that the soprano's earlier attempt was "vocally tentative." Her later rendition, though, showcased a singer "exuding confidence." Voigt, Tommassini wrote, "honored Verdi's dynamic markings and sang with genuine Italianate poignancy." Also in 2001 Voigt first assayed the title role of Puccini's Tosca. Though Opera News contributor Brian Kellow commented that the sultry and insanely possessive character "isn't necessarily the first part that leaps to mind as being appropriate" for Voigt, the singer told Kellow that she considered Tosca to be a dream role: "Besides, the costumes ... are much better than they are for any of the other roles I sing," she quipped.

In 2002 the singer appeared in Deborah Voigt on Broadwa y, a musical-theatre concert to raise funds for AIDS research. Offstage, Voigt unwinds by listening to pop music including the works of Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morissette. She also shares her art by visiting elementary schools, introducing music concepts to children age four to seven. The soprano and her class take turns teaching each other songs. "We sing about anything they want to sing about--their pet, the weather, anything they want," Voigt told Umans in Opera News. "It just has a way of opening them up. I don't go in to try to explain the Ring cycle, or anything like that. You know, on the other hand, they might like that! These are precious little kids. They run up and hug me--and that's because I'm the music lady, not because I'm Debbie Voigt, the opera singer."

In April 2006, she performed her first Tosca at the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera; her first fully staged Salome at Lyric Opera of Chicago premiered in October of the same year. She performed Ariadne in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos for the theatre during the 2007/08 season, to rave reviews.

In January 2006, she sang Broadway tunes and other popular songs at UCLA's Royce Hall.She performed a similar concert from "the American songbook" in January 2008 at Lincoln Center. This included tributes to Broadway sopranos Barbara Cook and Julie Andrews.

In December 2010, Voigt returned to the Met in the 100th anniversary production of the world premiere of Puccini's La fanciulla del West. She reprised this performance the Lyric Opera of Chicago in January 2011.

In April 2011, Voigt sang her first Brünnhilde at the Metropolitan Opera in Canadian stage director Robert Lepage's new production of Die Walküre, the second installment of the Met's highly publicized new production of Wagner's Ring Cycle directed by Lepage. She is singing the role again as the cycle is presented in its entirety during the 2011/2012 season, adding to her repertoire the final two operas of the four opera cycle, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung.In the summer of 2011, she sang Annie Oakley in the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun at the Glimmerglass Festival.

Voigt is mentoring a younger soprano, Christina Borgioli, in a new program that she has set up. Borgioli has "been selected as the first participant in the Deborah Voigt/Vero Beach Opera Foundation's Protegee Mentoring Program." This will involve both voice and acting training, and a shadowing experience.

Voigt has been nominated for a Grammy Award several times and shared the 1996 "Best Opera Recording" award for the recording of Berlioz's Les Troyens directed by Charles Dutoit with Montreal Symphony Orchestra. She was also co-nominated in 2002 for "Best Choral Performance" on a Columbia Records recording.

Voigt garnered Musical America's Vocalist of the Year in 2003, and an Opera News award for distinguished achievement in 2007. She was honored as a Chevalier of Ordre des Arts et des Lettres at the Opéra Bastille on 27 March 2002.She was inducted into the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Hall of Fame in 1997.

Selected discography:
-Berlioz : Les Troyens , Decca, 1993.
-Beethoven: Fidelio , BMG, 1996.
-Schoenberg : Gurrelieder , Teldec, 1996.
-Beethoven: Cantates , Koch International Classics, 1997.
-Mahler: Symphony No. 8, Telarc, 1997.
-Robert Shaw: Absolute Heaven , Telarc, 1997.
-Strauss: Elektra , Deutsche Grammophon, 1997.
-(Various) The American Opera Singer , BMG/RCA Victor, 1997.
-(Various) Operatically Incorrect! , BMG/RCA Victor, 1997.
-Wagner: Der fliegende Hollander , Sony/Columbia, 1997.
-Strauss: Don Juan , Teldec, 1999.
-Zemlinsky: Samtliche Chorwerke , EMI Classics, 1999.
-Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos , UNI/Deutsche Grammophon, 2000.
-Wagner: Love Duets , EMI Classics, 2000.
-Zemlinsky: Cymbeline Suite , EMI Classics, 2001.

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