Johanna Meier, who sang four times with the Metropolitan Opera during its recent Kennedy Center visit, believes strongly in the significance of the number 13. She was born in Chicago on the 13th of February and next July 25, she will become the 13th Isolde to sing the role in "Tristan und Isolde" at the Wagnerian shrine of Bayreuth. She is also the first American-born soprano to sing in that capacity. It is also an interesting coincidence that she has, up to this time, sung 26 Isoldes. Among her famous predecessors in the role of Bayreuth were Frida Leider, Astrid Varnay and Birgit Nilsson.
Both the Cincinnati Opera and the Ravinia Festival in suburban Chicago had to rearrange their schedules in order to permit Meier to sing the Bayreuth performances. She was slated to sing Aida in Cincinnati on June 18 and 20, and that same month the soprano solos in Alexander Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony with Ravinia Music Director James Levine and the Chicago Symphony. The Cincinnati company was able to engage Gilda Cruz-Romo for the Aidas, while Levine simply announced that as Meier was indispensable for the Zemlinsky, he was postponing the work until the following year.
Meier added Isolde to her previous Wagnerian roles of Eva, Senta, Sieglinde and Gutrune in 1979 when she sang it for the first time in Mexico City. Since then she has sung the famous role in Toronto, Venice, Seattle and with the Welsh National Opera. She is scheduled to sing it at the Metropolitan in forthcoming seasons. In Bayreuth, Meier will sing seven Isoldes under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. Her Tristan will be the German tenor, Rene Kollo, opposite whom Meier has sung the title role in Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos."