Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and pursue a career in music?
I would say my mother did, who is a soprano herself. I grew up listening to opera and to classical music, I played the piano from a young age and danced classical ballet. I used every opportunity to sing in front of friends and family – at parties, school, etc…
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
When I was 18 , I got a role in the play ‘Master Class’ about the life of Maria Callas. In preparation for the part, I listened to many of her recordings and read her biography. I was fascinated by her dedication, commitment and exceptional artistry: it was a big inspiration and definitely influenced my musical life.
As for my career, I would say Zubin Mehta was very influential. I sang an audition for him when I was only 19 and followed his advice and guidance. I debuted many roles under his musical direction and learned a lot from him. Also my ongoing relationship with the Vienna State Opera played a major role in my career.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The first time I sang Gilda at the Bavarian State Opera. I had very few rehearsals, the staging was challenging, it was an extremely modern and unusual production and on top of that, the biggest role I have ever sung. Another big challenge was singing so many big roles for the first time on the stage of the Vienna State Opera without a single orchestra rehearsal. Roles like Pamina, Adina and especially Zdenka in Arabella, which is rather tricky rhythmically and musically.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
My two last solo albums Liaisons and Le Rossignol et la Rose. Lots of research and preparation went into these projects. I hope to release another solo CD soon; it is just so demanding timewise.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Probably the music of Bach, Mozart and Strauss.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
A mixture of reasons and it changes with time. When I was very young, I said yes almost to everything. With time, I have become more selective. Most important for me is that I find the piece interesting musically and intellectually and that my voice loves to sing it. There are a lot of pieces which I love to listen to but I know are not appropriate for my voice, so I will not choose them. I also make sure to maintain a 50/50 balance between concert and opera repertoire and not to commit to too many new pieces in one season. The voice needs time to prepare a new role.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I love performing in Vienna, either at the opera or at the Musikverein because it feels like home. Acoustically I love Suntory Hall, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Vienna Musikverein, it feels like the hall is singing for me 😉
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Singing Mozart’s “Et incarnates est” for the Pope during Christmas Mass 2014.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
No matter where I perform, whether in front of lots of people or a small group, a successful concert for me is when I feel I managed to take the audience on a journey to another magical world. To have them forget about their daily worries and just sail on the wings of music. In my opinion success has nothing to do with the number of performances you give a year or with fame and certainly not with money. But with the quality of the performance you give, and your commitment and engagement in the music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
In German there is a saying: “Der Weg ist das Ziel” meaning “The way is the goal”. The way to the top may be long and challenging, but never let the difficulties discourage you: on the contrary embrace the experiences and the emotions and they will take you further. And don’t compare yourself with others: each person has his/her own way – be happy with yours.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I don’t plan so far in advance – it’s useless at least in my experience. Or as a Russian friend once told me – we make plans and God is laughing above.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Healthy mind in a healthy body
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
It’s sunny, warm and vacation in Italy around the corner, so of course I am super happy. The sun is a big inspiration.
Chen Reiss recently made her Royal Opera House debut as Zerlina in Kasper Holten’s production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. This production will be screened live on big screens for free throughout the UK and on YouTube on 12 July. Further information here
Soprano Chen Reiss performed leading parts at the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Bavarian State Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Teatro alla Scala, Semperoper Dresden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg State Opera, De Nederlandse Opera Amsterdam ,Wiener Festwochen, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Florida Grand Opera and the Israeli Opera.
In 2018 she made her debut at the ROH Covent Garden as Zerlina in Kasper Holten’s production of Don Giovanni conducted by Marc Minkowski. In the same year she also made her debut at Teatro Real in Madrid and Liceu Barcelona as Ginevra (Ariodante) under William Christie, a role she also performed at the Vienna State Opera in David McVicar’s new production. In 2017 she performed at the London Proms, Lucern Festival, Enescu Festival and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam under the baton of Daniele Gatti. In the same year she also made her debut with the Chicago Symphony under Charles Dutoit, Philharmonia Orchestra under Lahav Shani and sang Liu (Turandot) with the Israel Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, as well as Zdenka (Arabella), Sophie (Rosenkavalier) and Gretel with the Vienna State Opera. In 2016 She sang Morgana (Alcina) under Marc Minkowski at the Vienna State Opera. With the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Zubin Mehta, she sang a gala concert for Suntory Hall 30th Anniversary.
In December 2014 Chen Reiss was invited to sing for Pope Francis during the Christmas Mass, which was broadcast worldwide. Accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, Ms. Reiss sang the soundtrack to the film “Perfume”. A frequent soloist at important concert venues worldwide, Ms. Reiss sang with distinguished conductors such as: Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniele Gatti, Daniel Harding, Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Paavo Järvi, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Mark Minkowski, Jonathan Nott, Donald Runnicles, Jeffrey Tate, Christian Thielemann and Franz Welser-Möst.
She performed concerts at the Salzburg, Ludwigsburg, Rheingau and Lucerne Festivals, as well as in Carnegie Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein and Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Other concert appearances include: Vienna Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin, Tonhalle Düsseldorf, Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Philharmonie Berlin, Concerto Köln, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Pittsburgh Symphony and Dallas Symphony, among others.
Her operatic repertoire includes: Gilda (Rigoletto), Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Amina (LA Sonnambula), Nannetta (Falstaff), Oscar (Un ballo in maschera), Marie (La fille du régiment), Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Zdenka (Arabella), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Ilia (Idomeneo), Servilia (La clemenza di Tito), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Konstanze (Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Euridice (Orfeo ed Euridice), Adele (Die Fledermaus), and the title role in Das Schlaue Füchslein.
Her solo album, LIAISONS, won the Diapason D’or in 2011. On her latest album “Le Rossignol et la Rose” Chen Reiss presents a romantic compilation of songs with distinguished pianist Charles Spencer. Her many recordings include a complete Fledermaus with the WDR radio orchestra, a DVD of Faure Requiem with Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi, Mahler 2 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Daniele Gatti and the operetta Das Fürstenkind with the BR radio Orchestra.