Sarah Maria Sun Sarah Maria Sun

Sarah Maria Sun


Sarah Maria Sun is known as one of the foremost and most extraordinary performers in the contemporary music scene. In addition to numerous songs, operas and oratorios, her repertoire currently includes more than 1500 compositions from the 20th and 21st centuries, including more than 350 world premieres. She has a close working relationship with a wide variety of composers, including Helmut Lachenmann, Heinz Holliger, Georg Friedrich Haas, Salvatore Sciarrino and Bernhard Lang, among many others. North German Radio (NDR) has dedicated portrait concerts to her in 2012, 2016 and 2018.

She regularly performs as a soloist in concert halls and festivals such as the Suntory Hall Tokyo, the Muziekgebow Amsterdam, the Philharmonie Luxembourg, the Tonhalle Zurich, the Auditorio National Madrid, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Berlin and Cologne Philharmonic, the Biennale Paris, Venice and Munich, the Arnold Schönberg Center Vienna and the festivals in Witten, Donaueschingen and Herrenhausen.

Her tremendous adaptability is demonstrated on a regular basis on the music-theater stage. She has appeared at the opera houses in Zurich, Basel, Dresden, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Leipzig, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Zagreb, and the Opéra Bastille and the Opéra Comique in Paris. In summer 2021, she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival in Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza 1960 with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Ingo Metzmacher in a new staging by Jan Lauwers. She shows her skill for haunting theatrical and musical interpretation time and again in the depiction of complex female figures. In particular, the monodramas Yes I Will Yes by Dieter Schnebel (Elbphilharmonie Hamburg), Carlotas Zimmer by Arturo Fuentes with Klangforum Wien (Klangspuren Schwaz), Lohengrin by Salvatore Sciarrino (Salzburg Easter Festival), and Kolik by Jannik Giger, Leo Hoffmann and Benjamin von Bebber (Gare du Nord Basel) are especially noteworthy. She was nominated as singer of the year by Opernwelt Magazine for the role of Elsa in Sciarrino’s Lohengrin in 2017 and for the role of Gwen in Philip Venables’ 4.48 Psychose (Semperoper Dresden) in 2019.

Sarah Maria Sun has performed with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano, Thomas Hengelbrock, Susanna Mälkki, Peter Rundel, Heinz Holliger and more with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the North, Bavarian, South-West and West German Radio Orchestras, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Antwerp and Tokyo Symphony Orchestras and ensembles such as musikFabrik Köln, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Mosaik, Ensemble Intercontemporain as well as the string quartets Diotima, Arditti, Minguet and Signum.

Sarah Maria Sun’s discography includes more than 30 CDs, some of which have been awarded prizes. In 2017, four of her six new releases were nominated for the German Record Critics’ Award. Recently, her latest and most contrasting CDs Harawi with songs by Olivier Messiaen and Killer Instincts presenting works by Tom Waits, Kurt Weill, Leonard Bernstein, Randy Newman, John Kander, Stephen Sondheim i.a. have been released on the label Mode Records. The recording „Les Espaces Électroaqoustiques“ (Col Legno) received the German Record Critics’ Award.

In the season 2022/23, Sarah Maria Sun will perform the world premiere Queen of the Hearts (Jannik Giger, Leo Hoffmann, Benjamin von Bebber) at the Gare du Nord Basel, AMOPERA (Klangforum Wien, Jan Lauwers Need Company) at the Festspielhaus Erl and Im Dickicht (Isabel Mundry/Händl Klaus) at the Schwetzingen SWR Festival and Staatstheater Mainz. Furthermore, she will premiere Bernhard Lang‘s When the music’s over at the Wiener Konzerthaus with the Klangforum and sing concerts at the Brucknerhaus Linz, the Schwetzingen SWR Festival and the Klavier Festival Ruhr.

Opera / Music theatre: 

Ali N Askin The killer in me is the killer in you my love (Hanna; WP)
Alban Berg Lulu (Lulu)
Luciano Berio Passaggio (Sequenza III)
Leonard Bernstein Candide (Cunegonde), Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah), A quiet place (Dede), West Side Story (Maria)
Nicolaus Brass Ein Sommertag (Young woman; WP)
Peter Maxwell Davis Miss Donnithorne´s Maggot (Miss Donnithorne)
Peter Eötvös Der Goldene Drache (Young Chinese)
Arnulf Herrmann Wasser (Katja; WP)
Michael Hirsch, Elena Mendoza, J.M. Sanchez-Verdù Visiones Vicciones (4 Soprano parts)
Rolf Riehm Sirenen – Bilder des Begehrens und des Vernichtens (Sirene 1/mermaid 1)
Peter Ruzicka Hölderlin (Soprano I)
José-Maria Sanchez-Verdù Aura (Aura; WP)
Dieter Schnebel Yes I will (Molly Bloom; WP), Utopien (Soprano WP)
Salvatore Sciarrino Infinito Nero (Maria Maddalena)
Thomas Stiegler Prinzessin Ulla und die Schöne Lau (Princess Ulla)
Oscar Strasnoy Geschichte (Mother)
Johann Strauß Die Fledermaus (Adele)
Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier (Sophie)
Igor Stravinsky The Rake´s Progress (Anne Truelove)
Kurt Weill The Seven Deadly Sins (Anna), The Threepenny Opera (Polly, Jenny)
Jörg Widmann Das Gesicht im Spiegel (Patrizia)

Concert (selection):

Georges Aperghis Septes Crimes de l’amour, Cinq couplets, Contretemps, Le rire physiologique
Luciano Berio Laborynthus, Folk-Songs, Sinfonia, Air
Pierre Boulez Pli selon Pli
Nikolaus Brass Sommertag (WP), Der Goldene Steig (WP), Stimme und Tod (WP)
Benjamin Britten Folksongs, Cabaret-Songs
John Cage Forever and sunsmell, The wonderful widow of eighteen springs
Unsuk Chin Akrostichon
Luigi Dallapiccola Divertimento
Hanns Eisler Palmström op. 5
Beat Furrer Fama
Gérard Grisey Quatre Chants pour franchir le seuil
Georg Friedrich Haas Atthis
Karl Amadeus Hartmann Friede anno 48
Hans-Werner Henze Being Beateous
Paul Hindemith Melancholie (WP), Marienleben
Heinz Holliger à plume éperdue (WP), Dämmerlicht, Increschantüm (WP), Adieu pour P.B. (UA), Grignan (WP)
Peter Kyburz still and again
Helmut Lachenmann Got Lost
Bernhard Lang Cold Trip I (WP), Songbook II (WP), Hermetica V (WP)
György Ligeti Aventures, Nouvelles Aventures, Der Sommer
Bruno Mantovani Cantata
Peter Maxwell-Davis Miss Donnithorne´s Maggot, The Telephone
Olivier Messiaen Harawi
Isabel Mundry Vogelherd (WP)
Sarah Nemtsov TOV (WP)
Luigi Nono Canti di Vita e d´amore, La Fabbrica Illuminata
Samir Odeh-Tamimi Namì
Matthias Pintscher Lieder und Schneebilder
Alberto Posadas La tentación de las sombras (WP)
Aribert Reimann Ni una sombra
Rolf Riehm Der Asra
Wolfgang Rihm Ophelia Sings
Peter Ruzicka Streichquartett VI, Mnemosyne (WP)
José-Maria Sanchez-Verdù Gramma, Atlas (WP)
Salvatore Sciarrino Due Melodie, Canto degli specchi, Lohengrin
Johannes Schöllhorn Pierrot Lunnaire, Damenstimmen, strong>, Va…
Arnold Schönberg Streichquartett II, Das Buch der hängenden Gärten op.15, Cabaret-Songs, Erwartung, Herzgewächse, Pierrot Lunaire (Pierrot Lunaire)
Claude Vivier Ojikawa, Hymnen an die Nacht, Hierophanie
Jörg Widmann Versuch über die Fuge

5 November 2022, 19:00, Tiroler Festspielhaus Erl – Premiere

Programme: “Amopera” – A DYSTOPIC BALLADE – meta-opera based on an idea by the Klangforum (world premiere)

Cast:  Klangforum Wien, Bas Wiegers (conductor), Needcompany, Jan Lauwers (staging & choreography), Holger Falk (baritone), Sarah Maria Sun (soprano) a. o.

7 February 2023, Körber Foundation Hamburg

Programme: Sara Glojnaric Artefacts

Cast: Dirk Rothbrust (percussion), Sarah Maria Sun (voice)

14 February 2023, 19:30, Brucknerhaus Linz

Programme: “Tell me the truth about love”: Franz Schubert Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, George Gershwin Chosen Pieces, Benjamin Britten Cabaret Songs, Leonard Bernstein “What a movie!” from the opera Trouble in Tahiti, Richard Adler and Jerry Ross A Little Brains, a Little Talent, Georges Aperghis Le rire physiologique, Eun-Hwa Cho New work for voice and piano (world premiere), a.o.

Cast: Kilian Herold (clarinet), Jan Philip Schulze (piano), Sarah Maria Sun (soprano)

11 April 2023, 20:00 & 22:00, Wiener Konzerthaus

Programme: Bernhard Lang A Song for Rachela (world premiere)

Cast: Klangforum, Lorenz C. Aichner (conductor), Sarah Maria Sun (voice), Mikael Rudolfsson (trombone)

28/30 April 2023, 19:00, Schloss Schwetzingen, Schwetzinger SWR Festival

Programme: Isabel Mundry Im Dickicht (world premiere)

Cast: SWR Symphony Orchestra, SWR Vocal Ensemble, Peter Rundel (conductor), David Hermann (stage director), You-Jin Seo (costumes), Elena Garcia Fernandez (dramaturgy), Stephan Bootz (Robber), Michael Dahmen (Man), Bernhard Landauer (Witness), Maren Schwier (Judge), Sarah Maria Sun (Woman)

5 May 2023, 19:30, Schloss Schwetzingen, Schwetzingen SWR Festival

Programme: Franz Schubert Death and the Maiden, Arnold Schoenberg String Quartet No. 2

Cast: Tetzlaff Quartet, Sarah Maria Sun (soprano)

28 May 2023, 11:00, Kölner Philharmonie

Programme: Children’s concert: works by György Ligeti: Aventures, Nouvelles Aventures, Trio for violine, horn and piano & Mysteries of the Macabre

Cast: Ensemble Musikfabrik, Yorgos Ziavras (conductor), Annechien Koerselman (idea, concept, direction), Fabian Hemmelmann (baritone),  Sarah Maria Sun (soprano), Verena Tönjes (mezzo-soprano),

Killer Instincts

Killer Instincts is, in a manner of speaking, a politically incorrect perpetrators’ study. And it is satirizing the new generation of fascist politicians, who swagger about clear enemy images and simple solutions and became a horrible new fashion. For this purpose, I assembled cynical, black-humorous monologues. The narrators of these monologues are stupid, selfish, spineless, lazy, greedy, corrupt, cold blooded, clever, charismatic, shrewd and charming narcissists, who twist us – just like in real life – around their little fingers. Their recipes for a perfectly successful life are obviously immoral, but we are, nevertheless, inevitably seduced into identifying with these enchanting beasts. We want to be like them. We want to laugh with them (not be laughed at). Therefore, we live with them in partnership. Or work for them. Or even vote for them. Not much good coming out of this…

Interestingly, such monologues are hard to find in classical music (which is my actual habitat). That’s why I decided not to care about genres, boxes or gender questions and only go for the contents, the meat. So now very different composers and librettists shake hands for this programme. We have gathered a weird mixture of enormously diverse songs from the classical repertoire and contemporary music, from musical, pop and rock.

So, Killer Instincts shall render both first aid if you badly need to laugh or cry or get the hell scared about the human nature. It is also a pleasurable journey in bad people’s shoes. Which might be a (vanishingly small) drop of help to act more conscious and responsible in our „best of all possible worlds”.

(source: Sarah Maria Sun)

Sarah Maria Sun (vocals)
Jan Philip Schulze (piano, electric organ)
Hubert Steiner (Hawaii-, Jazz-, Acoustic-, Steel String-Guitars, Banjo, E-Bass)
Bernd Oezsevim (percussion)
Paul Kleber (bass player)

Programme selection:
Tom Waits Lucky Day Overture
Leonard Bernstein There’s a law about men
Joe Walsh Life’s been good
John Kander When you’re good to Mama
Kurt Weill Der Lotterieagent
Steven Lutvak I don’t understand the poor
Richard Adler A little brains, a little talent
and further works by Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim, Franz Schubert i.a.

Killer Instincts will be released on CD in March 2020 on the label mode records, New York City in cooperation with the BR Studio Munich, Germany (recorded 2019).

Dieter Schnebel Yes, I will, Yes (adapted from James Joyce) 

is a monodrama for soprano and percussion based on Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of the novel “Ulysses”, by James Joyce. The text is 80 pages long, without full stops or commas: the protagonist’s night-time thoughts – and highly sexual fantasies. The piece is dedicated to soprano Sarah Maria Sun, who will be interpreting these thoughts – partly spoken, partly masterfully sung. The accompaniment consists of a percussion part (mainly vibraphone) and a playback track. This consists of a second voice (also Sarah Maria Sun), as well as synthetic and vocal background sounds. Additionally, Joyce’s entire text is spoken throughout by Sarah Sun (duration approx. 2.5 hours) played at four times the speed, producing a kind of artificial chirping, which contains the whole text.
The piece is a hymn to life, affirmative as it says at the end: “Yes, I Will, Yes!”

(source: Dieter Schnebel)

Sarah Maria Sun (soprano)
Vanessa Porter (percussion)
Axel Schäffler (video)

Duration: 60 minutes

„modern lied“

When New Music respectively „modern lied“ are achieved so skillfully and devotedly in various colours and languages, it of course indicates a passion of the interpreters, but it also raises the desire to open up to and confront oneself with it. (Dresdner Neue Nachrichten, 11 June 2017)

The two artists had the idea to this project during breakfast after their first concert together. The accomplished vocal artist of contemporary music Sarah Maria Sun and the experienced pianist Jan Philip Schulze wanted to develop a programme presenting the most extraordinary contemporary lied masterworks. It aimed to be beautiful and at the same time challenging for the artists.

This idea resulted in the vocal programme modern lied, which combines all these aspects and presents an enormous range of composers, such as Heinz Holliger, Salvatore Sciarrino, Helmut Lachenmann, György Kurtág, Wolfgang Rihm, Bernhard Lang, and Georges Asperghis. The release concert of the recently published CD modern lied took place at the Semperoper Dresden in June 2017.

Sarah Maria Sun (Soprano)
Jan Philip Schulze (piano)

Programme selection:
Heinz Holliger Sechs Lieder nach Christian Morgenstern (1952-1953)
Salvatore Sciarrino Zwei Melodien (1978)
Helmut Lachenmann Got Lost (2007/08)
György Kurtág Requiem für den Geliebten, op. 26 (1982-1987)
Wolfgang Rihm Ophelia Sings (2012)
Bernhard Lang Wenn die Landschaft aufhört (2015)

Sarah Maria Sun’s recent album, “Killer Instincts,” could be a soundtrack for our times.

Whether Sun is performing a selection from Leonard Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti” or a Stefan Wolpe tune from 1930 that laments Hitler’s rising political fortunes, she musters a stylish way of singing about bleak times.

Bernstein’s writing for the stage results in another highlight for Sun. Her performance of “Glitter and Be Gay” (from “Candide”) contains a banjo-led arrangement you never knew you needed. The twangy instrumental accompaniment and Sun’s coloratura brilliance are equally refined; together, they mock putative distinctions between “high” and “low” cultural practices with an energy that any satirist could admire.
The New York Times, Seth Colter Walls, 28 May 2020

Soprano Sarah Maria Sun shines with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen at the Elbphilharmonie

(…) With the swaying certainty and elegance of an equilibrist, the singer – with a pink-coloured skirt and a black top also an optical sensation – masters the vocal acrobatics of the piece. Ruzicka leads the voice in his Hölderin-score for soprano, 18 strings and percussion with far reaching steps to dizzying heights. However with Sarah Maria Sun it never sounded like cold sweat and exhausting exercises, but always wonderful, simple and effortless. With a clear, bright sound she repealed the laws of musical gravity and breezed up to the three-line octave, only to shortly after descend into the warm chest register and eloquently explore the poetic charm of Hölderlin’s works.
Hamburger Abendblatt, 8 May 2017

Sturminger, who had recently and on short notice been entrusted with the new production of “Jedermanns” at the Salzburger Festspiele, shows a monologue of a schizophrenic. In a posh loft with sea view a woman quietly talks, either as Elsa or – hat on – as Lohengrin. This is the result of someone carried away, disappointed and isolated. And Sarah Maria Sun masters the grand art to not once drift into a pathological cliché. A virtuoso of pianissimo, whose quick eruptions turn into pinprick-attacks., 11 April 2017

Sarah Maria Sun has good reasons to laugh. The soprano is one of the shooting stars of modern music. It even happens that she is described as a “high-performance soprano”: Sarah Maria Sun, coloratura soprano and long-standing first soprano of the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, is worldwide in great demand as interpreter of contemporary music., 10 May 2016

 […] the extraordinarily expressive soprano Sarah Maria Sun. […] Sun’s voice ranged from a stratospheric pianissimo to a guttural growl that sounded as if all the evils in the universe were pouring from her throat.
The Guardian, 24 November 2013

Audio recordings:

Ensemble Songs & Sarah Maria Sun: Folk Songs

Blaser (2022)
Sarah Maria Sun, soprano
Oscar Strasnoy, piano and Rhodes

Dieter Schnebel “Yes I will yes”
Johannes Schöllhorn/Jules Massenet „Va“ 

Hänssler, DDD (2022)
SWR Symphonieorchester
Sarah Maria Sun, soprano
Vanessa Porter, percussion

Bernhard Lang
The Cold Trip

KAIROS (2017)
Mark Knoop, conductor
Aleph Guitar Quartet
Sarah Maria Sun, soprano, i. a.

More nonsense
Clarinet Chamber music and nonsense songs by Matyás Seiber

Avl (2015)
Kilian Herold,clarinet
Sarah Maria Sun, soprano
& Ensemble

Luigi Nono: Intolleranza 1960

Arthaus (2022)
Wiener Philharmoniker
Ingo Metzmacher
Sarah Maria Sun i.a.

Killer Instincts
works by Weill, Waits, i. a. 

Mode Records (April 2020)
Sarah Maria Sun, soprano
Jan-Philip Schulze, piano, i. a.

Olivier Messiaen

Mode Records (September 2019)
Sarah Maria Sun, soprano
Stefka Perifanova, piano

modern lied
works by Holliger/Kurtag/Rihm, i. a.

Mode, DDD (2016)
Sarah Maria Sun, soprano
Jan Philip Schulze, piano



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Sarah Maria Sun
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