A native of Berlin, Anja Silja began her vocal studies at the age of six, gave her first performance at the city’s Titania Palace at the age of ten, and made her stage debut at the age of sixteen in Braunschweig as Rosina in The Barber of Seville. It was the beginning of a long and distinguished career both at home and abroad, solidifying in 1960 when she was invited to Bayreuth. She debuted there as Senta in The Flying Dutchman and continued to perform in Wieland Wagner’s productions until 1967, singing Elisabeth, Venus, Eva, Elsa, and Freia – roles which she subsequently performed at major opera houses throughout the world.
Anja Silja’s large and varied repertoire, which includes nearly every major soprano role in opera, has shaped and informed her unique career. She is especially acclaimed for her interpretation of Emilia Marty in Janácek’s The Makropoulos Case – in Vienna, Zürich, Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence, Hamburg, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. She sang the role of Elsa in Lohengrin and Kostelnicka in Janácek’s Jenufa at Glyndebourne and Zürich, at Covent Garden, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York; the role of Amme in Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten in Zürich, Vienna, and Paris; and Salome at Covent Garden, Hamburg, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other performances include Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins at the New Israeli Opera and Stuttgart State Opera, and Berg’s Lulu at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. She made guest appearances in New York with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s production of The Makropoulos Case, and Act II of Jenufa in a concert version at Carnegie Hall with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Simon Rattle. She made her debut as an opera producer in Brussels with a production of Lohrengrin.
Ms. Silja has worked with many of the world’s great conductors, including Bruno Bartoletti, Karl Böhm, Pierre Boulez, Silvain Cambreling, André Cluytens, Andrew Davis, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Otto Klemperer, Hans Knappertsbusch, James Levine, Antonio Pappano, Simon Rattle, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Sir Georg Solti and Franz Welser-Möst.
In recent seasons, Ms. Silja sang in new productions of Pique Dame at the Vienna Staatsoper and of Katya Kabanova at the Theater an der Wien; Pierrot Lunaire with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and with the Boston Symphony. She sang a highly acclaimed Kostelnicka in Jenufa at The Metropolitan Opera, and concert performances of Jenufa‘s Act II with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and of Salome at the newly renovated Salle Pleyel in Paris. Other recent highlights include Janacek’s Osud at the Staatsoper in Vienna, The Makropoulos Case in Berlin, Jenufa in Barcelona, Lulu in Munich, and Jenufa and The Makropoulos Case in Lyon. Ms. Silja sang highly acclaimed performances of Erwartung in New York, Berlin, Madrid, and at the Verbier Festival with Maestro Levine; a concert version of Elektra in London and Berlin; Jenufa at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin; Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites in Hamburg and at La Scala; and the roles of Herodias in Salome and Countess Geschwitz in Lulu at the Opéra Bastille in Paris.
Her extensive discography includes recordings of The Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Fricka in Das Ring des Nibelungen, Lulu, Wozzeck, Erwartung, The Makropoulos Case and the major repertoire of Kurt Weill.
In April 2012, Ms. Silja was honored in New York City with an Opera News Award.