Elza Van den Heever

“I think opera awoke a part of me that I did not really know existed until I sang my first role on stage,” says globally acclaimed soprano and winner of the 2008 Seattle Opera International Wagner Competition, Elza van den Heever. One of a set of triplets, 33-year-old Van den Heever grew up in Johannesburg and headed for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music after school. Her professional debut came in 2007 when she was cast as Donna Anna in San Francisco Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, and her onscreen debut was in David McVicar’s Maria Stuarda. In between she has made the world her stage, performing at the Opéra National de Paris and Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper, to name-drop a few. Last year she caused quite a stir when she shaved her hair off to portray Queen Elizabeth I, the wig-wearing monarch, for her big debut at the Met in New York. — Bongani Kona