Various: Concert Reviews

Music by Berg, Schönberg, Webern, Zemlinsky, Alma Mahler, Wolf

Recitals with Reinbert de Leeuw

North American recital tour, November 2017
Toronto – Royal Conservatory
Washington D.C. – Kennedy Center
New York City – Park Avenue Armory
Philadelphia – Kimmel Center

“Barbara Hannigan’s Legend Grows in an Intimate Setting”
“To speak of her singing only begins to cover the ground, and not just because she has also taken up conducting. Her physical manner can be electric.”
“Especially impressive was the way she scaled down her voice for the Satie, singing — at times almost speaking — with a natural tone, warm, pure, beautiful and highly sophisticated for all its seeming artlessness. Her French pronunciation was impeccable, just as her German had been in the earlier recital.”
New York Times Arts, 19 November 2017

“Barbara Hannigan is an artist who sings. You can see it from the moment she comes out on stage”

Washington Post, November 2017

“Hannigan is one of those rare performers whose presence fuses so completely with the music that, while she’s onstage, hers seems the only possible interpretation.”, 17 November 2017

“It’s no wonder she’s new classical music’s greatest working muse—her voice is a cool, glistening, misty gossamer web of sound. The innate fluidity with which she moves between notes across her range, from earthier lower reaches to a sensuous, floral upper register is a marvel.”
“but the most notable was “Die Nachtigall,” in which each successive stanza built to more powerful finish. The song, about a nightingale whose song provokes the mocking natural beauty of a loveless world, reached a glorious ending on the phrase “Die Rosen aufgesprungen”—“the roses have sprung up.” Listening to Hannigan often feels that way.”
“the highlight of the evening was four Mahler (Alma Mahler, to be exact) songs, and it wasn’t even for their vocalization. In four erratic, moody songs by another one of history’s great muses, Hannigan pushes past the musical deficiencies of the songs—they’re simply not very interesting—and hones in on the texts by Dehmel, Falke, Heine, and Birnbaum. Suddenly, the songs were the painful laments, pleas, and longings of a woman deeply insecure in relationships.”

Parterre Box, 15 November 2017

“Hannigan sang with supreme delicacy, with her trademark silvery tone, in an unhurried, languid manner, the phrasing always fluid, the tone caressing. It created a mesmerizing, otherworldly effect.”
“De Leeuw’s masterful playing was a model of sensitivity, his lightness of touch matching the singer note for note.”
“It was all the more amazing that Koerner Hall was virtually full, a testament to the reputation of the soloist. Hannigan is arguably the most important soprano champion of new music of the current generation, having premiered some 80 contemporary works, many written specifically for her voice.” , 12 November 2017

Salvatore Sciarrino

La nuova Euridice secondo Rilke

US premiere
Carnegie Hall, New York

Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Antonio Pappano, conductor

“Yet these final, questioning phrases contain some of the most traditionally luminous motifs in Mr. Sciarrino’s piece, calling for Ms. Hannigan’s vibrato, as well as notes in her upper range. The effect was to have it both ways, to court the beauty of tradition while asserting that music must move forward.”

The New York Times , 22 October 2017

“Contrasts delight the mind and heart with Antonio Pappano and Barbara Hannigan”
“Hannigan performed with her famous emotional commitment, and her voice was easy and flawless, even through the vocal calisthenics. She navigated the extremes placed on the singer — sprechstimme, warbling in a yodeling fashion, speedy text delivery, long smooth lines — without seeming to even notice, instead riding the frantic wave of the music through to the end.”

Opera Wire, 25 October 2017

“Barbara Hannigan, for whom Sciarrino wrote this work, delivered an impressive performance that brilliantly combined intense outbursts of emotion with more meditative expressions.”

Classical Source, 21 October 2017

70th birthday Salvatore Sciarrino
Elbphilharmonie Hamburg

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
David Zinman, conductor

“Hannigan, die auch als Dirigentin erfolgreich international aktiv ist, stürzte sich mit Feuereifer und temperamentvollem Ausdruckswillen in das schwierige Stück, das ihr alles an deklamatorischer Kraft und stimmlicher wie darstellerischer Gestaltungsfähigkeit abverlangte.
Sciarrino, der sein Werk eine “dramatische Kantate” nennt, hatte aus Rainer Maria Rilkes Versen über den antiken Eurydike-Mythos von Liebe, Kunst, Verlangen und Verlust den Teppich gewebt, auf dem eine selbstbewusste Künstlerin wie Hannigan flott und mitreißend abheben konnte.”

Spiegel Online, 30 September 2017

world premiere

Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Antonio Pappano, conductor

“La ricerca compositiva, del resto, non si ferma all’orchestra ma comprende – e, in questo caso, pone al centro dell’attenzione – la voce: Barbara Hannigan, già ammirata nel 2013 a Santa Cecilia, è un’interprete di altissimo livello. La difficoltà principale del brano risiede nel continuo ricorso a tecniche vocali assai differenti, pur inserite in un procedere musicalmente coerente: messe di voce, recitativi “glissati”, fulminei sillabati non melodici, microscopiche sfumature, cellule strutturali sfruttate per creare parallelismi o variazioni, iterazioni di parole chiave come “radice” (ciò che Euridice è divenuta, poiché ormai appartiene alla terra); la Hannigan, dalla piacevole e credibilissima figura, viene a capo di tutto con vocalità splendidamente drammatica e, per la propria prestazione, riceve alla fine il plauso convinto dei presenti.”

OperaClick, 30 March 2015


Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

“Hannigan has an ability to create colours of exceptional poetic beauty.”

* * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
The Financial Times, 27 January 2013

“her voice had the arresting quality of being icy and hot at the same time”

* * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
The Telegraph, 25 January 2013

“what this brilliant Canadian soprano and her Dutch accompanist did with Berg’s ‘Seven Early Songs’ and Schoenberg’s ‘Four Songs Op 2’ was extraordinary”

* * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
The Independent, 25 January 2013

“I can’t think of another soprano who can deliver Schoenberg, Berg and Alma Mahler songs with as much accuracy, agility, insight, drama and sexual allure as Barbara Hannigan.”

* * * * (4 out of 5 stars)
The Times, 28 January 2013

Late Night at the Philharmonic

Late-night concert with Simon Rattle and Barbara Hannigan

“And in a startling beautiful way Barbara Hannigans voice attended to these (Rimbauds) words. The Canadian has such a light, clear and – even in pianissimo – assertive soprano that she could make a career with Donizetti.(…) However she preferably has been singing modern and recent music for years, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Eötvös, Dutilleux, that it is magnificent! Besides the beauty of her voice her artistic intelligence is shown by the fact that she in Henze’s piece at first fully merges with the instrumental colours (like the described character in the snow) and only gradually emerges from this white-azure world
… “[…] The verses, in which a sky rhinoceros watches sadly the hobby horses’ run, in which the zebra-striped emperor of Zanzibar meets the poet Lord Tennyson, and Victoria – Queen of solemn memory – somehow seems to have problems with the Hottentots, all sound as if Alice in Wonderland had started to write poetry after an overdose of reading Mallarmé. As if this weren’t enough amusement Hannigan and Sir Simon took turns in conducting and speaking between the numbers! And while Hannigan galloped like a show jumper on triplets through consonant-rich words in the tarantella, Rattle baffled the audience with the lascivious laziness of a faun and creaky witch’s falsetts as a reader of distinction. A new star arose amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jan Brachmann, 20 December 2012

“In the conflict between imagined beauty and experienced desire the four cellists of the Philharmonic offer the stronger part in a sensuous performance that Barbara Hannigan plays with in her crystalline polished coloraturas – often only in the finest pianissimo.
William Walton’s “Façade” for speaker and six instruments based on texts by the eccentric writer Edith Sitwell is a discovery in the field of pieces of Modernity with audience appeal. Rattle and Hannigan emphasize the performance character of the piece written in 1922 by exchanging roles between conductor and speaker after every number.
It was completely enjoyable and well done (…)”

Der Tagesspiegel, Carsten Niemann, 17 December 2012

“At the heart was Henze’s cantata for coloratura soprano, harp and four celli, whose lethal grace and lively beauty were almost more astounding than the musician’s dedicated performance with Barbara Hannigan leading the way with her taught soprano capable of great determination.
Walton’s Façade for speaker and six instruments was the most fun, whereby the title of the piece seemed to have been changed to “…for two conductors, two speakers and six instruments” this evening. For Barbara Hannigan and Simon Rattle conducted alternately which gave Mr. Rattle the great opportunity to showcase his enormous talent as a reciter under the conducting of Barbara Hannigan. For Rattle this was probably the surest method of sound production. Hannigan also conducts solo and not only with Rattle. Walton’s pieces appear somewhat exotic, very British and extremely appealing.”

Opern- und Konzertkritik Berlin Blog, Anton Schlatz, 16 December 2012


Lonely Child

Wiener Philharmoniker | Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

“Die Sopranistin Barbara Hannigan bewältigte intonationsrein die ungewöhnlichen Gesangstechniken und artifiziellen Artiklationsweisen des Werks.”

Wiener Zeitung, 30 May 2015

“Und wie sie sich zuvor bei Claude Vivier’ “Lonely Child” – mit dem schön timbrierten Soprano Barbara Hannigan – in eine melodisch eindrucksvoll dahinschreitended, sich wandelnde, singende Musikwelt begaben. Ein mituntergregorianisch anmutender, farblich dichter Klankosmos!”

Kronen Zeitung, 30 May 2015

“In den irisierenden Farbwirkungen von Claude Viviers Lonely Child war der Maestro ganz in seiner Welt und ließ das Orchester die schlichten melodischen Linien des Solosoprans der berückenden Barbara Hannigan leuchtend umhüllen: eine imaginäre Traumwelt, traumhaft gespielt.”

Daniel Ender, Der Standard, 27 May 2015

“Im ersten Teil erklang Lonely Child für Sopran und Kammerorchester von Claude Vivier, mit der auf zeitgenössische Werke spezialisierten Barbara Hannigan als Solistin. […] Hannigan sang das komplexe Werk auswendig – und das großartig, mit sehr viel Feingefühl.”

Luise Hahn, Kurier, 28 May 2015



three interrogations for soprano and orchestra

world première
London Philharmonic Orchestra | Vladimir Jurowski, conductor

“Contemporary music expert Barbara Hannigan was back for her latest stab at the near-impossible… the soprano has to skip through the words, perform somersaults of vocal agility and trip the high wire on top Es. Hannigan dazzled.”

Financial Times, 31 January 2015

“Phemonenal… [Hannigan] handles the coloratura writing with her usual nonchalant, silvery ease”

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 30 January 2015

“Barbara Hannigan, today’s go-to singer for fiendish new music, sings the words of both interrogator and accused (whether male or female), flicking her silvery soprano around the vocal stratosphere and sometimes barely pausing for breath”

Niel Fisher, The Times, 30 January 2015

“Barbara Hannigan, we all know, is game for anything. This Canadian soprano with the pearliest tones and the dramatic instincts of a Sarah Bernhardt can find beauty and meaning in almost every contemporary composer’s barbed wire.”

Geoff Brown, The Arts Desk, 29 January 2015

Alban Berg


Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich| David Zinman, conductor

“Und mittendrin der gertenschlanke, helle Sopran von Barbara Hannigan. Mit ungeheurem Nachdruck versah die kanadische Sängerin, eine Spezialistin der neuen Musik, den Part der Marie und, im dritten Abschnitt, den kurzen Auftritt ihres Kindes nach dem Tod von Vater und Mutter. Ihre primäre Stärke ist das Agile, das fast instrumental Präzise; in dem vollen Ton Alban Bergs aber zeigte sie, wie sie das Unschuldige in ihrem Timbre in eine kaum zu fassende menschliche Tragik umschlagen lassen kann. Beim Lucerne Festival, wo sie als ‘Artiste étoile’ eingeladen ist, wird man dieser Ausnahmesängerin bald wieder begegnen können.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Peter Hagmann, 16 June 2014

“So, wie das Tonhalle-Orchester und die kanadische Sopranistin Barbara Hannigan am Eröffnungskonzert der Zürcher Festspiele diese Bruchstücke interpretierten, versteht man sofort, weshalb damals die Leute auf die neue Oper des berüchtigten Komponisten neugierig wurden. Wir sehen alles zugleich gestochen scharf: den Suff, die Eifersucht, die auseinanderdriftende Marschkapelle und das Zerbrechen eines Menschen.
Barbara Hannigan singt mit einer kontrollierten Impulsivität, die aus den Bruchstücken ein mal von fiebriger, mal von zarter Emotion durchglühtes Ganzes macht. Sie ist verbittert und verblüht. Verzweifelt und verliebt! Sie ist verwirrt und verletzt, verkauft und versetzt. Ihre Stimmte bleibt dabei auf natürliche Weise intakt, und die Linien klingen wie mit dem Silberstift gezogen.”

Tages-Anzeiger, Tom Hellat, 16 June 2014

“Es sind drei Szenen der Marie, für die in Zürich die fantastische kanadische Sopranistin Barbara Hannigan gewonnen werden konnte. Ihrer detailreichen, auch sprachlich höchst differenzierten Interpretation hätte man gerne länger zugehört”

Die Südostschweiz, Reinmar Wagner, 16 June 2014

Berliner Philharmoniker| Simon Rattle, conductor

“But this did offer a tantalising glimpse of the Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, whose command of contemporary idioms, extraordinary stage presence and vocal glories have been much in the spotlight recently (notably in George Benjamin’s opera Written on Skin). Orchestra and singer performed with close attention to each strand of sound and the dramatic implication of every syllable, Hannigan seemingly possessed by the character of the desperate Marie.”

The Independent, Jessica Duchen, 02 September 2013

Unsuk Chin

Le silence des sirènes

Berliner Philharmoniker| Simon Rattle, conductor

“Ähnlich eindrucksvoll verschmolz zuvor Barbara Hannigans Sopran mit dem Orchester.”
“(Chin) erfindet dabei eine sirenenhaft betörende Musik, die die Verschleierung will zwischen Instrumentenklang und Gesang. Am Ende schnappt die Solistin nur noch stumm mit dem Mund; es wirkt nun so, als würden Hannigans Mund die gläsernen Klänge des Orchesters entweichen. Der Beifall für das Stück war groß, was mit der phänomenalen Hannigan ebenso zu tun haben dürfte wie mit Unsuk Chins wundervoll tausendfarbiger Musik.”

Berliner Zeitung, Clemens Haustein, 26 June 2015

“Die alles überstrahlende Diva des Abends aber ist Barbara Hannigan. Aus der Tiefe des philharmonischen Raums dringt ihr gleißender Sopran am Beginn von Unsuk Chins „Le Silence des Sirènes“, das sie 2014 gemeinsam mit Rattle beim Lucerne Festivaluraufgeführt hat. Homers Original sowie James Joyces „Ulysses“ hat die koreanische Komponistin darin verarbeitet, aber eben auch Kafkas Brechung des Sirenenmythos, bei dem die weiblichen Wunderwesen absichtsvoll schweigen.
Im Aufgang zu Block A hat sich Barbara Hannigan versteckt, sendet von dort lockende, gutturale Melismen in den Saal. Als sie dann auftaucht, in ihrer Loreley-Lockenpracht, denkt sie gar nicht ans Verstummen, sondern strebt der Bühne zu, wo das Orchester sie mit flirrendem Klanggewirk umgibt. Aus der virtuosen Koloraturperformance fallen zwei Worte, „sweetheart, goodbye“, sonst bleibt alles purer Klang: eine herrlich sinnliche, zirzensische Angelegenheit, für die man getrost die Wachspropfen aus den Ohren nehmen kann.”

Der Tagesspiegel, Frederik Hanssen, 26 June 2015

“Ähnlich eindrucksvoll verschmolz zuvor Barbara Hannigans Sopran mit dem Orchester.”
“(Chin) erfindet dabei eine sirenenhaft betörende Musik, die die Verschleierung will zwischen Instrumentenklang und Gesang. Am Ende schnappt die Solistin nur noch stumm mit dem Mund; es wirkt nun so, als würden Hannigans Mund die gläsernen Klänge des Orchesters entweichen. Der Beifall für das Stück war groß, was mit der phänomenalen Hannigan ebenso zu tun haben dürfte wie mit Unsuk Chins wundervoll tausendfarbiger Musik.”

Berliner Zeitung, Clemens Haustein, 26 June 2015

“Für die kanadische Stimmakrobatin Barbara Hannigan bietet sich dadurch die Gelegenheit, Wunderliches zu vollbringen. Sie gurrt und flötet, zirpt und raunt. Sie zitiert aus Homers ‚Odyssee‘ und James Joyces ‚Ulysses‘. Sie schwingt sich in übersinnliche Höhen, schlägt Haken, saust pfeilschnell durch die Gegend.”

Berliner Morgenpost, Felix Stephan, 26 June 2015

world première
Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra | Simon Rattle, conductor

Le Silence des Sirènes is Unsuk Chin’s dazzling reflection on Homer’s formidable femmes fatales. Saturday’s world premiere of this gem, a Roche commission, marked a turning point for the Lucerne Festival.”
“Hannigan’s theatrical energy, her effortless heights and unearthly precision all become part of a seductive whole; and then there is a sense of childlike joy and wonder in Chin’s sonic explorations. Le Silence des Sirènes is a great piece.”

* * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
Financial Times, Shirley Apthorp, 26 August 2014

Various Reviews

“Late in the opera, Barbara Hannigan (Despina) is dazzling in one of the most virtuoso coloratura arias this reviewer has ever heard.”

Opera News, September 2009, review of DVD of Signor Goldoni by Luca Mosca

“Barbara Hannigan, the faultless soprano in (Luigi Nono’s) A Floresta, had prefaced it with one of the unaccompanied songs from Nono’s 1962 Canti di Vita e d’Amore, perfectly poised and authentically Italianate in its lyricism.”

Guardian, London, 7 November 2007

“Als vokalen Nachklapp gab es auch noch sechs dodekaphonische Georg Trakl-Lieder des Meisters, abwechselnd aufs sparsamste umspielt und umwispert von vier Instrumentalisten, die alles Erdenkliche versuchten, sich kein nachhaltiges Gehör zu verschaffen. Was ihnen auch sehr erfolgreich gelang. Miss Hannigan nahm reichen Beifall mit großen Gesten sublimster Grazie entgegen.

Berliner Morgenpost, April 2008
Webern Op 14 with Simon Rattle and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

“Nimmt man die Aufführungen der Lieder op. 8 und op. 14 und der Orchesterstücke op. 10 für sich, dann scheint Rattle als Webern-Interpret in der Boulez-Nachfolge zu stehen: Vieles klingt sinnlich-delikat ausgehört, wenig entfaltet gestisches Espressivo. Die kanadische Sopranistin Barbara Hannigan sang mit warmem, lyrischem Ton.”

Berliner Zeitung, April 2008
Webern Op 8 and 14, with Sir Simon Rattle and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

“Alone onstage, Barbara Hannigan poured forth her remarkably clear, direct soprano, leaving no emotion unturned in the words and cries of a freedom fighter brutally raped during Algeria’s war of independence. Direct human contact was instantly achieved.”

The Times, November 2007
Luigi Nono Djamila Boupacha for solo voice, at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London

“There was no better soprano than Barbara Hannigan to interpret the part of the capricious and carefree Allegro. Brilliant coloratura, enormous ease of tone in the high register, and articulate presence made this performance a captivating event.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22 May 2002
Händel L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderator with the Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra

“Hannigan conjured the full power – and humanity – of the enchantress. Aided by her wonderful connection to the musicality of the words – not to mention her dazzling virtuosity – Hannigan drew out the nuances of Händel’s oft-praised characterization: the fiery, sexy temperament and touching vulnerability in her illicit and unrequited love for the enemy Rinaldo.”

The National Post, 29 April 2004
as Armida in Händel’s Rinaldo with Opera in Concert, Toronto

“…it was above all Barbara Hannigan in the part of first soprano, with all its ornamentation, so much allure had that the other parts paled by comparison. With her porcelein sound she took hairpin turns as if they were nothing, and defied the highest heights: a vocal alpiniste who climbs without the necessity of life insurance!”

Leeuwarder Courant, 22 February 2003
Mozart’s C minor Mass with the Noord Nederlands Orkest, The Netherlands

“Soprano Barbara Hannigan enticed the audience to laughter as Lieschen, and transported with flawless, slender perfection in the aria “Ei! Wie schmeckt der Coffee susse”, where vocal ornaments unrolled like sensual sighs.”

NRC Handelsblad, 13 May 2003
Bach Secular Cantatas with Combattimento Consort Amsterdam

“…but the most exciting moment came in the Friday night Sinfonietta concert when that startlingly blonde, butter-wouldn’t-melt soprano Barbara Hannigan flung herself with indecent gusto into the sexy vocal games of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures. It was like seeing the Catherine Deneuve of Belle de Jour suddenly turn savage and foul-mouthed. The Proms don’t come much more “impure” than that.”

Daily Telegraph, 11 August 2003

“Then came the formidable soprano Barbara Hannigan onstage. The first minutes she sang only one tone. Later she had rhythmic and melodic lines to sing at breakneck speed, tasks she completed with unimaginable technical ease and enormous musicality. You had to be there to believe it.”

Het Parool, 13 January 2003

“Whoever has seen this performance can only confirm that it is Hannigan’s unparalleled virtuosity and overwhelming concentration, both “live” and on film, that carries the performance. She has completely internalized the piece; she is One. It is questionable as to whether anyone else could ever sing these notes, written for her unique vocal capacities.”

NRC Handelsblad, June 2006
Holland Festival, Amsterdam

The vocal lines, in constant change, were moulded with eloquence, elasticity and a palette of subtle nuances by Barbara Hannigan – definitely one of the great operatic actresses of our time.Diapason