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Hendricks, Barbara

Barbara Hendricks

1948—

Opera singer

Although lyric soprano Barbara Hendricks stepped onto the opera stage later in life than most of her peers, her natural musical talent has made up for lost time. She began her voice training in 1968 at the relatively advanced age of nineteen and went on to make her American opera debut with the San Francisco Opera in 1975. Seven years later Hendricks made an impressive Paris debut as the female lead in the opera Romeo et Juliette, and she has been a major star ever since. Over the last twenty-five years Hendricks has been a frequent classical recitalist and jazz singer in addition to performing in operas. She is also one of the most high-profile humanitarians in the world of music, an advocate for human rights and refugees worldwide.

A master at performing French art songs and classical German songs of the nineteenth-century known as "lieder," Hendricks has become an international celebrity. She has more than fifty recordings to her credit and has sung with almost all of the major orchestras in the world. Though the modest artist has downplayed her fame, Hendricks has received worldwide critical acclaim for her voice and has worked with such noted conductors as Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Georg Solti, and James Levine. According to Ebony, von Karajan compared Hendricks to the legendary Maria Callas "in passion and interpretive possibility."

"When the lyric soprano Barbara Hendricks sings, the first word that comes to mind is not powerful but beautiful or even pretty," stated Dennis McFarland in the New York Times. "What you hear is near perfect intonation, clear diction, and the lovely variety of colors that characterizes a pleasant speaking voice.… You have the feeling that Ms. Hendricks is singing with the voice she was born with, not with the one she has made for herself."

Came to the Opera Late in Life

Hendricks is noted for her down-to-earth demeanor, which is often linked to her Midwestern upbringing. The daughter of a Methodist minister and a school-teacher, Hendricks grew up in segregated Stephens, Arkansas, in the 1950s. Her musical experience was limited to singing in the church choir, playing the piano, and singing hymns to her mother at night. Despite her beautiful voice, she aspired to become a doctor or a lawyer.

Hendricks decided to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), where she studied mathematics and chemistry, subjects in which she had excelled during high school. The turning point of Hendricks's life occurred during her junior year at UNL when a member of her church choir asked her to sing at a civic society meeting. A trustee of the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies heard her sing and encouraged her to attend the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. So, in the summer of 1968, Hendricks's career path turned to music.

In Aspen Hendricks also met the woman who was instrumental in the development of her musical career—Jennie Tourel, the great Russian mezzo-soprano. Tourel invited Hendricks to study with her at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York. Hendricks returned to Nebraska to complete her bachelor's degree and joined Tourel at Juilliard in 1969.

Hendricks's lack of formal voice training left her feeling handicapped at Juilliard, where some of her classmates had been studying music since the age of six. But Tourel's constant support helped Hendricks through. Hendricks told Opera News contributor Barrymore Laurence Scherer: "Tourel assured me that with my voice I could have a career, and having had a normal upbringing, I was less hysterical about ‘making it’ than a lot of people. I was realistic enough to know that if it wasn't going to happen, I could do other things to make my contribution—medicine was one, and I was also interested in law." Hendricks, however, did not need to worry about resorting to another field.

Established Herself in Europe

Hendricks's European odyssey began in the early 1970s. She spent her summers touring Europe with Tourel, who was teaching masters classes. They always started their stints in France, which would later become the singer's home. In 1971 Hendricks won the Geneva International Competition and the following year brought home the first prize in the International Concours de Paris. She performed several European operas and recitals throughout the early 1970s but did not make her American opera debut until 1975, when she played Drusilla in the San Francisco Opera's production of Claudio Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. During the summer of 1975 Hendricks sang the role of Clara in the complete recording of the George Gershwin folk opera Porgy and Bess with the Cleveland Orchestra under Lorin Mazel.

In January of 1977 Swedish-born Martin Engstrom, Hendricks's European manager and friend since 1973, invited her to Europe for auditions. Following a two-day courtship, Hendricks agreed to marry Engstrom, and by April they had made Paris their home. Because she intended to make a life in Europe with Engstrom, she was naturalized as a citizen of Sweden; at the time, Sweden did not allow dual citizenship, so Hendricks had to surrender her American citizenship. Proximity made it easy for Hendricks to schedule more of her appearances in France, and the French seemed happy to adopt the American soprano. Hendricks made her Paris Opera debut as Juliette in Romeo et Juliette in 1982.

At a Glance …

Born November 20, 1948, in Stephens, AR; became Swedish citizen; daughter of M. L. (a Methodist minister) and Della (a schoolteacher) Hendricks; married Martin Engstrom (a music manager); children: Jennie, Sebastian. Education: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, BS, 1969; studied at Juilliard School of Music, 1969-71.

Career: Operatic soprano. Singer with most major opera companies in the world; has collaborated on more than fifty recordings. American opera debut, 1975; moved to Paris, 1977; Berlin Opera debut, 1978; New York Metropolitan Opera debut, 1986. Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, beginning 1987, lifetime appointment, 2002; founded Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, 1998.

Awards: First prize, Geneva International Competition, 1971; first prize, International Concours de Paris, 1972; French Grammy for best French performer of classical music, 1986; Commandeur, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1986; honorary doctorates from multiple universities, including Nebraska Wesleyan University, 1988, University of Louvain, 1990, University of Dundee, 1992, University of Grenoble, 1996, and the Juilliard School of Music, 2000; Prince of Asturias Award, 2000; Lions Club International Humanitarian Award, 2001.

Addresses: Office—Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, c/o BH Office, PO Box 224, CH-1815 Clarens, Switzerland.

In 1986 she became the only non-French singer nominated for the French Grammys, and she received the award for best French performer in the classical music category. That same year the French government named Hendricks the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.

Won Worldwide Recognition

Hendricks made her New York Metropolitan Opera debut as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier in 1986. Over the years she has performed with major opera companies throughout the United States and Europe, including the Boston Opera, the Houston Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, the St. Paul Opera, Berlin's Deutsche Opera, de Nederlandse Operastichting, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Hendricks has also worked with a variety of international symphony orchestras, including those in Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, and Vienna. The artist expanded her talents to acting when she made her screen debut as Mimi in the 1988 film version of La Boheme, directed by Luigi Comencini.

Although Hendricks made regular appearances in the United States during the early 1980s, most of her exposure there was as a recitalist. Her few operatic appearances were with the Boston and Santa Fe Opera companies. In 1990 she appeared as a guest on NBC's Christmas in Washington and on the PBS broadcast of Boston's Christmas at Pops. According to McFarland, "Probably thousands of American viewers of these programs were asking themselves, ‘Who is that beautiful woman with the beautiful voice?’"

In 1994 Hendricks expanded her repertoire to include jazz, making her debut with a tribute to Duke Ellington at the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival. Since then, she has toured with Grammy-winning performer Magnus Lindgren's jazz quartet, among others.

Hendricks has spent a significant amount of time culturing her voice's natural sound. She reportedly values rehearsal time above all else and dislikes the lack of it in today's opera—part of the reason she rarely performs more than five operas per year. She devotes most of her time to concerts and recitals, "where I can really pare things down to essentials, just me and the accompanist," she told Scherer in Opera News.

Hendricks's preference for music in its purest form is also reflected in her belief that bigger sound is not necessarily better. "Rather than oversinging, I try to pull the voice back, to refine and control it, to see how little I can sing while still making it go out into the house," Hendricks continued in Opera News. "It's the difference between a Mack truck and a Maserati—one can haul a load, but the other can take the curves."

Lent Her Voice to the Cause of Refugees

While the passionate opera singer's impact on the world of music is unquestionable, her voice has also made a significant, if not as celebrated, difference in the lives of countless refugees. As a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Hendricks is as devoted to her humanitarian work as she is to her music.

Since her appointment to the post of Goodwill Ambassador in 1987, Hendricks has visited countless refugee camps in Africa and Asia. Working eighteen-hour days in the most primitive living conditions, she tries to give hope to the displaced men, women, and children in the camps. "I do not fool myself by thinking I'm changing the world, but I know I'm touching something, if for no other reason, for the fact that I represent hope," she told McFarland. "They know that I'm on their side. I see that in their eyes."

In addition to visiting refugee camps, Hendricks's responsibility as a Goodwill Ambassador includes spreading the word about the plight of refugees. Through benefit concerts and public announcements, Hendricks strives to educate others. In 1991 and 1993 she performed at peace concerts in the former Yugoslavia; the second concert was in Sarajevo during the Balkan War, at a time when the city was beset by sniper fire and sectarian violence. She also sang at the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, at the request of the award's recipient, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and at the 2002 independence celebration for East Timor.

In 1998 she formed the Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation. The foundation raises awareness of humanitarian issues and promotes social justice around the world. Spain honored Hendricks's artistic and humanitarian efforts by awarding her the Prince of Asturias Award in 2000; the Lions Club followed suit the following year, with a humanitarian award and a $200,000 grant. In 2002 the UNHCR honored Hendricks, its longest-serving Goodwill Ambassador, with a lifetime appointment to represent the organization around the globe.

Though Hendricks is very serious about her musical pursuits, she has a realistic view of how they fit into the greater scheme of life. "I'm very sincere about my humanitarian activities," she said in Ebony. "I really rely on my concert appearances to further the cause of human rights. It's not a duty; it's a need. Besides," she added modestly, "you only have to read the front page of the newspaper to put my concert reviews in proper perspective."

Formed Her Own Record Label

In 2004 frustrations with the way EMI treated artists inspired Hendricks to leave her longtime record label. The key to this decision was the realization that more than half of her recordings were no longer available in the label's catalog. Two years later she founded her own company, Arte Verum (Latin for "true art"), to produce and distribute her recordings.

"I created Arte Verum because it is possible for artists today to control their creative endeavors from the beginnings in the rehearsal room to the concert hall, beyond into the recording studio and then directly to the public. The technological advances that have made this step possible would have been unthinkable just ten years ago," Hendricks declared in the new company's mission statement. True to her words, Arte Verum took full advantage of the technology available in November of 2007 by allowing fans to download her third Arte Verum album, Endless Pleasure, for a price of their choosing. This novel distribution system, which raises awareness of artists and their work while circumventing traditional avenues for selling and promoting music, had already been used successfully by pioneering musicians such as Radiohead. "I know my label will not sell millions of records," she told Nathalie Funès in Nouvel Observateur. "But my work exists, and that itself is a great victory."

By 2007 Hendricks had significantly reduced her performing schedule, admitting that the constant travel of life on tour no longer appealed to her. In 1985 she and her husband moved to the small town of Clarens, Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva. The move was originally intended to provide a proper environment for Hendricks's two children, but she has come to appreciate being away from the bustle and noise of big cities. "For me," the soprano told Funès, "one of the great luxuries is silence."

Selected discography

Negro Spirituals, EMI, 1983.

Mozart: Opera and Concert Arias, EMI, 1984.

Mozart: Marriage of Figaro, Philips, 1985.

Schubert: Lieder, EMI, 1986.

La Boheme (soundtrack), Erato, 1988.

Mozart: Sacred Arias, EMI, 1988.

Bach: Cantatas 51, 82, 202 (complete) with Cantata 208 (one aria only), Angel, 1990.

Bizet: Les Pecheurs de perles, Angel, 1990.

Chabrier: La Legende de Gwendoline: Ode a la musique, Angel, 1990.

Donizetti: Don Pasquale, Erato, 1990.

Orff: Carmina burana, Angel, 1990.

Poulenc: Stabat Mater, Gloria in G, Angel, 1990.

Sacred Songs, Angel, 1991.

Airs & Duos D'Opérettes, EMI, 1994.

Strauss: Four Last Songs, EMI, 1996.

Mozart: Opera and Concert Arias, EMI, 1999.

Gluck: Orféo et Euridice, EMI, 1999.

Wolf: Mörike and Goethe Lieder, EMI, 2001.

Gershwin: It's Wonderful, EMI, 2002.

Canciones Españolas, Arte Verum, 2006.

Schumann: Lieder, Arte Verum, 2007.

Purcell and Handel: Endless Pleasure, Arte Verum, 2007.

Schubert: Ave Maria, Arte Verum, 2008.

Poulenc: Tel jour telle nuit, Arte Verum, 2008.

Sources

Books

Artist Issue, 17th edition, Schwann Publications, 1991-92.

Periodicals

Ebony, May 1990.

International Herald Tribune, February 7, 2006.

New York Times, May 12, 1991.

Nouvel Observateur (France), May 10, 2007.

Opera News, August 1988.

Washington Post, November 11, 1983.

Online

Arte Verum, http://www.arteverum.com/?page=presentation (accessed April 21, 2008).

Barbara Hendricks Official Website, http://www.barbarahendricks.com (accessed April 21, 2008).

Chang, Ching, "Barbara Hendricks: More Than a Diva," US Opera Web, Spring 2003, http://www.usoperaweb.com/2003/spring/hendricks.htm (accessed April 21, 2008).

Taylor, Pamela, "The Good Will of Barbara Hendricks," Human Rights Tribune, March 21, 2008, http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/The-good-will-of-Barbara-Hendricks,2920 (accessed April 21, 2008).

Other

Barbara Hendricks was profiled on the November 24, 1991, broadcast of CBS Sunday Morning.

—Jomel Nichols and Derek Jacques

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Hendricks, Barbara

Barbara Hendricks

Opera singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Although soprano Barbara Hendricks stepped onto the opera stage later in life than most of her peers, her inherent musical talent has made up for lost time. She began her vocal training in 1968 at the relatively advanced age of 19 and went on to make her American opera debut with the San Francisco Opera in 1975, in her late twenties. Seven years later, Hendricks made an impressive showing in Paris singing the female lead in the opera Romeo et Juliette.

A master of French art songs and nineteenth-century German lieder, Hendricks has become an international celebrity. She has more than 50 recordings to her credit and has sung with almost all of the worlds major orchestras. Though she has downplayed her reputation, Hendricks has received widespread critical acclaim for her voice and has worked with such noted conductors as Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Georg Solti, and James Levine. According to Ebony, von Karajan compared Hendricks to the legendary Maria Callas in passion and interpretive possibility.

When the lyric soprano Barbara Hendricks sings, the first word that comes to mind is not powerful but beautiful or even pretty, proclaimed Dennis McFarland in the New York Times. What you hear is near perfect intonation, clear diction, and the lovely variety of colors that characterizes a pleasant speaking voice. ... You have the feeling that Ms. Hendricks is singing with the voice she was born with, not with the one she has made for herself.

Hendricks, who is noted for her down-to-earth demeanor, is the daughter of a Methodist minister and a schoolteacher. She grew up in segregated Stephens, Arkansas, in the 1950s. Her musical experience was limited to the church choir, playing the piano, and singing hymns to her mother at night. Although she was clearly gifted vocally, she aspired to become a doctor or a lawyer.

Hendricks chose to attend the University of Nebraska, where she studied mathematics and chemistry, subjects in which she had excelled during high school. The watershed event of Hendrickss early professional life occurred during her junior year at Nebraska when a member of her church choir asked her to sing at a civic-society meeting. A trustee of the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies heard her sing and encouraged her to attend the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. In the summer of 1968, Hendrickss career path turned firmly toward music.

In Aspen, Hendricks met Jennie Tourel, the great Russian mezzo-soprano. Tourel invited Hendricks to study with her at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in

For the Record

Born November 20, 1948, in Stephens, AR; daughter of M. L. (a Methodist minister) and Della (a school-teacher) Hendricks; married Martin Engstrom (her manager); children: Jennie, Sebastian. Education: University of Nebraska, B.S., 1969; attended Juilliard School of Music, 1969-71.

U.S. opera debut, San Francisco, 1975; Berlin Opera debut, 1978; New York Metropolitan Opera debut, 1986. Goodwill Ambassador to United Nations High Commission for Refugees, beginning 1987; appeared in film La Bohème, 1988.

Awards: First prize, Geneva International Competition, 1971; first prize, International Concours de Paris, 1972; French Grammy Award for best French performer of classical music, 1986; named Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, 1986.

Addresses: Management Columbia Artists Management, Inc., 165 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019; Opera et Concert, 19 rue Vignon, 75008 Paris, France.

New York City. Hendricks returned to Nebraska to complete her bachelors degree and joined Tourel at Juilliard in 1969.

Her lack of formal training left her feeling handicapped at Juilliard, where some of her classmates had been studying music since the age of six. But Tourels constant support helped Hendricks through. She told Opera News contributor Barrymore Laurence Scherer: Tourel assured me that with my voice I could have a career, and having had a normal upbringing, I was less hysterical about making it than a lot of people. I was realistic enough to know that if it wasnt going to happen, I could do other things to make my contribution medicine was one, and I was also interested in law. It soon became clear, however, that these career contingency plans would prove unnecessary.

In the 1970s, Hendricks began a European odyssey. She spent her summers touring the Continent with Tourel, who was teaching masters classes. They always began in France, which would later become the singers home. In 1971 Hendricks won the Geneva International Competition and the following year brought home the first prize in the International Concours de Paris. She performed in recitals and European operas throughout the early 1970s but did not make her American opera debut until 1975, when she played Drusilla in the San Francisco Operas production of Claudio Monteverdis Lincoronazione di Poppea. During the summer of 1975, Hendricks sang the role of Clara in the complete recording of George Gershwins Porgy and Bess with the Cleveland Orchestra under Lorin Mazel.

In January of 1977 Swedish-born Martin Engstrom, Hendrickss European manager and friend since 1973, invited her to Europe for auditions. Following a two-day courtship, Hendricks agreed to marry Engstrom, and by April, they had made Paris their home.

Proximity made it easy for Hendricks to schedule more of her appearances in France, and the French seemed happy to adopt the American soprano. She made her Paris Opera debut as Juliette in Romeo et Juliette in 1982.

In 1986, she became the only non-French singer nominated for the French Grammy Awards; she received the award for best French performer in the classical music category. Also that year, the French government named Hendricks Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.

Hendricks made her New York Metropolitan Opera debut as Sophie in Richard Strausss Der Rosenkavalier in 1986. Since her initial appearance in San Francisco, she has performed with major opera companies across the United States and Europe, including the Boston Opera, the Houston Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, the St. Paul Opera, Berlins Deutsche Opera, de Nederlandse Operastichting, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Hendricks has also worked with a variety of international symphony orchestras, including those in Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, and Vienna. In 1988 she extended her skills to film, singing the role of Mimi in Luigi Comencinis version of Giacomo Puccinis La Bohème.

Although Hendricks made regular appearances in the United States during the early 1980s, most of her exposure there was as a recitalist. Her few operatic appearances were with the Boston and Santa Fe Opera companies. In 1990 she appeared as a guest on NBC-TVs Christmas in Washington and on the PBS broadcast of Bostons Christmas at Pops. According to New York Times contributor McFarland, Probably thousands of American viewers of these programs were asking themselves, Who is that beautiful woman with the beautiful voice?

Hendricks has put great effort into culturing her voices natural sound. She reportedly values rehearsal time above all and disdains its lack in todays operapart of the reason she rarely performs more than five operas a year. She devotes most of her time to concerts and recitals, where I can really pare things down to essentials, just me and the accompanist, she told Scherer in Opera News.

Hendrickss preference for music in its purist form is also reflected in her belief that bigger sound is not necessarily better. Rather than oversinging, I try to pull the voice back, to refine and control it, to see how little I can sing while still making it go out into the house, Hendricks explained to Scherer. Its the difference between a Mack truck and a Maseratione can haul a load, but the other can take the curves.

While the passionate singers impact on the world of music is unquestionable, her voice has also made a significant, if not as celebrated, difference in the lives of countless refugees. As a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Hendricks is as devoted to humanitarian work as she is to her music. Since her appointment to the post in 1987, Hendricks has visited countless refugee camps in Africa and Asia. Working 18-hour days in the most primitive living conditions, she tries to give hope to the displaced men, women, and children of the camps. I do not fool myself by thinking Im changing the world, but I know Im touching something, if for no other reason, for the fact that I represent hope, she told McFarland. They know that Im on their side. I see that in their eyes.

In addition to visiting refugee camps, Hendrickss responsibility as a Goodwill Ambassador includes heightening awareness of the plight of refugees. Through benefit concerts and public announcements, Hendricks strives to educate others about the refugee dilemma. And though the artist is truly committed to her musical pursuits, she has a pragmatic view of how they fit into the greater scheme of things. Im very sincere about my humanitarian activities, she said in Ebony. I really rely on my concert appearances to further the cause of human rights. Its not a duty; its a need. Besides, she added with typical modesty, you only have to read the front page of the newspaper to put my concert reviews in proper perspective.

By the early 1990s, Hendricks and her husband had established a residence in Switzerland with their two children, Jennie, named after the singers beloved early mentor, and Sebastian. Hendricks limits most of her performances to Europe, where she can easily fly home to Switzerland between appearances. Despite her rigorous schedule, she places great value on time with her family. For me there is no conflict between profession and home, no sacrifice, she told Ebony. My children need me, so I have to make it all work.

Selected discography

Bach:Cantatas 51, 82, 202 (complete) with Cantata 208 aria), Angel, 1990.

Bizet:Les Pecheurs de perles, Angel, 1990.

Chabrier:La Legende de Gwendoline: Ode à la musique, Angel, 1990.

Chabrier:Le Roi Malgre Lui, 1992.

Donizetti:Don Pasquale, Erato, 1990.

Gershwin:Porgy and Bess, 1975.

Gounod:Mors et Vita, 1993.

La Bohème (soundtrack), Erato, 1988.

Lalo:Le RoidYs, 1991.

(With Esa-Pekka Salonen) Mahler:Symphony No. 4, Sony Classical, 1992.

Mozart:Die Zauberflote, 1992.

Mozart:Opera and Concert Arias, EMI, 1984.

Mozart:Marriage of Figaro, Philips, 1985.

Mozart:Mass in C minor, 1991.

Mozart:Sacred Arias, EMI, 1988.

Negro Spirituals, EMI, 1983.

Orff:Carmina burana, Angel, 1990.

Poulenc:Stabat Mater, Gloria in G, Angel, 1990.

Sacred Songs, Angel, 1991.

Schubert:Lieder, EMI, 1986.

Strauss:Songs, 1992.

Sources

Books

Artist Issue, 17th edition, Schwann, 1991-92.

Periodicals

Ebony, May 1990.

Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1992.

Musical America, May 1991.

New York, May 4, 1987.

New York Times, May 12, 1991.

Opera News, August 1988; July 1991; December 19, 1992; January 18, 1992.

People, May 3, 1993.

Stereo Review, June 1992.

Washington Post, November 11, 1983.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from the television program CBS Sunday Morning, November 24, 1991.

Jomel Nichols

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Hendricks, Barbara 1948–

Barbara Hendricks 1948

Operatic soprano

At a Glance

Introduced to Europe

Perfected Vocal Control

Devoted to Helping Refugees

Selected discography

Sources

Although lyric soprano Barbara Hendricks stepped onto the opera stage later in life than most of her peers, her natural musical talent has made up for lost time. She began her voice training in 1968 at the relatively advanced age of 19 and went on to make her American opera debut with the San Francisco Opera in 1975. Seven years later, Hendricks made an impressive Paris debut as the female lead in the opera Romeo et Juliette.

A master at performing French art songs and classical German songs of the nineteenth century known as lieder, Hendricks has become an international celebrity. She has more than 50 recordings to her credit and has sung with almost all of the major orchestras in the world. Though the modest artist has downplayed her fame, Hendricks has received worldwide critical acclaim for her voice, working with such noted conductors as Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Georg Solti, and James Levine. According to Ebony, von Karajan compared Hendricks to the legendary Maria Callas in passion and interpretive possibility.

When the lyric soprano Barbara Hendricks sings, the first word that comes to mind is not powerful but beautiful or even pretty, proclaimed Dennis McFarland in the New York Times. What you hear is near perfect intonation, clear diction, and the lovely variety of colors that characterizes a pleasant speaking voice. You have the feeling that Ms. Hendricks is singing with the voice she was born with, not with the one she has made for herself.

Hendricks is noted for her down-to-earth demeanor, which is often linked to her midwestern upbringing. The daughter of a Methodist minister and a schoolteacher, Hendricks grew up in segregated Stephens, Arkansas, in the 1950s. Her musical experience was limited to singing in the church choir, playing the piano, and singing hymns to her mother at night. Although she had a gifted voice, she aspired to become a doctor or a lawyer.

Hendricks decided to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she studied mathematics and chemistry, subjects in which she had excelled during high school. The turning point of Hendrickss life occurred during her junior year at UNL when a member of her church choir asked her to sing at a civic society meeting. A trustee of the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies heard her sing and encouraged

At a Glance

Born November 20, 1948, in Stephens, AR; daughter of M. L. (a Methodist minister) and Della (a schoolteacher) Hendricks; married Martin Engstrom (a music manager); children: Jennie, Sebastian. Education: University of NebraskaLincoln, B.S., 1969; studied at Juilliard School of Music, 1969-71.

Operatic soprano. Singer with most major opera companies in the world; has collaborated on more than 50 recordings. American opera debut, 1975; moved to Paris, 1977; Berlin Opera debut, 1978; New York Metropolitan Opera debut, 1986. Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, beginning 1987.

Awards: First prize, Geneva International Competition, 1971; first prize, International Concours de Paris, 1972; French Grammy for best French performer of classical music, 1986; Commandeur, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1986.

Addresses: Manager Columbia Artists Management, Inc., 165 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019; and Opera et Concert, 19 rue Vignon, 75008 Paris, France.

her to attend the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. So, in the summer of 1968, Hendrickss career path turned to music.

In Aspen, Hendricks also met the woman who was instrumental in the development of her musical careerJennie Tourel, the great Russian mezzo-soprano. Tourel invited Hendricks to study with her at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York. Hendricks returned to Nebraska to complete her bachelors degree and joined Tourel at Juilliard in 1969.

Hendrickss lack of formal voice training left her feeling handicapped at Juilliard, where some of her classmates had been studying music since the age of six. But Tourels constant support helped Hendricks through. Hendricks told Opera News contributor Barrymore Laurence Scherer: Tourel assured me that with my voice I could have a career, and having had a normal upbringing, I was less hysterical about making it than a lot of people. I was realistic enough to know that if it wasnt going to happen, I could do other things to make my contributionmedicine was one, and I was also interested in law. However, Hendricks didnt need to worry about resorting to another field.

Introduced to Europe

Hendrickss European odyssey began in the early 1970s. She spent her summers touring Europe with Tourel, who was teaching masters classes. They always started their stints in France, which would later become the singers home. In 1971 Hendricks won the Geneva International Competition and the following year brought home the first prize in the International Concours de Paris. She performed several European operas and recitals throughout the early 1970s but did not make her American opera debut until 1975, when she played Drusilla in the San Francisco Operas production of Claudio Monteverdis Lincoronazione di Poppea. During the summer of 1975, Hendricks sang the role of Clara in the complete recording of the George Gershwin folk opera Porgy and Bess with the Cleveland Orchestra under Lorin Mazel.

In January of 1977 Swedish-born Martin Engstrom, Hendrickss European manager and friend since 1973, invited her to Europe for auditions. Following a two-day courtship, Hendricks agreed to marry Engstrom, and by April they had made Paris their home.

Proximity made it easy for Hendricks to schedule more of her appearances in France, and the French seemed happy to adopt the American soprano. Hendricks made her Paris Opera debut as Juliette in Romeo et Juliette in 1982.

In 1986, she became the only non-French singer nominated for the French Grammys, and she received the award for best French performer in the classical music category. In addition, that same year, the French government named Hendricks the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.

Hendricks made her New York Metropolitan Opera debut as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier in 1986. Over the years she has performed with major opera companies across the United States and Europe, including the Boston Opera, the Houston Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, the St. Paul Opera, Berlins Deutsche Opera, de Nederlandse Operastichting, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Hendricks has also worked with a variety of international symphony orchestras, including those in Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, and Vienna. The artist expanded her talents to acting when she made her screen debut as Mimi in the 1988 film version of La Boheme, directed by Luigi Comencini.

Although Hendricks made regular appearances in the United States during the early 1980s, most of her exposure there was as a recitalist. Her few operatic appearances were with the Boston and Santa Fe Opera companies. In 1990 she appeared as a guest on NBCs Christmas in Washington and on the PBS broadcast of Bostons Christmas at Pops. According to McFarland, Probably thousands of American viewers of these programs were asking themselves, Who is that beautiful woman with the beautiful voice?

Perfected Vocal Control

Hendricks has spent a significant amount of time culturing her voices natural sound. She reportedly values rehearsal time above all else and dislikes the lack of it in todays operapart of the reason she rarely performs more than five operas a year. She devotes most of her time to concerts and recitals, where I can really pare things down to essentials, just me and the accompanist, she told Scherer in Opera News.

Hendrickss preference for music in its purist form is also reflected in her belief that bigger sound is not necessarily better. Rather than oversinging, I try to pull the voice back, to refine and control it, to see how little I can sing while still making it go out into the house, Hendricks continued in Opera News. Its the difference between a Mack truck and a Maseratione can haul a load, but the other can take the curves.

Devoted to Helping Refugees

While the passionate opera singers impact on the world of music is unquestionable, her voice has also made a significant, if not as celebrated, difference in the lives of countless refugees. As a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Hendricks is as devoted to her humanitarian work as she is to her music.

Since her appointment to the post of Goodwill Ambassador in 1987, Hendricks has visited countless refugee camps in Africa and Asia. Working 18-hour days in the most primitive living conditions, she tries to give hope to the displaced men, women, and children in the camps. I do not fool myself by thinking Im changing the world, but I know Im touching something, if for no other reason, for the fact that I represent hope, she told McFarland. They know that Im on their side. I see that in their eyes.

In addition to visiting refugee camps, Hendrickss responsibility as a Goodwill Ambassador includes spreading the word about the plight of refugees. Through benefit concerts and public announcements, Hendricks strives to educate others about the refugee dilemma. And though the artist is very serious about her musical pursuits, she has a realistic view of how they fit into the greater scheme of life.

Im very sincere about my humanitarian activities, she said in Ebony. I really rely on my concert appearances to further the cause of human rights. Its not a duty; its a need. Besides, she added modestly, you only have to read the front page of the newspaper to put my concert reviews in proper perspective.

Hendricks and her husband reside in Switzerland with their two children, Jennie, named after Hendrickss beloved mentor, and Sebastian. The artist focuses most of her operas, concerts, and recitals in Europe, so she can easily fly home to Switzerland between appearances. Despite her rigorous schedule, she values her personal time with her family. For me there is no conflict between profession and home, no sacrifice, she told Ebony. My children need me, so I have to make it all work.

Selected discography

Bach: Cantatas 51, 82, 202 (complete) with Cantata 208 (1 aria only), Angel, 1990.

Bizet: Les Pecheurs de perles, Angel, 1990.

Chabrier: La Legende de Gwendoline: Ode a la musique, Angel, 1990.

Donizetti: Don Pasquale, Erato, 1990.

La Boheme (soundtrack), Erato, 1988.

Mozart: Opera and Concert Arias, EMI, 1984.

Mozart: Marriage of Figaro, Philips, 1985.

Mozart: Sacred Arias, EMI, 1988.

Negro Spirituals, EMI, 1983.

Orff: Carmina burana, Angel, 1990.

Poulenc: Stabat Mater, Gloria in G, Angel, 1990.

Sacred Songs, Angel, 1991.

Schubert: Lieder, EMI, 1986.

Sources

Books

Artist Issue, 17th edition, Schwann Publications, 1991-92 .

Periodicals

Ebony, May 1990.

New York Times, May 12, 1991.

Opera News, August 1988.

Washington Post, November 11, 1983.

Barbara Hendricks was profiled on the November 24, 1991 broadcast of CBS Sunday Morning.

Jomel Nichols

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Hendricks, Barbara

Hendricks, Barbara (b Stephens, Ark., 1948). Won Geneva int. comp. 1971. Opera début NY 1973 in V. Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts, followed by concert tour of Eur. Débuts: S. Francisco 1974; Glyndebourne 1974; Carnegie Hall 1975; CG 1982; NY Met 1986; Salzburg Fest. 1977. Sang Mimì in film of La bohème 1988. Concert appearances with most leading conds., and recitalist.

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