Hildegard Behrens was born in Varel, a small city in the North of Germany and began at a very early age to play piano and violin. She received her degree from the University of Freiburg and began her career as a singer interpreting small roles at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf.
In 1976, during the rehearsals of Wozzeck, she was discovered by the great Herbert von Karajan who invited her to perform in Salome by Strauss at the Salzburg Festival the following year.
From that moment her singing career commenced which led her to interpret the countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro
by Mozart, Tosca
in the opera of the same name by Puccini, Cassandra in Les Troyens
by Berlioz in Athens, Emilia Marty in The Makropulos affair
by Janácek and Katerina Ismailova in Lady Macbeth
from the District of Mcensk by Šostakovic, both produced by the Opera of the Bavarian State.
She also made her debut at the Metropolitan in New York as Giorgetta in Tabarro
After having performed the role of Brünnhilde in Die Walkure
at the Festival of Bayreuth 1983, she was described by the press as one of the best interpreters of the century of Wagner's works.
In 1996 Hildegard Behrens participated in a new production of Tristan und Isolde
for the occasion of the reopening of the Prinzregententheater of Munich and in the summer of the same year she closed the season with one of the principal musical events of the year, a new production of Elektra
, performed at the Festival of Salzburg which was conducted by Lorin Maazel.
In 1997, for the occasion of the Ring Cycle Festival presented by the Met in New York, she interpreted the role of Brünnhilde in Die Walkure
Once again in 1997 Hildegard Behrens performed in Salome
at the Houston Grand Opera and in Elektra
at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and at the Covent Garden Royal Opera House; she also sang in Fidelio
by Beethoven, Tristan und Isolde
and Der Fliegende Holländer
, and was a guest at the major European and American Opera theatres.
In 1998 she won the prestigious "Léonie Sonnings Music Prize" in Denmark and the following year the "Lotte Lehmann Memorial Ring" at the Staatsoper in Vienna.
Even if Ms. Behrens is specialized in roles by Wagner and Strauss, she was a protagonist for the occasion of the inauguration of the Salzburg Festival in 1999, in Cronaca del luogo
, an opera by Luciano Berio. Subsequently, she sang in The Merry widow
by Lehár, Parsifal
by Wagner and she made her debut as Kostelnicka in Jenufa
by Janácek at the Salzburg Festival in 2001.
The soprano has taken part in productions which have been conducted by artists such as Karl Böhm, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti, and has successfully performed in a liederistic evening at Carnegie Hall and in a Gala Concert at the Teatro Réal in Madrid. Recently she gave a recital at the Metropolitan Museum and a concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Shortly, in Oslo, she will make her debut as Ortrud in Lohengrin
The soprano has also made a number of discographic recordings.