Violeta Urmana has taken an unusual path to stardom on the world's operatic stages: she first studied piano, and after taking up voice in her early twenties, she sang as a somewhat reluctant mezzo-soprano. But then, from about the age of 40, she began the transition to soprano, producing a lush voice, instantly striking in its bright tones and sheer power. It is not surprising that as a late-comer to vocal study, she made her major debuts relatively late: at Bayreuth and La Scala in the 1993-1994 season, at the Vienna State Opera in 1996, and the Met in 2001. Shortly after making her switch to soprano, Urmana pondered another, far more earth-shaking change in her career, when in 2004, urged by influential friends, she considered running for president of her native Lithuania, where she is enormously popular and highly respected. As a mezzo, Urmana was well known for her portrayal of Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal and Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlo. Her soprano roles include Iphigénie (Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide), Isolde, Norma, Lady Macbeth (Verdi's Macbeth), Tosca, and many others. As a concert singer and recitalist, Urmana has sung a varied array of repertory from J.S. Bach to Schoenberg and Berg. She has appeared on numerous recordings for many major labels, including DG, Decca, EMI, and Sony.
Violeta Urmana (Urmanaviciute) was born in Kazlu Ruda, Lithuania, in 1961. From age seven she studied piano and later graduated from the Lithuanian Academy of Music in Vilnius as a talented, though, by her assessment, not committed pianist. After four years of local studies in voice (as a soprano), she relocated to Munich (1991) for studies with Josef Loibl. By 1993 she was gaining notice as a mezzo, but found her voice was more comfortable with higher mezzo roles, like Kundry. Following a vocally taxing performance of Azucena (Verdi's Il Trovatore) in 2000 at La Scala, she decided to become a soprano.
Urmana's major debuts as a soprano came when she sang Sieglinde (Wagner's Die Walkure) at the 2001 Bayreuth Festival and Iphigénie (Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide) at La Scala in December 2002. Thereafter, she scored triumph after triumph with her new voice, including with her 2008 Isolde in Japan with the Opera Bastille, and 2010 appearance at the Met singing Odabella from Verdi's Attila. Among Urmana's more acclaimed recordings is the 2010 Decca issue of Giordano's Andrea Chénier, in which she sang Maddalena.