"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. She is certainly a singer to watch in the future." 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
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”. Barbara regularly performs with Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra. This summer she made her BBC Proms debut as the alto soloist in Mozart’s Requiem and joined the orchestra on a European tour as the Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte as well as in the Requiem featuring performances in Budapest, Amsterdam, London, Bruges, Baden-Baden, Berlin and San Sebastian. Recently she toured throughout the United States performing Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, of which a CD recording will be released shortly on the Channel Classics label.
She is in great demand as a concert soloist as well as on the opera stage. 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), Flosshilde (Wagner), Page (R.Strauss), Kasturbai and Mrs. Alexander (Glass), and Néris (Cherubini). She performed in opera houses of Essen, Bonn and Amsterdam, and with young opera companies such as Opera2day, St. Moritz Opera Festival and The Ministry of Operatic Affairs.
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. In 2015 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. In March 2016 she returned to the Concertgebouw as part of the ZaterdagMatinee to perform the world premiere of the complete Pessoa Cycle by Jan van de Putte, together with the Asko|Schönberg ensemble and Reinbert de Leeuw. A CD of that live performance will be released in autumn 2016.
Throughout her career Barbara has collaborated with many conductors including Jaap van Zweden, Gennadi Rozjdestvenski, Neeme Järvi, Kenneth Montgomery, Richard Egarr, Paul McCreesh, Stefan Soltesz, Reinbert de Leeuw, 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, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and most Dutch orchestras.
Barbara has a strong affinity with Lieder, performing recitals with Phyllis Ferwerda, Richard Egarr, Julius Drake and Thomas Beijer. Her debut CD with the Ebony Band Around Prague for Channel Classics was praised by both national and international press.
“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
In the coming seasons Barbara will perform with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestre National de Lille, Tiroler Symphonie Orchester Innsbruck, The Hague Philharmonic and Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra.
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.