Just in: Bayreuth drops its American Sieglinde

Just in: Bayreuth drops its American Sieglinde


norman lebrecht

July 16, 2016

Message posted by a dignified, respectful Jennifer Ann Wilson:


jennifer ann wilson2

It is with great regret and disappointment that I must announce that I have accepted, in principle (financial terms are still in negotiation), a buyout of my contract to sing Sieglinde at this year’s Bayreuth Festival. Since as early as last summer, Maestro Marek Janowski had expressed reservations about a lack of vocal contrast between me and the glorious Catherine Foster. This was reiterated last fall when my management received word that the Festival was asking me to withdraw from the part – then they seemed to have a change of heart, they assured me they wanted me in the role, and encouraged me to come as planned to Bayreuth this summer.

As bad luck would have it, I arrived at Bayreuth with the flu and severe laryngitis. I did all rehearsals, but it took me ten days to get my voice back – by which time, the orchestra rehearsals were upon us. I sang full out at these rehearsals and was at a vocal level for which I would have gone ahead with a performance. I sang three creditable sitzproben and a marathon, three stage orchestras Hauptprobe.

Perhaps my honking lustily in these rehearsals only convinced Mo. Janowski of his earlier impressions and sealed my fate. But last Saturday we had a meeting in which he told me he had no complaint with my instrument, preparation or musicianship, and that he was happy with our work together in the sitzproben and Hauptprobe. However, he said that he considered mine a Brunnhilde rather than a Sieglinde voice, he wanted a different timbre for the part, and he asked me to withdraw. He told me that he no longer conducts staged opera because he hates the productions, but that if a concert of Walkuere came up he would be happy to have me as his Brunnhilde.

So there you have it. I wish my replacement, my gorgeous friend and colleague Heidi Melton, the very best in her Bayreuth debut, and my wonderful colleagues toi toi toi! It is still my hope that I may one day actually sing a performance on the Green Hill.




  • Petros Linardos says:

    Best of luck to Ms. Wilson. She deserves it.

    It’s nice that she also publicizes the reason why Marek Janowski no longer conducts staged opera. It’s the emperor’s new clothes.

  • Urania says:

    Oh, did not know that Bayreuth is concert version now! 🙂

  • Beth Robinson says:

    Said with grace and dignity. Brava Ms Wilson.

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    A simply wonderful, extremely dignified post. Bravo to you, Ms. Wlson!

    Robert von Bahr

  • Gerard says:

    This is one of the first times a singer is so open about the difficult part being a singer. I hope the Bayreuth Festival will make amends, and invite her back in a rol that suits her voice, she fully deserves it, it must be a quite humiliating experience. Mo Janowski is not really to blame (i think) for having his strong opinions about what voice type he would like to have, but he really should invite ms Wilson as soon as possible to sing with him (not necessarily in a Walkure). Bravo ms Wilson!!…maybe mr Bahr will offer you to record a nice recital on BIS? How about that, mr Bahr..? 🙂

  • Gerard says:

    Just listen to this wonderful voice… http://www.jenniferwilsonsoprano.com/page3

  • Olassus says:

    As far as I know, it is Green Hill (Grüner Hügel), like Green Park, not the Green Hill (der grüne Hügel), and named after a corresponding hill near Zurich.

    • Wagnerianer says:

      Er. No. Quite the opposite. It is “der grüne Hügel” in German. And while it is merely a nickname and not an official name, the correct translation in Engtlish would therefore be “the” Green Hill.

    • Hans Hortig says:

      Der gruene Huegel, yes, it’s just a green hill, and there is one in Zurich, with a most beautiful view on the lake. Wagner once considered to build his Festspielhaus there. But I guess the Swiss did not have a Ludwig II, and the Wesendoncks’ coffer wasn’t big enough. On this ‘green hill’ is the “Irrenanstalt Burghoelzli (since 1870?). Carl Jung was the most important psychatrist.

  • mario lutz says:

    I would suggest, dear Norman, that you delete the second name, Ann.
    Jane Ann Wilson is known as free lance reporter, last worked at KSTP in Minneapolis as news anchor.

    Jane Wilson is the soprano who performed Fura del Baus Ring in Valencia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U38dd3GbzEc

    • Max Grimm says:

      If I may make a correction to your post…Jennifer Ann Wilson, the reporter and Jennifer Wilson, the soprano.

    • Respect says:

      Yes, MUST fix it, because we opera fans so easily confuse local news anchors in remote places with world class Wagnerian sopranos.


  • Fran says:

    What a voice! Thanks for the link

  • Helene Lindqvist says:

    If this report is accurate (and it could very well be) – it shows such incompetence on the side of the casters and maestros. They knew her voice when they hired her. She “sounds too much like the other singer”???? So what? Professionals would have known this before hand. And to let her sing all rehearsals before deciding, too. Not good.

  • oma says:

    From my point of view Janowski’s late decision – if he really was the one making the decision here – seems slightly unprofessional and terribly humiliating for Mrs Wilson. If Janowski takes influence on which voice timbre fit which Wagnerian role and which doesn’t – fine! But he could have made a clear decision months ago instead of changing his mind after the Hauptprobe.

    • Peter says:

      We can conjure with almost certainty, that Mrs. Wilson was contracted before Mr. Janowski was asked to step in for the falling out Kyrill Petrenko. Casting her for Sieglinde he might have had reservations about early on since taking over from Petrenko, but have been asked to give it a chance since the contract was signed and could only be changed with a penalty. Now after trying he simply for artistic reasons saw it to be a show stopper, so this unfortunate decision had to be made. Not nice for Mrs. Wilson but likely a decision still based in the spirit of artistic integrity.

      • Ross Whitelaw says:


        Janowski replaced Andris Nelsons only a few weeks ago.


        • Iamamalted says:

          Just for factual accuracy: Janowski did NOT replace Andris Nelsons. Nelsons was to conduct ‘Parsifal’ only. Hartmut Hähnchen replaced Nelsons just a couple of weeks ago after Nelsons’s abrupt withdrawal. Janowski was contracted long ago for “The Ring.”

  • Urania says:

    Mr. Peter – not so shortly before opening night, he did work with Ms. Wilson for weeks. I do think that 2 days might have been enough to find out. And….I do think that she would have been a great Sieglinde. Maybe with greater brillance than others might possess….hmmm…. 🙂

  • Hans Hortig says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, in the early 50, Martha Moedl and Astrid Varnay switched the parts of S. and B. in the same performance
    Wish to have seen and heard the performance.

  • Jimmy says:

    I am sure people like Varnay sang both Sieglinde and Brunnhilde in Rings in the same year at Bayreuth, alternating Brunnhilde with Modl. Plus having heard Melton at the ENO recently, she sounds more like a Brunnhilde, than a Sieglinde. Strange business.

    • Schnitzel von Krumm says:

      And she will in fact sing her first Brünnhilde in the Karlsruhe Walküre in December, with Yuval Sharon directing and Justin Brown conducting.

  • Peter says:

    Why does Norman Lebrecht ever stir national resentments and divisions by wording the headline with “American Sieglinde”? What is that supposed to achieve and tell?
    Her passport issuing country is totally irrelevant in this story.

  • John Lanphier says:

    So sorry to hear about this Ms. Wilson! I have no doubt that you’ll be singing at the Bayreuth Festival in the next few years!!!