American-born, Berlin-based soprano Deborah Polaski is best known for her work in operas by Wagner and Richard Strauss. Her Wagner is extensive: she has sung Senta (The Flying Dutchman), Ortrud (Lohengrin), Isolde, Brünnhilde (Der Ring des Nibelungen), and Kundry (Parsifal). Her roles in Strauss have included Elektra and Ariadne. But her repertory is hardly limited to music by just these two: she has gone as far afield as Janácek (Kostelnicka Buryjovka in Jenufa) and Berg (Marie in Wozzeck). She has also sung roles in Beethoven's Fidelio, Berlioz's Les Troyens, and Wolf-Ferrari's Sly. Polaski has appeared at the Bayreuth Festival on countless occasions: she has sung Brünnhilde in Die Walküre there more times than any other soprano since 1914. While Polaski has appeared at major operatic venues in the U.S., including the Met and Chicago Lyric Opera, she has spent most of her career on European stages: Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden, and she has appeared in concert in Rome, Paris, Zurich, Tokyo, Sydney, and other major cities. Polaski has appeared on numerous recordings, many of them available from Kultur Video, Opus Arte, Oehms, and Arthaus Musik.
Deborah Polaski was born in Richland Center, WI, on May 26, 1949. As a child she regularly sang in the church where her Protestant minister father was pastor. She studied music at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (1972-1975) with Lucille Evans. Polaski had further studies at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, with the renowned George London and Irma Cooper.
Polaski debuted in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1984 as Elektra, a role she would go on to sing more than 180 times in her career. Later that same year she sang her first Isolde, in Freiburg. In 1988 she sang Brünnhilde at Bayreuth, beginning her run of 20-plus complete Ring opera appearances there.
In 1992 Polaski debuted at the Met as Kundry and made numerous subsequent appearances there, including as Elektra (2002). She made a highly successful tour with the Met in 2006, singing Brünnhilde (Die Walküre) in Tokyo. In the 2008-2009 season Polaski sang Elektra in a semi-staged performance with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, under Maazel, and portrayed Isolde at the Berlin Staatsoper and made concert appearances in Berlin and Lisbon. Among Polaski's later recordings is her 2009 Oehms four-CD set of Wagner's Die Walküre, on which she sings Brünnhilde.