Anne Schwanewilms emerged late in the 1990s as a promising dramatic German soprano. She was a student of Hans Sotin at the Musikhochschule of Cologne and joined the Cologne Opera Studio, then was a member of the Cologne Opera company for five years before becoming a freelance singer in 1995.
She began singing the high mezzo-soprano parts but, as she developed her vocal quality and range, settled into youthful dramatic soprano territory. In 1996 she was invited to the Bayreuth Festival to sing in a production of Das Ring der Nibelung as one of the Valkyries in Die Walküre and also Götterdämmerung in the second female lead, Gutrune. She has been invited back regularly since. She has appeared in opera houses of Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Brussels, Rotterdam, Paris, and Osaka and was engaged for the 2000 revival at Santa Fe Opera in the leading part of Marie in Alban Berg's Wozzeck.