"Heike Wessels has a fascinating rich dramatic mezzo voice of contralto depth and a steely top [...] Her wealth of colours seems inexhaustible. [...] the most versatile Kundry since Leonie Rysanek." (onlinemerker.com): Dramatic mezzo-soprano Heike Wessels amazes audiences worldwide in opera and concert, with exceptionally intense stage presence and rare vocal versatility.
Her appearances in recent years have made the German mezzo one of the leading Wagnerian vocal artists of her generation: She has appeared as Kundry (Parsifal) in her house debut at Deutsche Oper Berlin conducted by John Fiore in 2019, previously also with the Taiwan National Symphony conducted by Shia Chia Lü and repeatedly at Nationaltheater Mannheim. Heike Wessels sang Ortrud (Lohengrin) at Dusseldorf's Deutsche Oper am Rhein with Axel Kober conducting, at Oper Frankfurt under Bertrand de Billy, at Nuremberg's Staatstheater and at Mannheim's Nationaltheater. Her interpretation of the role of Sieglinde in the Achim Freyer production of the Ring des Nibelungen conducted by Dan Ettinger in Mannheim 2013-2015 raised international attention, as did her role debut as Brünnhilde (Die Walküre) at Deutsche Oper am Rhein and Musical Autumn Cluj Napoca.
Recent performances included Venus (Tannhäuser) at Teatro Valli Reggio Emilia, at Kaiserslautern Opera conducted by Daniele Squeo and at the Heidenheim Opera Festival conducted by Marcus Bosch, as well as at Oper Graz Mannheim's Nationaltheater. 2023 will also see her appear as Ortrud at the Shanghai Grand Theatre. Previous guest appearances have brought Ms. Wessels to the Bastille Opera in Paris, Deutsche Oper am Rhein Dusseldorf, the Vienna Volksoper, Oper Bonn, Essen's Aalto Theatre, Theater Dortmund and Staatstheater Mainz. She has collaborated with conductors such as Marek Janowski, Vladimir Jurowski, Philippe Jordan, Stefan Soltesz, Axel Kober, Stefan Blunier, Georg Fritzsch and Gabriel Feltz. Eminent stage directors with whom she has worked include Robert Carsen, Achim Freyer, Nikolaus Lehnhoff, Jens-Daniel Herzog, Andrea Moses, Christoph Nel, Sabine Hartmannshenn, Frank Hilbrich, and Roger Vontobel.
In great demand as a concert artist, Heike Wessels has appeared at London's Royal Festival Hall wth the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski, at the Gstaad Menuhin Festival, the Rheingau Music Festival, with Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, at the Berlin Philharmonie, the Estonian Concert Hall in Tallinn, Auditorio Principe Felipe Oviedo, and Cologne's Philharmonie, among others. She sang the contralto solo in Mahler's Symphony n° 3 and in Das Lied von der Erde with the Mannheim Musical Academy under Alexander Soddy in 2019 und 2020, and with the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra under Gabriel Bebeselea.
In many of Heike Wessels' concert appearances, the works of Johannes Brahms play a pivotal role. In 2023, she released a CD of songs in memory of the leading Brahms interpreter of the composer's lifetime and famed mezzo-soprano Amalie Joachim (with primTON).
Born near Münster, Germany, Heike Wessels completed her vocal studies at Folkwang-Hochschule Essen and Conservatoire National de Strasbourg. Her masterclasses with Brigitte Fassbaender, Irwin Gage, Dame Gwyneth Jones and Thomas Hampson were key influences for her further development. In 2006 she won First Prize at the Fifth International Wagnerian Voices Competition in Venice. She was engaged as cover at the Glyndebourne Festival (Brangäne) and Festspielhaus Baden-Baden (Venus). Having been an ensemble member at the Wuppertal and Braunschweig operas, Heike Wessels was a member of the Mannheim Nationaltheater ensemble from 2008 until 2018; in Mannheim she had her role debuts in all Wagnerian roles of her Fach, but also sang major roles of the Italian and French dramatic mezzo repertoire, including Ulrica (Un Ballo in maschera), Eboli (Don Carlo), Amneris (Aida), Dalila (Samson et Dalila), and Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana). In addition, her interpretation of demanding characters of 20th century repertoire were major milestones of her later returns to Mannheim as a guest soloist: Herodias (Salomé), Agaue (in Hans Werner Henze's Die Bassariden), and Leokadja Begbick in Weill's Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, among others.