Since her debut as Kundry (Parsifal) at the Bayreuth Festival in 1998, Linda Watson ’79 has been recognized as one of the most important interpreters of Wagner and Strauss in our time.
After her studies in Boston and Vienna, she started her career at Aachen, and moved on to world prominence via Leipzig to Deutsche Oper am Rhein, where she was a regular ensemble member for eight years. Originally a mezzo, she sang her first soprano part as Sieglinde (Die Walküre) in Essen. She soon enlarged her new repertoire with Leonore (Fidelio), Wagner's Kundry, Isolde, Ortrud, Elisabeth and Brünnhilde, and Strauss' Ariadne, the Feldmarschallin, the Dyer’s Wife, and Elektra.
Linda Watson appears regularly in Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, Bologna, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Milan's La Scala, New York's Metropolitan Opera (including Ring cycles under Levine) and Bayreuth (1998 as Kundry, 2000-2005 as Ortrud, 2006-2010 as Brünnhilde). She has worked with the world's leading conductors including Mehta, Levine, Gergiev, Thielemann, Pappano, Gatti, and Nagano. In 2013 she was nominated for the Principal Soloist Grammy award with Christian Thielemann’s Ring recording. During the 2015-16 season, Linda Watson will sing a new Ring cycle at the Vienna State Opera and a new Elektra at the Hamburg State Opera.
Currently living in? In and out of my suitcase as usual. If I unpack for a minute, it is in either California or Vienna.
What is your most memorable musical experience? One experience? Impossible – but if I had to choose, it was holding up the Grail at the end of Parsifal, my very first performance in Bayreuth with tears in my eyes…..so uplifting. My first Siegfried with James Levine was amazing. (As we entered the stage, he whispered “just sing it, Louise!”) But in actuality, there are hundreds of small musical moments that are transcending, that make it all worth it.
What advice would you give a young NEC musician entering your field? Realize that everyone you meet and work with becomes a permanent part of your life, so create your world with that in mind; your new middle name is FLEXIBLE – regarding conductors and stage directors – that is how you grow as a performer. Know what you want in every measure you sing; most importantly, follow your instinct on every decision. Having a stable and comfortable harbor wherever you call home is I think very important to a career that demands so much traveling and takes so much concentration. You need to find what “retanks” your energy and make time in your calendar to do just that.
You have set the world record as the soprano featured on the most official recordings of Wagner’s Ring cycle. Did you set out to achieve this goal, or did you learn about it after you had completed the recordings? How has this impacted your career? Quantity is not important at ALL in our world. Quality is the goal. (I didn’t even know about it until a publicity agent pointed it out...!) I am most proud of my Grammy nomination for the last one from Vienna. I think it may be the best of the recordings.
Who is your favorite living composer? One? This week? Stevie Wonder, Carlisle Floyd, Kenny Chesney, Peter Öetvös, Chick Corea, Gregory Porter, ……