Edith Wiens




Wiens, Edith

 Edith Wiens. Soprano, teacher, b Saskatoon, Sask, 9 Jun 1950; German Concert Peformance Diploma (Hanover) 1974, BA (Oberlin) 1974, MA (Oberlin) 1975, honorary D MUS (Oberlin) 1997, hon LLD (Regina) 2005. The daughter of a Mennonite preacher, Wiens grew up in Vancouver and won several awards in Kiwanis festivals as a young performer. She attended Bible College in Vancouver and studied in Hanover, Germany, for three years on scholarship. After completing her master's degree in music theatre at Oberlin, she lived in Switzerland 1977-9, returned to Germany in 1979, and worked in Munich as a nanny while studying with Ernst Haefliger and Erik Werba. In 1979 she won the gold medal in the Robert Schumann Music Competition in Zwickau, Germany, and also won awards at the ARD Munich Competition and at the Salzburg Mozart Competition. In 1980 Peter Gierth, manager of the Berlin Philharmonic, heard her sing and immediately hired her. She sang with the orchestra 1981-6 some 14 times and there met many of the conductors who have been influential in her career - Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, and Klaus Tennstedt among others.

As a soprano in the concert field, Wiens sang with such conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Bernard Haitinck, Gunther Herbig, Sir Neville Marriner, Václav Neumann, Krzysztof Penderecki, Helmuth Rilling, and Sir Georg Solti, and appeared at many major music festivals. She sang with all major London and North American orchestras, as well as the Israeli Philharmonic, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the Dresden State Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Suisse romande, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. In Canada Wiens has sung with the MSO, the NACO, the TS, and the Calgary Philharmonic, the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In 1991 as part of the Mozart festivities she performed the Mozart Requiem with the MSO under Dutoit.

In recital, Wiens favoured works by Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, and Strauss, but her repertoire extended to Gershwin, Stephen Foster, and North American folksongs. As a recitalist, she performed twice at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, 1989 and 1990 by the personal invitation of Svatislav Richter and gave recitals in New York, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, and Florence.

In 1985 she sang in two Bach tricentennial concerts, the first with the Leipzig Gewandhaus conducted by Masur (relayed to North America via satellite) and the second with the Berlin Philharmonic (broadcast on German television).

Wiens made her opera debut in 1986 as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera Company and was also the Countess in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Later she added such roles as Ilia in Idomeneo, the First Lady in The Magic Flute, and Marzelline in Fidelio. She performed opera at the Amsterdam Opera, La Scala, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, in Canada at the NAC, and in Japan.

Although Wiens was based in Europe, she returned to North America on numerous occasions. She sang in 1989 in Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Mennonite Festival Choir under Rilling in Winnipeg, in a recital of lieder and hymns with pianist Irmgard Baerg in Winnipeg; in Toronto in 1994 (her recital debut there); in Vancouver with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1995 and with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra the following year. In 2000 she sang Mendelssohn's St. Paul with the New York Philharmonic, and Beethoven's Mass in C with the American Symphony Orchestra. She appeared on German and Canadian TV and CBC radio, including a Toronto concert with Raffi Armenian in 2000.

Wiens' 1990 recording of Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri with L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande earned a 1990 Grammy Award and the Maurice Fleuret Prize. Among her other recordings is Ae Fond Kiss (CBC MVCD 1102), a collection of folk tunes and parlour songs, including arrangements by Ernest MacMillan and Healey Willan. The soprano was the Smith Visitor at University of Toronto in 1994, gave master classes in Vienna and at the Banff CA, and taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Germany. Among her students there was the soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Wiens adjudicated at the Cologne International Vocal Competition in 2002. She was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2000.

Wiens married the cellist Kai Moser.

See also Mennonites


Further Reading

  • Thomson, Leslie. 'From Prairie Mennonite to ascending soprano,' Music vol 9, Mar/Apr 1986

    Angrignon Sirois, Maryse. 'Edith Wiens,' Aria, vol 11, summer 1988

    Newman, Richard. 'All the zoos of Europe: a profile of Canadian soprano Edith Wiens,' SITE Sound, vol 3, May./Jun 1991

    Bernstein, Tamara. 'A musical gift handled with care,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 26 Oct 1994

    Dykk, Lloyd. 'First Edith Wiens took Europe,' Vancouver Sun, 16 Feb 1996