"The vocal star of the show was Barbara Kozelj’s Penelope. This was a noble, dependable portrayal, in which her mellow and controlled singing sounded like a contralto at times, giving natural and soulful expression to the character’s suffering patience." Curtis Rogers - Classical source
Slovenian mezzo-soprano Barbara Kozelj has established herself as a charismatic and versatile soloist and musician. Her performances have brought her to the leading international stages and she continues to captivate audiences around the world. Following her debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2013, her career has taken flight. A Carnegie Hall debut the year after in Bach’s Matthäus-Passion with Iván Fischer received critical acclaim from both press and public.
“Mezzo-soprano Barbara Kozelj, whose voice has a beautiful liquid gleam, delivered her aria “Können Tränen meiner Wangen” magnificently, poised and stately, yet suffused with emotional immediacy. “Erbarme dich” was profoundly moving.” Bachtrack, Rosemary Carlton – Willis, 5 star review
She is in great demand as a concert soloist as well as on the opera stage. Highlights this season and beyond include the role of Mélisande in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande with Taiwan National Orchestra and Jun Märkl in Taipei, Brangäne in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Leipzig Oper and their festival Wagner22, Judith in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle with Antony Hermus and NJO, Ligeti’s Requiem with Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de Espagna with David Afkham in Madrid, Mahler’s Wesendonck Lieder with the Residentie Orkest The Hague and Jun Märkl, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Camerata RCO (members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) and Mozart’s C-minor mass and Rossini’s Petite messe solenelle at the Aix-en-Provence Festival de Pâques with Daniel Reuss.
She has distinguished herself in leading opera roles as Ruggiero, Cyrus, Galatea and Juno (Händel), Orfeo (Gluck), Donna Elvira and Dorabella (Mozart), L’Enfant (Ravel) and as Flosshilde (Wagner), Page (R.Strauss), Kasturbai and Mrs. Alexander (Glass) and Néris (Cherubini). She performed in opera houses of Leipzig, Essen, Bonn and Amsterdam as also with young opera companies such as Opera2day, St. Moritz Opera Festival and The Ministry of Operatic Affairs.
In 2015 she received critical acclaim for her role debut as Penelope in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria with the Academy of Ancient Music and Richard Egarr at the Festival Enescu Bucharest and in London’s Barbican hall, next to Ian Bostridge as Ulisse. The press praised her for “a beautifully calm demeanour, combined with a deep expressivity in the way she sang Monteverdi”.
She has been in close collaboration with Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra and made her BBC Proms debut as the alto soloist in Mozart’s Requiem and joined them on a European tour featuring performances in Budapest, Amsterdam, London, Bruges, Baden-Baden, Berlin and San Sebastian. They also toured throughout the United States performing Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, of which a CD recording has been released on the Channel Classics label.
In concert she has given critically acclaimed performances of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder, Ravel’s Shéhérazade, Elgar’s Sea pictures, Berlioz’ Les Nuit d été, Brahms’ Alt-Rhapsodie, Verdi’s and Duruflé’s Requiem, and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle. She has established herself in oratorio repertoire of Händel and Bach, including Matthäus-Passion, one of her musical kindred spirits.
“In Songs of a Wayfarer Barbara Kozelj revealed the art of singing that spoke straight to the heart. With lithe lines and clear articulation.” De Telegraaf
Composers of this time are writing especially for her. She premiered an intimate composition Dobro do – Episodes from the life of a singer at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam together with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Gordan Nikolić. The piece, based on her own life story, was written for her by Max Knigge and set to poetry by Lex Bohlmeijer. She returned to the Concertgebouw as part of the ZaterdagMatinee to perform the world premiere of the complete Pessoa Cycle by a Dutch composer Jan van de Putte, together with the Asko|Schönberg ensemble and Reinbert de Leeuw. A CD of that live perfromance has been released in autumn 2016, also featuring Barbara Hannigan. She also sang a worldpremiére of Oscar Bettisson's opera The light of lesser days together with the Asko Schönberg Ensemble at the Muziekgenouw aan 't Ij in Amsterdam.
Throughout her career Barbara has collaborated with many conductors including Jaap van Zweden, Gennadi Rozjdestvenski, Neeme Järvi, Kenneth Montgomery, Jun Märkl, Richard Egarr, Paul McCreesh, Stefan Soltesz, Reinbert de Leeuw, David Afkham, Jan-Willem de Vriend, Antony Hermus, Otto Tausk, Uros Lajovic, and Per-Otto Johansson, and has performed with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music, Gabrieli Consort and Players, Orquestra Simfonica de Barcelona, Essner Philharmoniker, St.Luke’s Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and most Dutch orchestras.
“A real discovery are the Sechs Lieder by Victor Ullmann, sung brilliantly and very naturally by mezzo-soprano Barbara Kozelj. A treasure for the concert hall.” Peter van der Lint, Trouw
Barbara has a strong affinity with Lieder, performing recitals with Julius Drake, Richard Egarr, Thomas Beijer, Nino Gvetadze and Phyllis Ferwerda. Her debut CD with the Ebony Band Around Prague for Channel Classics was praised by both national and international press.
Highlights of the coming season include the role of Octavian in Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier with Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra and Jun Märkl, Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder with Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Antony Hermus, Brangäne in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (arr. Henk de Vlieger) with Belgian National Orchestra and Antony Hermus, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Phion Orchestra and Marc Soustrot as well as the Residentie Orchestra The Hague with Richard Egarr, and song recitals with Thomas Beijer.
The basis for her musical development was set in Slovenia at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana and later at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. She has been coached by Sasja Hunnego, Meinard Kraak, Ann Murray, Graciela Araya and Anne Sofie von Otter. She was a member of The New Opera Academy and the Dutch Opera Studio.