2014 Recipient of the NOA Lifetime Achievement Award
One of the foremost Wagnerian sopranos of her generation, Johanna Meier is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. She began her career at the New York City Opera, during which time she went on to begin a major international career. She was a member of the Metropolitan Opera for 15 years, and was well known throughout Europe, singing at the Vienna Staatsoper, English National Opera, and with the opera companies of Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence, Madrid, Barcelona, Zurich and the Netherlands to name only a few. She also appeared with the Canadian Opera, and in Japan, Israel, Mexico City, and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
She was the first American ever to sing the role of Isolde in “Tristan und Isolde” at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany; the production was filmed by Unitel as part of the Wagner Centenary celebration, and has since been released in this country through Deutsche Gramaphon. She was heard at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, and sang with most of the major symphony orchestras in the United States and abroad, including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, l’Orchestre de Paris, the Munich Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, the Israel Philharmonic, and the famous Concertgebouw at the Holland Festival. She has twice appeared on PBS Great Performances, the first time in the title role of “Vanessa” and later in the world premiere of “Dangerous Liasons” with the San Francisco Opera, as well as in the CBS Special Premiere of “The Questions of Abraham” with Sherrill Milnes.
As a recitalist, she has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and others, as well as throughout Europe. She sang for a Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC, as well as at the formal dedication of Mt. Rushmore by President Bush. She acted as Mistress of Ceremonies at the concert celebrating the South Dakota Bi-Centennial in Pierre in 1989.
Retiring from her singing career in 1994, she returned to her home in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where she was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Black Hills State University. In 1998 she founded the Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute in Spearfish, South Dakota where she teaches annually, joined by an internationally recognized faculty of former operatic colleagues. Each year she travels to New York City to give Master Classes for young singers, and has taught there at the Juilliard School, the Manhatten School of Music, Mannes Conservatory, and Ithaca College as well as privately. She has regularly judged the Metropolitan Opera Regional Auditions, as well as the Liederkranz Competitions.
From 1991 – 2008 Ms. Meier functioned as director of the famed Black Hills Passion Play, an outdoor Drama presented for 70 years in its South Dakota and Florida amphitheatres. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, Vice-Regent of the Black Hills Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and owner/curator of the Dolls at Home Museum. She was married for 51 years to former tenor Guido Della Vecchia
Additional awards include:
2005 – Girl Scouts of the South Dakota Black Hills ‘Women of Distinction Award’
2005 – ‘Mt. Rushmore Honors Award’ (South Dakota)
2006 – Induction into South Dakota Hall of Fame for Distinction in the Arts and Humanities
2010 – South Dakota Governor’s Award in the Arts for Distinction in Creative Achievement
2011 – Manhatten School of Music ‘Distinguished Alumni Award’
2011 – Induction into ‘Royal Family of Opera’ in Sarasota, Florida
2012 – Black Hills State University Special Service Award