Johanna Meier, internationally recognized opera star from Spearfish and Black Hills State University honorary alumnus, was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Opera Association in New York City. The award recognizes Meier’s outstanding career achievement and her continuing presence in the education of young singers.
| Mary Kay McGarvey, New York City vocal coach and lyric soprano, presents the 2014 National Opera Association Lifetime Achievement Award to Johanna Meier, right, in New York City.
Meier sustained an international career for more than 37 years, singing in all of the major opera houses, as well as with the leading symphony orchestras worldwide. Beginning her career with the New York City Opera, she sang leading roles in Europe, North and South America, Canada, Israel and Japan, as well as 15 seasons with the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in New York. She was highly publicized as the first American to sing the role of Isolde in Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” at the famed Bayreuth Festival in Germany, a performance which was filmed in honor of the Wagner Centenary and released by Deutsche Gramaphon. She twice appeared on PBS “Great Performances” and has recorded for Belaphon in Germany. She also appeared in a televised BBC concert at Royal Albert Hall in London.
Meier grew up in Spearfish, the daughter of Clare and Josef Meier, founders of the Black Hills Passion Play. Meier and her late husband, Guido Della Vecchia, took over direction of the famed production upon her parents’ retirement in 1991, and continued until the play closed in 2008 after a 70-year run. Meier continues to contribute to cultural education in her state and community through the Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute on the BHSU campus which she started in 1997. Through this unique program, Meier brings in former professional colleagues from across the United States to further the musical education of aspiring young opera singers. Her dedication to her profession earned her an honorary doctorate from BHSU in 2003. Meier has received national awards as well as numerous state awards including the S.D. Hall of Fame and S.D. Governor’s Distinction in Creative Achievement Award. In 2012, BHSU honored Meier and Della Vecchia with the Special Service Award.
A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Meier made her debut with the New York City Opera where she sang for 10 years. She went on to a major international career singing with the Metropolitan Opera for 15 years achieving recognition as one of the foremost Wagnerian sopranos of her era. Meier sang with most of the major symphony orchestras in the United States and abroad, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, l’Orchestre de Paris, the Munich Philharmonic, the Toronto Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, and the famous Concertgebouw at the Holland Festival.