Soprano Rachel Harnisch became known early in her career as one of Switzerland's top Mozart specialists. In the 2010s she has increasingly turned to contemporary repertory, often giving premieres of new works, and she is one of the most versatile sopranos on the contemporary scene anywhere.
Harnisch was born August 1, 1973, in the Valais German-speaking town of Brig in the Swiss Alps. She studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany, with Beata Heuer-Christen as her teacher, and in 2000 made her debut as Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in Bern, Switzerland, soon reprising the role at the Zurich Opera under conductor Franz Welser-Möst. Pamina has been an important role in Harnisch's career: she sang the role in a Paris production at the Bastille Opera in an innovative version by Robert Wilson, and again at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2007. She has also appeared as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro at the Verona Opera. Harnisch has appeared in other houses as far afield as Santiago, Chile. Her repertory since the late 2000s decade has stretched from Monteverdi to Kaija Saariaho, whose L'amour de loin she sang (as Clemence) at Antwerp and Ghent in 2009. Appearing in French as well as Italian repertory, Harnisch sang in 2012 in the world premiere of the completion of Donizetti's unfinished Le duc d'Albe. Increasingly often in the 2010s, she has sung contemporary music in concert, including Luigi Nono's Prometeo Suite and Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time. She has also sung major oratorio and mass repertory, as well as Debussy's Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien and the Symphony No. 4 in G major of Mahler. She is also a frequent recitalist. Many of Harnisch's performances have been released on recordings, including 2018's live performance of the world premiere of German composer Aribert Reimann's L'invisible, on the Oehms label.