A Star-Is-Born Moment at the Met: Former Waitress Steps in for Mattila

Classic Arts News   A Star-Is-Born Moment at the Met: Former Waitress Steps in for Mattila
Erika Sunnegê‰rdh, a soprano with just three professional opera credits, made her Metropolitan Opera debut on Saturday, April 1, stepping in for an ailing Karita Mattila as Leonore in an internationally broadcast production of Beethoven's Fidelio.

Primed by a front-page story in the New York Times about Sunnegê‰rdh's rapid ascent, the audience gave her an ecstatic ovation, according to eyewitness accounts and a report in the Times.

According to the Times, the Swedish-born, 40-year-old singer has spent the last two decades in New York, taking singing lessons while working as a caterer, waitress, and tour guide. In January 2004, she auditioned for Sweden's Malm‹ Opera and won the title role in Turandot.

A few months later, before her debut in Malm‹, her manager arranged for an audition for music director James Levine at the Met. That led to an engagement this spring as the cover for Mattila both in Fidelio and as Elsa in Lohengrin (she is also scheduled to appear in the final performance of Fidelio on April 13). She will travel to Japan with the company in June and will appear next season as the First Lady in The Magic Flute and Turandot.

Sunnegê‰rdh told the Times that she had made a few mistakes early in Saturday's performance, but "the second act felt like it was really on."

Tenor Ben Heppner, who appeared as Florestan, told the paper, "She faced this whole thing with nerves of steel."

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