American soprano Christine Weidinger has enjoyed an international career starring in most of the world’s major opera houses and appearing in concert with world-renowned orchestras and conductors.
She began her career at the Metropolitan Opera, where she sang regularly for four years before opting to move to Europe to gain experience in opera’s homelands. From 1976 until 1990 she was a resident artist in Germany, first with the Wurttemberg State Opera in Stuttgart, subsequently with the Municipal Opera of Bielefeld. From the 1970s through the ‘90’s she starred as a guest artist with leading opera houses throughout Europe, South America, and the United States.
Born in Springville, New York, Weidinger grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. She studied singing with Marlene Delavan at Grand Canyon University and with David Scott at University of California at Northridge, During the course of her career she continued vocal studies with Margaret Harshaw at Indiana University, Heldentenor Claude Heater in San Francisco and Dr. Dean Verhines in Los Angeles.
In 1972 she had won national first prize in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions with a contract at the Met and the enthusiastic endorsement of in-coming General Manager Goeren Gentele. Mr. Gentele announced to the New York Times that Weidinger would be his first "home-grown" star.
Just a few months later she made her professional debut at the Central City Opera in Colorado as Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro . Her Figaro was the great American bass Paul Plishka. The New York Times review of the production described Weidinger as “a young artist well worth watching.”
On November 24, 1972 she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Ortlinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre with Erich Leinsdorf conducting, Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde, Jon Vickers as Siegmund, and Gwyneth Jones as Sieglinde. This performance was a jump-in. She had been scheduled to debut as Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème, a role she sang a few days later.
Weidinger performed as a resident artist at the Met until 1976 during which time she was heard as Elvira in Rossini's L’italiana in Algeri, Naiade in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Stéphano in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, Woglinde in Wagner's Das Rheingold and Die Götterdämmerung, Gretel in Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel, Marzelline in Beethoven's Fidelio, and, of course, Musetta in La bohème with Luciano Pavarotti and Renata Scotto.
A favorite of the New York press and public, she nonetheless decided after four years to follow the advice of her mentor - superstar Marilyn Horne and leave the Met to join the resident ensemble of the Wurttemberg State Opera in Stuttgart. After a triumphant debut there as Susanna in Nozze di Figaro (earning her a six minute standing ovation after her aria “Deh vieni non tardar” and more than twenty minutes of applause and chanting her name at final curtain calls), she stayed in Stuttgart to sing among other roles Gilda (with Alfredo Krauss) in Rigoletto, Sophie (with Christa Ludwig) in Der Rosenkavalier, Liu in Turandot, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and the title role in Handel’s Deidamia with Siegfried Jerusalem.
After four years in Stuttgart, she joined the Municipal Opera of Bielefeld in northern Germany where she was first introduced into the Italian “belcanto” repertoire for which she became internationally celebrated. Contrary to general practice in Germany, all of Bielefeld’s productions of the belcanto operas were performed in Italian and not in German translation. From Bielefeld Weidinger attracted international attention in such roles as Lucia di Lammermoor, Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux, Norma, Amina in La sonnambula and Violetta in La traviata. While in residence there she also sang Mimi in La boheme, Rachel in La Juive, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Marguerite in the Cuban-American “enfant terrible” John Dew’s controversial production of Gounod’s Faust. She performed the title roles in Dvorak’s Rusalka, in the world premiere of Udo Zimmerman’s Die wundersame Schustersfrau and in the first German language production of Thea Musgrave’s Mary, Queen of Scots.
Weidinger went on to star in major opera houses and festivals all over the world, including La Scala in Milan, the Liçeo in Barcelona, the Vienna State Opera, the Aix- en-Provence Festival in southern France, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Hamburg State Opera, the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, the Los Angeles Opera, the Municipal Opera of Santiago in Chile, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, and the Welsh National Opera.
She was soprano soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Erich Leinsdorf, the Berlin Philharmonic under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, The Nordwestdeutsche Phiharmonie Orchestra, The Dutch Catholic Radio Orchestra under Henry Lewis and Kent Nagano, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France as Antonia in a nation-wide broadcast of The Tales of Hoffmann.
Some of the many other roles Weidinger has sung are Vitellia in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and Elettra in his Idomeneo, both with Riccardo Muti at La Scala; Benigna in Krystof Penderecki’s Die schwarze Maske with the composer conducting also at La Scala; Arminda in Mozart’s La finta giardiniera at Aix-en-Provence), Adele in Le comte Ory with Rockwell Blake in Montreal, Gilda in Rigoletto with Leo Nucci in Marseille, with Alfredo Krauss in Stuttgart and with Adib Fazah in Central City; Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail – a role she performed more than 150 times during her career at the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Volksoper, the Hamburg State Opera, the opera in Stuttgart and in Berlin at both the Deutsche Oper and the Theater unter den Linden; Leonora in Il trovatore at Madrid’s Teatro Real with Jose Cura; Aida in Caracas, Venezuela and in Bielefeld; Elisabetta in Don Carlo at the Teatro Roma in Buenos Aires; Amelia in Un ballo in maschera at Welsh National Opera and the Opera of Krakow, Poland; the title role in Rossini's Armida in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Armida as personified in Handel's Rinaldo with Marilyn Horne at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and with Teresa Berganza in the Opera of Lisbon, Portugal. She was Amenaide in Rossini’s Tancredi with Marilyn Horne at the Liçeo, the Los Angeles Opera and the Opera of Bilbao, Spain.
One of the highlights of her career was performing all three of the demanding Donizetti "Queen Roles" at the Liçeo with Richard Bonynge as conductor and Giancarlo Del Monaco as stage director. In the balcony next to the stage at every performance sat the legendary Joan Sutherland, inevitably giving Weidinger a thumbs up at each curtain call.
But “La Stupenda’s” greatest thumbs up for the younger soprano came in an interview with opera journalist Patric Schmid. Sutherland was asked: “Whatever shall we do for the great belcanto diva roles now that you have retired?” In her usual direct, no-nonsense fashion Sutherland responded “If you have any sense you’ll get Christine Weidinger!”
Weidinger even ventured into a major Wagnerian role when she sang Senta in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer at the Teatro Reggio of Turin with Hans Sotin and Tom Fox and again at the Wiesbaden Opera in Germany.
While her career for two decades had been almost exclusively European-based, she began to sing more often in North America. In 1988 she sang at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston in the demanding dramatic coloratura role of Eupaforice in Carl Heinrich Graun's Montezuma. She appeared twice at the Cincinnati Opera as Konstanze and as Lucia di Lammermoor and as Donna Anna to Justino Diaz’s Don Giovanni in Puerto Rico. In neighboring Canada she was Donna Anna at the Vancouver Opera, Leonora in Il trovatore at the Edmonton Opera and Adele in Comte Ory in Montreal. In 1992 after a 16-year absence, she returned “home” to the Metropolitan Opera to sing the title role in Rossini's Semiramide.
In addition to her frequent collaborations with Marilyn Horne, Weidinger has costarred with such greats as Montserrat Caballe, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, Jon Vickers, Luciano Pavarotti, Leonie Rysanek, Christa Ludwig, Rosalind Elias, Teresa Berganza, Leo Nucci, Matteo Mannuguerra, Giuseppe Taddei, Alfredo Krauss, Peter Schreier, George Shirley, Ruggero Raimondi, John Macurdy, James Morris, Malcolm Smith and many others.
In 1976 she had married North Carolina native Ken Smith, who was then Performance House Manager at the Metropolitan Opera. They currently live in Durham, North Carolina, where Weidinger teaches voice and coaches privately. Having been brought up in Arizona, she fell in love with the green landscapes of the Tar Heel State and the openness and friendliness of its people. Though her husband is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she is an ardent Duke basketball supporter and a huge fan of Duke’s Coach K!
Since moving to North Carolina, Weidinger has performed with the Opera Company of North Carolina as Liu in Puccini’ Turandot and as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. She also sang the title role in Blitzstein’s Regina for the Long Leaf Opera in Chapel Hill, teaming up again with her colleague Malcolm Smith as Horace. She is a regular guest across the state during Christmas seasons to sing the soprano part in The Messiah. North Carolina critic John Lambert has referred to her as “our state’s resident treasure.”