For me, singing is like sunlight shining through stained glass. Each hue can be illuminated to throw shadows on surrounding surfaces and at times, when the light strikes just right, a full kaleidoscope comes to life all around us. Without nature’s light, however, it’s beautiful yet distant and two-dimensional.

Breath is to music as sunbeams are to stained glass. To breathe is to say “I am here”; to sing is to say “I am here with you.” 

The collaboration of time and space is what gives music the potential to be transcendent. When I am fully present in a performance, it feels as if I am able to move beyond what seem to be my day-to-day limitations. Whether I’m on stage or in the audience, the most profound sonic experiences always leave me with a sense that we have been somewhere else entirely, transported to a place beyond our circumstances, and embraced by a force we weren’t aware was with us in the room before. 

One recent experience of this type of transcendence was singing the soprano solo in Dvořák’s Stabat Mater with the Grant Park Music Festival. Knowing that my parents were right there with me playing in the orchestra and connecting with thousands of Chicagoans who were able to attend the concert for free in the staggering Millennium Park, I found that I was able to sustain longer phrases and make dynamic choices that weren’t always available to me in the practice room. 

The power of music to unify is no longer just a theory, but scientifically proven. New research shows that audience members’ heartbeats and breathing synchronize when listening to live music collectively, almost as if on the most primal level our bodies are also trying to communicate to one another, “I am here with you.” 

Perhaps what’s even more exciting to me is that art can simultaneously be used to challenge, encourage, and question. I’ll always remember the charge of being able to both entertain and provoke when I sang Gershwin songs alongside Schönberg’s Second String Quartet in a late night concert centered around composers banned by the Nazi’s at the Verbier Festival. I feel that the job of the artist in today’s world is to remind us of our shared humanity and to help us process the experiences of modern day life, even if it isn’t always comfortable. In a time ruled by stark polarities, the antidote to so many of the problems we face is a return to the defining characteristics of being human: compassion, integrity, and creativity. 

I strive to create art that reveals every color of life’s stained glass, embracing equally the light and the dark. It is both the beauty and the danger of mankind that we will never see completely eye-to-eye, but I hope that my small contribution might help us open up the instruments of our bodies to the art of living life, so we may more easily say to our neighbors: “I am here with you.”

“I loved working with Olivia: such an intelligent musician with a warm and beautiful voice and a personality to match. I’m excited to see where her talents will take her.”

Dame Felicity Lott

The Family Trade

As the granddaughter of three music teachers and the daughter of two professional musicians who have worked in the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra for over four decades, music was the first language taught in the Boen household. First came piano lessons, then came the violin, but the voice was always the most instinctual instrument for me.

Official Bio

American soprano Olivia Boen is quickly gaining momentum for the “sun-streaked top of her register” (Chicago Tribune) and “full-bodied, sparkling tone” (Cleveland Classical) on operatic, concert, and recital stages alike.

A member of the Opernstudio at the Staatsoper Hamburg, Olivia’s first season included role debuts as Gretel in Humperdink Hänsel und Gretel, Musetta in Puccini La bohème and Anna in Nabucco, working with conductors including Kent Nagano, Mark Wigglesworth, Giampaolo Bisanti and Paolo Arrivabeni.

In the 23/24 season, Olivia returns to Hamburg State Opera as Musetta in Puccini La bohème, in addition to creating the roles of Xenia in Frank Castorf’s new production of Mussorgsky Boris Godunov and Inez in Immo Karamon’s new production of Verdi Il Trovatore. Other roles this season include Gretel in Humperdink Hänsel und Gretel, Une Voix Céleste in Verdi Don Carlos and Giannetta in Donizetti L’elisir d’amore.

In the 24/25 season Olivia will make a series of house and role debuts, including with Le cercle de l’Harmonie at the Philharmonie de Paris, a trio of role debuts for the Staatsoper Hamburg and her house and role debut at the Opéra national de Paris.

In 2019, Olivia made her European debut at the Verbier Festival under the baton of Valery Gergiev as Die Stimme des Falken in Strauss Die Frau Ohne Schatten and as Erste Dame in Mozart Die Zauberflöte with Stanislav Kochanovsky. Other roles include Countess Susanna in Wolf-Ferrari Il Segreto di Susanna, Queen Mother in Jonathan Dove The Little Green Swallow, the title roles in Handel Alcina and Serse & Poulenc Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Lauretta in Puccini Gianni Schicchi and has covered Donna Anna in Mozart Don Giovanni.

On the concert platform in the 23/24 season, Olivia makes debuts at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg in the title role of Schumann Das Paradies und die Peri with the musicians of St. Michaelis Musik, and with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra as Gretel in a concert performance of Humperdink Hänsel und Gretel at the Bridgewater Hall cond. Sir Andrew Davis. Other notable concert appearances include Beethoven ‘Ah, Perfido!’ with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Christoph Altstaedt, Dvorak Stabat Mater with the Grant Park Music Festival & Vier letzte Lieder with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican.

A keen recitalist, Olivia has given recitals at Wigmore Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the London Song Festival, Opera Holland Park, the Verbier Festival, LSO St. Luke’s, the Dame Myra Hess Recital Series, the Ravinia Festival and toured with the Oxford International Song Festival. Olivia has collaborated on outreach projects with the London Symphony Orchestra and Opera Holland Park, was a member of the Wigmore Hall French Song Exchange led by Dame Felicity Lott and François le Roux, was a Samling Artist, a 2021 City Music Foundation Artist and a Steans Music Institute vocal fellow at the Ravinia Festival.

Olivia was awarded the English Song Prize from the London Song Festival in 2019, first place (Lynne Cooper Harvey Foundation Award) of the Musicians Club of Women Competition in 2018, a grant from the Frank Huntington Beebe Fund for Musicians in 2018, and first place at the Tuesday Musical Competition in 2017.

Olivia trained at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she was a 2021 Gold Medal finalist, and has completed additional training at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Verbier Festival, Internationale Meistersinger Akademie and the Ravinia Steans Music Institute.

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