Aga Mikolaj, Polish soprano renowned for his energy and vitality – obituary

Agnieszka Beata Mikolajczyk was born in Kutno, central Poland, on March 7, 1971. She moved 160 kilometers west to study in Poznan with Antonina Kawecka, a prominent Polish post-war soprano , before winning a scholarship to Vienna where she took masterclasses with Renata Scotto.

From 2001, Aga Mikolaj worked with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who described her as “possessing one of the most beautiful soprano voices of our time” and who taught her the art of sensitive phrasing. She went on to win prizes in singing competitions in Poland, the Netherlands and Spain.

During this time, she had made her professional debut as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Poznan, returning there regularly over the years. She joined the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 2002, launching a brilliant international career that led her in 2004 to Japan with the Vienna State Opera conducted by Seiji Ozawa. In 2010, she was Alice in a new production of Verdi’s Falstaff at the Monte Carlo Opera with Bryn Terfel.

Wagner’s bicentennial performances with Barenboim in 2013 were also heard in Berlin and Milan, the latter being included on a DVD, and in 2019 she participated in a powerful performance of Verdi’s Requiem at Terezin, the former camp of Nazi concentration in the Czech Republic.

Aga Mikolaj was first heard in the United States at a New Years concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2002 and performed at a similar event in Chicago two years later. West Coast audiences heard her as Donna Elvira with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel in 2012 and three years later she was on the East Coast performing in Strauss’s Last Four Songs and the Symphony. Mahler’s No. 4 with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Benjamin. Zander, the Boston Globe praising his “surrender and rapture.”

Aga Mikolaj, known for her energy and vitality both on and off stage, is survived by her husband, Austrian conductor Karl Sollak, with whom she recorded the Last Four Songs; they had no children.

Aga Mikolaj, born March 7, 1971, died November 11, 2021

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