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Edith Wiens (Soprano)

Born: June 9, 1950 - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

The Canadian soprano and teacher, Edith Wiens, daughter of a Mennonite preacher, grew up in Vancouver and won several awards in Kiwanis festivals as a young performer. She attended Bible College in Vancouver, and studied on scholarship at the Hannover Hochschule für Musik for three years (Concert Performance Diploma, 1974). She continued her training at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Ohio (B.A., 1974; M.A. in music theater, 1976; honorary D MUS, 1997). After completing her master's degree in music theatre at Oberlin, she lived in Switzerland 1977-1979, returned to Germany in 1979, and worked in Munich as a nanny while complete her vocal training with Ernst Haefliger and Erik Werba. In 1979 she won the gold medal in the Robert Schumann Music Competition in Zwickau, Germany, and also won awards at the ARD Munich Competition and at the Salzburg Mozart Competition.

In 1980 Peter Gierth, manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker, heard her sing and immediately hired her. She made her first appearance as a soloist with them in 1981, sang with them until 1986 some 14 times, and there met many of the conductors who have been influential in her career - Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, and Klaus Tennstedt among others. In 1985 she sang in two J.S. Bach tricentennial concerts, the first with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig conducted by Kurt Masur (relayed to North America via satellite) and the second with the Berliner Philharmoniker (broadcast on German television).

Edith Wiens made her opera debut in 1986 as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera Company and was also the Countess in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Later she added such roles as Ilia in Idomeneo, the First Lady in The Magic Flute, and Marzelline in Fidelio. She performed opera at the Amsterdam Opera, Milan's La Scala, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, in Canada at the National Arts Centre, and in Japan.

In recital, Edith Wiens favoured works by Johannes Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, and Strauss, but her repertoire extended to Gershwin, Stephen Foster, and North American folksongs. As a recitalist, she performed twice at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, 1989 and 1990 by the personal invitation of Svatislav Richter and gave recitals in New York, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, and Florence.

Edith Wiens has performed in many of the world's foremost venues. Blessed with a beautiful, versatile voice, she embraces a vast repertoire of music from the Baroque to the contemporary, and from J.S. Bach to R. Strauss, and has been delighting audiences in North America, Europe and Asia. Proud of her Mennonite heritage, she is one of Canada's classical music ambassadors.

As a soprano in the concert field, Edith Wiens sang with such conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Bernard Haitink, Gunther Herbig, Sir Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Václav Neumann, Krzysztof Penderecki, Helmuth Rilling, and Sir Georg Solti, and appeared at many major music festivals. She sang with principal orchestras of worldwide, such as all major London and (including: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields), North American orchestras (including: New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchesta, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra), Germany (Berliner Philharmoniker, Münchner Philharmoniker, Dresden Staatskapelle, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig), France (Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris), Holland (Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra), as well as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. In Canada she has sung with the Montreal Symphony Orchesta, NACO, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In 1991 as part of the Mozart festivities she performed the Mozart Requiem with the MSO under Chales Dutoit.

Although Edith Wiens was based in Europe, she returned to North America on numerous occasions. She sang in 1989 in Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Mennonite Festival Choir under Helmuth Rilling in Winnipeg, in a recital of lieder and hymns with pianist Irmgard Baerg in Winnipeg; in Toronto in 1994 (her recital debut there); in Vancouver with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1995 and with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra the following year. In 2000 she sang F. Mendelssohn's St. Paul with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and L.v. Beethoven's Mass in C with the American Symphony Orchestra. She appeared on German and Canadian TV and CBC radio, including a Toronto concert with Raffi Armenian in 2000.

Edith Wiens' 1990 recording of Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri with L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande earned a 1990 Grammy Award and the Maurice Fleuret Prize. Among her other recordings is Ae Fond Kiss (CBC), a collection of folk tunes and parlour songs, including arrangements by Ernest MacMillan and Healey Willan.

Edith Wiens was the Smith Visitor at University of Toronto in 1994, gave master-classes in Vienna and at the Banff CA, and taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Germany. Among her students there was the soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Wiens adjudicated at the Cologne International Vocal Competition in 2002. She was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2000. She married the cellist Kai Moser.

More Photos

Source: Lotte Lehmann Foundation Website; Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Canadian Encyclopedia Website (2005); Edith Wiens Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2001, October 2004, April 2005)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Kurt Masur


BWV 244

Dwight Oltman


BWV 78 [2nd] [2nd]

Helmuth Rilling


BWV 4, BWV 6, BWV 27, BWV 164

Links to other Sites

Edith Wiens (Official Website) [English/German]
Wiens, Edith (Canadian Encyclopedia) [English/French]
Edith Wiens (Lotte Lehman)

Edith Wiens (Banff Centre)
Governor General presented Order of Canada to Edith Wiens at Rideau Hall

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