The American soprano, Cheryl Studer, began at a very young age studying the piano and the viola. At the age of twelve, after listening to the album "La Callas à Paris", she decided that she wanted to be an opera singer and started voice lessons in her hometown with Mrs. Gwendolyn Pike. She spent her senior high school years at Interlochen Arts Academy, before studying for one year at Oberlin Conservatory, near Cleveland, Ohio. She then moved with her family to Tennessee, where she continued her studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Her promising talent caught Leonard Bernstein's attention and he offered her full scholarships to study for three consecutive summers at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood (1975 to 1977), where she studied with Phyllis Curtin. She debuted at Tanglewood in 1976 in Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa, who invited her for a series of concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall during the 1978-1979 season.
In the summer of 1979, Cheryl Studer went to the Schubert Institute in Baden bei Wien, Austria, where she attended a course for foreign students on the art of the German Lied. Among her teachers at that summer institute were Irmgard Seefried, Brigitte Fassbaender and Hans Hotter. The great baritone persuaded Cheryl Studer to stay in Europe for the year and study with him at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna.
After a year in Vienna, and at Hans Hotter's urging, Cheryl Studer auditioned for Wolfgang Sawallisch who hired her as a permanent member of the Bavarian State Opera, where she spent two consecutive seasons. At the end of the 1981-1982 season, she left the Munich ensemble to join the Staatstheater Darmstadt for two seasons, before going to Berlin to be part of the Deutsche Oper ensemble for the 1984-195 and 1985-1986 seasons.
Cheryl Studer sang her first big role (Violetta) as a guest artist at the Staatstheater Braunschweig in the spring of 1983. In the summer of that same year, the Bayerische Staatsoper called her to their Summer Festival to sing Irene (Rienzi) and Drola (Die Feen), under Maestro Wolfgang Sawallisch. She made her North American opera debut in the role of Micaela (Carmen) in 1984 for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She caught the world's attention for the first time at the 1985 Bayreuth Festival, when the sang Elisabeth (Tannhäuser) under Giuseppe Sinopoli. Since then, she has sung in the most prestigious houses in the world: Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona (debut in 1986 in Das Rheingold as Freia), Opéra de Paris (debut the same year in Die Zauberflöte as Pamina), San Francisco Opera (debut in Die Meistersinger as Eva, also in 1986), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (debut in 1987 in Tannhäuser as Elisabeth), La Scala (operatic debut in Don Giovanni as Donna Anna in 1987), New York Metropolitan Opera (debut in 1988 in Carmen as Micaela), Vienna State Opera (debut in Elektra as Chrysothemis in 1989). She debuted at the Salzburg Summer Festival that same year and in the same role.
Cheryl Studer's repertoire reveals a soprano of exceptional versatility, perhaps not encountered since the great Lilly Lehmann: from Mozart's Queen of the Night, Donna Anna and Countess Almaviva, to Wagner's Sieglinde, Elisabeth and Elsa, from Rossini's Mathilde and Semiramide to Donizetti's Lucia, from Verdi's Odabella and Violetta to Charles Gounod's Marguerite and the great heroines of Richard Strauss, Cheryl Studer's repertoire encompasses more than 70 roles.
In addition to her appearances in the most renowned opera houses of the world, Cheryl Studer has never forgotten her first love: the Lied. Although she has been singing Lieder since her early years, she made her first big European tour in 1992; ever since, she has been giving Lieder recitals in many European cities, as well as in the USA and the Far East. Although an acclaimed interpreter of the great Germanic Lieder composers (in particular Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Strauss and Hugo Wolf), she also loves Debussy's Ariettes oubliées and Samuel Barber's songs.
Cheryl Studer also appears regularly as a concert soloist with the world's most famous orchestras: the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the London Symphony, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, to name but a few. Her concert repertoire includes L.v. Beethoven's Missa solemnis, Mozart's concert arias, Verdi's Requiem, Wagner's Wesendonk-Lieder and Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder, as well as other orchestral Lieder.
For her third summer's work as a Vocal Fellow of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Cheryl Studer won the 1977 High Fidelity/Musical America Prize. The following year, she competed in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions Finals and won the Mrs. Frederick A. Stoughton Award. In 1979, she won the Franz-Schubert-Institut-Preis for excellence in Lied interpretation. She received the Grand Prix du Disque - Prix Maria Callas, in 1989. Cheryl Studer was particularly honoured to be chosen by an international jury as the first recipient of the International Classical Music Award in 1993 (London) in the category Best Female Singer of the Year; in the same year, she also received the Wilhelm Furtwängler Prize. One year later, she was chosen as Musical America's Vocalist of the Year (1994).
A great many recordings featuring Cheryl Studer have also received numerous prizes, awards and distinctions. Among others: Tannhäuser (Elisabeth - DG - G. Sinopoli): Gran Premio del disco Ritmo, Orphée d'Or, CD Compact, Diapason d'Or; Attila (Odabella - EMI - Riccardo Muti): Diapason d'Or, Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros, L'Opera-Città di Mondovì, Musica Viva; Salome (Salome - DG - G. Sinopoli): Stella d'Argento, Diapason d'Or, Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du disque, Edison Award, Orphée d'Or; Faust (Marguerite - EMI - M. Plasson): Diapason d'Or, 10 de Répertoire, Choc du Monde de la Musique, FFFF de Télérama, Orphée d'Or de l'Académie du disque lyrique, Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros, Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du disque, Classic CD 5-Star Award; Lohengrin (Elsa - DG - Claudio Abbado): FFFF de Télérama, 10 de Répertoirte, Timbre de platine d'Opéra international, Outstanding from BBC Music Magazine; Samuel Barber's Complete Songs (with Thomas Hampson - DG - John Browning, piano): Caecilia Prijs, Diapason d'Or, 10 de Répertoire, First Cannes Classical Awards, Vocal Recital, XIX/XX centuries category, Hilary Finch's Record of the Year (BBC Music Magazine), Gramophone Awards, Solo Vocal category; Susannah (Title role - Virgin Classics - Kent Nagano): Grammy Award; Hérodiade (Salomé - EMI - M. Plasson): Choc du Monde de la Musique, Diapason