Barbara Bonney is widely recognised as a superlative recital and concert artist and as one of the great Mozart singers of her generation. Her “Sophie” in Strauss’ Rosenkavalier is legendary. She has been praised for her radiant tone and the engaging warmth of her personality, as well as for her stylistic versatility in a broad repertoire that ranges from the Baroque to 20th century music. She has made over 90 recordings with Decca, DGG, EMI, and Teldec, with the most important conductors and orchestras in the world today.
Ms. Bonney appears at the major opera houses all over the world. Among her "signature" roles, her interpretations of Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier with the Vienna Staatsoper under Carlos Kleiber, and the Royal Opera led by Sir Georg Solti, have both been released on video, as have her performances in Falstaff and Ariadne auf Naxos with the Metropolitan Opera. She has performed her portrayals of Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro the world over.
Barbara Bonney is sought after by today's leading conductors, a measure of the high regard in which her exceptional vocal gifts and impeccable musicianship are held. She has performed regularly with the Vienna Philharmonic under Seiji Ozawa and Riccardo Muti, the Berlin Philharmonic led by Claudio Abbado, the Boston Symphony conducted by Seiji Ozawa and André Previn, the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson-Thomas and the Berlin Radio Symphony and London's Philharmonia led by Vladimir Ashkenazy; as well as with three of Europe's more respected authentic performance ensembles: the English Concert and Trevor Pinnock, the Concentus Musicus Wien led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and the English Baroque Soloists with John Eliot Gardiner.
Recent opera highlights have included her debut as Countess in La Nozze di Figaro in Madrid, Alphise in Rameau’s Les Boreades at the Bastille Opera in Paris, Servillia in La Clemenza di Tito and King Arthur in Salzburg, and Angelica in Orlando at the ROH Covent Garden. Her Zdenka in Arabella for the ROH Covent Garden last year was another triumph and since then she has reprised the role at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris with equal success.
Last year, Ms Bonney also gave concerts and recitals the Far East, Australia and Europe with the Symphony Australia, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Camerata Salzburg and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. This was followed by a celebrated recital tour throughout Europe with the Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager and pianist Malcolm Martineau.
This summer, Ms Bonney can be seen at the Aix-en-Provence Festival as Despina in a new production of Cosi fan tutte, conducted by Daniel Harding, which will subsequently be shown in Paris and Vienna. Other engagements next season include a European tour with Emmanuelle Haïm and her ensemble ‘Le Concert d’Astrée’, Figaro at LA Opera, a return to the Salzburg Festival for La Clemenza di Tito, as well as recitals and concerts throughout Europe and the US.
Barbara Bonney's wide-ranging discography comprises sacred music of Bach, Haydn and Mozart and Schubert. Complete opera recordings include Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte, Die Fledermaus and Fidelio led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Hansel und Gretel conducted by Jeffrey Tate, and The Merry Widow with John Eliot Gardiner. She has recorded in total 16 solo discs of art songs. These include songs by Schubert, Mozart, Strauss, Wolf and Mendelssohn, accompanied by the late Geoffrey Parsons, Her recordings from London/Decca include a selection of American songs with André Previn at the piano, including Mr. Previn's Vocalise and Miss Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy The Kid, which was written for Ms. Bonney, Copland's Emily Dickinson Songs, Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, and Six Elizabethan Songs by Dominick Argento; Lieder by Robert and Clara Schumann, including Frauenliebe und -leben, with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy; an all-Mozart disc of opera arias and duets with artists including Bryn Terfel; a disc of Richard Strauss Lieder with pianist Malcolm Martineau including the "Vier Letzte Lieder". The Scandinavian disc, “Diamonds in the Snow” together with Antonio Pappano, won the Grammophone Award for best solo vocal recording. Ms. Bonney has also recorded a disc of early Elizabethan songs with Christopher Hogwood, the Academy of Ancient Music; a disc of opera scenes from Richard Strauss operas with Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, and the Vienna Philharmonic led by Christoph Eschenbach; and a disc containing the Pergolesi Stabat Mater with Andreas Scholl, Les Talens Lyriques and Christophe Rousset.
Following the huge success of ‘Diamonds in the Snow’, Decca/London released ‘While I Dream’, featuring songs by Schumann and Liszt, again with Antonio Pappano. This was followed by the album ‘Im Chambre Separée’, entirely dedicated to Viennese Operetta. Her duet recital disc with Angelika Kirchschlager for Sony Classical, entitled ‘First Encounter’ and released in October 2004, just won the coveted German ECHO Klassik Prize 2005. A collection of Anglo-American songs with pianist Malcom Martineau for the new Onyx label was released last month.
A regular presenter for the BBC, she acts as “expert opinion” during the Cardiff Singer Competition. She also appears in documentaries and gives televised “Masterclasses for Amateurs” for the BBC as well.
Born in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1956, Barbara Bonney began piano studies at age five and took up the cello three years later. At age 13, she moved with her family to Maine, where she joined the Portland Symphony Youth Orchestra. After two years as a Music and German major at the University of New Hampshire, she decided to spend her junior year abroad at the University of Salzburg to perfect her German studies. This proved to be a turning point Ms. Bonney's life: while in Salzburg, she enrolled in the vocal program at the Mozarteum and became a soloist with several Salzburg choral groups. She subsequently secured a repertory position with the Darmstadt City Opera in Germany, and following her debut as Anna in Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor in 1979, appeared in almost every production with that company during the next four years, singing 40 roles. She spent the 1983-1984 season at the Frankfurt Opera.
A series of important debuts with leading conductors followed in rapid succession: her first Sophie with Carlos Kleiber at the 1984 Munich Summer Festival and her Covent Garden debut later that year in the same role, with Sir Georg Solti conducting; followed by her debut at La Scala as Pamina with Wolfgang Sawallisch, her Vienna Philharmonic debut in the Brahms Requiem under Carlo Maria Giulini, and her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1987, as Nyade in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, conducted by James Levine. Ms. Bonney first performed with the Vienna Staatsoper as “Sophie” in Rosenkavalier in 1987. She received an honorary Doctorate degree, from her Alma Mater, the University of New Hampshire, an honorary Doctorate from Bowdoin College in Maine, and an honorary Doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is also a member of the prestigious Swedish Academy of Music.
She is an avid golfer, and her hobbies include cooking and needlepoint.
Ms. Bonney resides in London with her husband, Maurice Whitaker, a music management executive.