Silja, Anja, remarkable German soprano; b. Berlin, April 17, 1935. Her grandmother was the singer Paula Althof. At the age of 8, Anja began vocal training with her grandfather, Egon van Rijn, giving a solo recital in Berlin at the age of 10. In 1956 she sang Rosina at the Berlin Städtische Opera. After appearing at the Braunschweig State Theater (1956–58), she sang at the Württemberg State Theater in Stuttgart (1958), at the Frankfurt am Main Opera (1960–63), and at the Bayreuth Festivals (from 1965). In 1968 she made her U.S. debut as Senta with the Chicago Lyric Opera; her Metropolitan Opera debut followed in N.Y. as Leonore in Fidelio on Feb. 26, 1972. In subsequent years, she made appearances with leading North American and European opera houses; also sang in concerts with major orchs. She later was also active as an opera producer. However, she continued to make appearances in opera. In 1995 she gave a stunning portrayal of Janacčék’s Elina Makropulos at the Glyndebourne Festival and at the London Proms. The breadth of her repertoire is commanding. Wagner’s grandson Wieland coached her in the Wagnerian roles, among them Elisabeth, Elsa, Eva, and Senta, which she performed at Bayreuth. She also sang the roles of Salome and Elektra in Strauss’s operas, of Marie and Lulu in Berg’s operas, and of the sole character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung. As a matter of course, she mastered the majority of standard soprano roles. She married Christoph von Dohnányi, under whose baton she sang in both operatic and concert settings.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire