Described as a "lirico-spinto soprano of extraordinary skill" for her debut as Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Chinese-American soprano Heather Engebretson is known throughout Europe as a "phenomenal singing actor" with "innate sense of phrasing and touching intensity" and voice of "penetrating power".
Looking ahead to the 2023-2024 season, Heather will make three important role debuts within the space of five months: Elsa in Lohengrin for Staatsoper Wiesbaden, Manon Lescaut for Theater Klagenfurt, and Káťa Kabanová in Bielefeld, all in new productions. She will follow these roles with a new production of Turandot in which she will reprise her much-beloved portrayal of Liu for Staatsoper Wiesbaden with Anna Netrebko and Olesya Golovneva alternating in the title role. Other credits will include a return to Mozart's Cherubino and a Liederabend with Lukas Rommelspacher for Bayreuth's Richard Wagner Museum in their Wahnfried-Konzerte series.
In the 2022-2023 season, Heather brought her lauded interpretation of the title role of Salome to Theater Basel and Theater Winterthur, and made her debut for Oper Graz as Violetta in Peter Konwitschny's production of La traviata. She also made a debut in the role of Micaela in Carmen for Staatsoper Wiesbaden. On the concert stage, she was seen in Milan and Luzern as the soprano soloist in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under the baton of Thomas Guggeis with Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, where she returned later in the season as the soprano soloist in War Requiem.
In 2021-2022, Heather made her critically-acclaimed role debut in the title role of Oper Frankfurt's new production of Madama Butterfly in a portrayal hailed as an "extraordinary achievement," "magnificent and deeply moving", and posessing of "harrowing intensity". Other season engagements included her return to Deutsche Oper Berlin as the Heroines in Les Contes d'Hoffmann and as Rheingold's Woglinde, reprisals of the roles of Cherubino and Donna Elvira for Staatsoper Wiesbaden's Mozart Festival Year, and her role debut as the Gänsemagd in Oper Frankfurt's celebrated production of Königskinder.
In the season of 2020-2021, Heather appeared for the first time in Le nozze di Figaro as both La Contessa (Oper Frankfurt) and Cherubino (Staatstheater Wiesbaden). Further engagements in her home state of Hessen included bringing her interpretation of Sophie (Werther) to Oper Frankfurt. Season cancellations due to COVID-19 included a role debut for Deutsche Oper Berlin as Gilda (Rigoletto), a return to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in a new production, a tour with Antonio Pappano and the orchestra of Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia as the soprano soloist in Mahler's Fourth Symphony, Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro) for Oper Frankfurt, and the roles of Violetta (La traviata), Saffi (Der Zigeunerbaron), and Gilda (Rigoletto) for Staatstheater Wiesbaden.
In the 2019-2020 season, Heather appeared for the first time in the title role of Salome for Theater Luzern, a debut that was heralded as "an entirely new chapter in the interpretation of this work." She also returned to Deutsche Oper Berlin as the four heroines in Les Contes d'Hoffmann and reprised her acclaimed portrayal of the role of Werther's Sophie for Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Other engagements for the season were to have included, before closures due to COVID-19, Donna Anna for Oper Frankfurt, Adina for Staatstheater Wiesbaden, and Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos) for Royal Danish Opera.
Heather's complete repertoire to date encompasses forty-five operatic roles performed in sixty-two productions for twenty-six theatres. Her early credits include, among others, her Golden-Mask Award-nominated debut with The Bolshoi Theatre as Alcina, Königin der Nacht and the Heroines in Les contes d'Hoffmann for Deutsche Oper Berlin, Mimi in Barrie Kosky's new La bohème for Komische Oper Berlin, Donna Anna in Cagliari, and Sophie (Werther, which served as her HD Cinema debut), Siegfried's Waldvogel and Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro) for Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Liù (Turandot) for l'Opéra Royal de Wallonie Liège, Konstanze for Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Opera Kassel and West Green House Festival Opera, and the title role of Alcina for Opera Stuttgart and Staatstheater Wiesbaden. Other roles include Violetta in La traviata, Donna Elvira and Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), Euridice (Orfeo ed Euridice), Musetta, Britten's Tytania, Oscar (Un ballo in maschera), and Ascagne (Les Troyens). Before beginning her freelance career Heather was a member of the solo ensembles of Hamburg, Wiesbaden, and Hannover from 2013 until 2017.
On the concert stage, Heather's credits include her Chinese debut in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with Maestro Dane Lam in Xi'an, War Requiem (Britten) at Nationaltheater Mannheim under the baton of Alexander Soddy, Mahler's Eighth Symphony for the Dresdener Symphoniker with Michael Sanderling and at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie with Eliahu Inbal, Mahler's Second Symphony for the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Carmina Burana in Dortmund and Munich, and Handel's Messiah for the Dresdener Symphoniker.
Heather received her Master's degree from the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Edith Wiens. While at Juilliard Heather's seasons saw her first place win in the Savonlinna Opera Festival's International Singing Competition, her Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium debut, her Saint Louis Symphony debut (Königin der Nacht), and her first performances of the soprano solo in Verdi's Requiem in Nürnberg. Engebretson's undergraduate studies were completed at the Cleveland Institute of Music where her major studies were with Mary Schiller (voice), David Russell (violin) and Timothy Cutler (music theory).
Heather grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Roll Tide. She lives in Frankfurt with her partner, Austrian-Australian tenor Gerard Schneider and their German Shepherd, Thyra, for whom she enjoys a thriving secondary career as ball-thrower and anthropomorphist. Heather continues her vocal studies with Neil Shicoff and Edith Wiens.