She also possesses a vital stage presence, whether in opera or on the concert platform. Much sought after in contemporary music (she has given over 75 world premieres), she is no less brilliant and devoted a performer of Baroque and Classical music. Bringing freshness to older music and authority to new, she is among the very few singers whose every performance is an occasion.
A frequent guest of the Berliner Philharmoniker, she has also performed with most of the other leading orchestras and ensembles worldwide, and with such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Reinbert de Leeuw, Vladimir Jurowski, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Masur, Alan Gilbert, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Pablo Heras-Casado and Susanna Mälkki. She made her own conducting debut at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, with Stravinsky's Renard, and she has since made conducting appearances with the Gothenburg Symphony, London Sinfonietta, Gulbenkian Orchestra and members of the Berlin Philharmoniker.
This season sees conducting appearances with WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia. She will also sing the world premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s Let me tell you, a special project initiated by her with Abrahamsen and writer Paul Griffiths, and commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker, followed by premieres with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons and the Gothenburg Symphony/Kent Nagano.
Her operatic repertoire has recently expanded to include George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, created for the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July 2012, which was presented recently at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and at the Bayerischen Staatsoper. In this work, already widely accepted as a masterpiece of our times, Barbara’s searing performance of the role of Agnès has received unanimous and widespread plaudits. This season she makes her debut as Marie in Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten with Bayerische Staatsoper. She recently made her highly acclaimed debut as Lulu in the new production of Berg's opera at La Monnaie, directed by Krysztof Warlikowski. Her appearances in Sasha Waltz’s productions of Passion and Matsukaze, requiring physical as well as vocal agility and expressive potency, made an extraordinary impression. Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, a tour de force for soprano and orchestra, has become a signature work, which she has sung - and sometimes also conducted - at New York's Lincoln Center, the Berlin Philharmonie, Théâtre du Châtelet, Salzburger Festspiele, Los Angeles’ Disney Hall, the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and the Konzerthaus, Vienna.
Her talent for programming has also been widely recognised, evident in her major partnership with Southbank Centre's innovative festival 'The Rest is Noise', based on Alex Ross's seminal book of the same name. She was recently awarded the “Prix de la personnalité musicale de l’année” by the Syndicat de la Critique in France, in recognition of her ground-breaking performances of Alban Berg’s Lulu at La Monnaie and Agnès in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, as well as her world-premiere recording of Henri Dutilleux’s Correspondances on Deutsche Grammophon.
Born and brought up in Canada, Barbara Hannigan received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Toronto, studying with Mary Morrison. Quickly developed a zest for new music, she learned from the various composers with whom she worked. Barbara continued her studies at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague with Meinard Kraak and privately with Neil Semer.