Dutch contralto Helena Rasker’s career encompasses the operatic stage, the concert platform and the recital hall across a vast and expanding repertoire. She has enjoyed working with many notable conductors including: Sir Antonio Pappano; Sir George Benjamin; Marc Minkowski; Reinbert de Leeuw; Jaap van Zweden; Laurence Cummings; Marc Albrecht and Yannick Nézet-Seguin.
Helena has shown a profound commitment to the music of our time and has given the World Premiere performances of many new creations. She has performed the works of, and collaborated with, composers including Sir George Benjamin; Stefan Wirth; Georg Freidrich Haas; Rob Zuidam; John Adams; Peter-Jan Wagemen; Michel van der Aa; Jan van Vlijmen and Pascal Dusapin.
Helena’s future engagements include her debut at the Berlin Staatsoper and her return to the Dutch National Opera for a major World Premiere; she will appear with René Jacobs on tour with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in Caldara’s Maddalena ai piedo di Christo in Berlin, Freiburg, Vienna and Paris; she will appear as the Grandmother, the Old Lady and the Finn Woman in The Snowqueen by Abrahamsen for the Opéra national de Rhin and in a concert performance of this same work at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam with Kent Nagano and Helena will create the central role in the World Premiere of Like Flesh by Sivan Eldar at Opéra de Lille, and this production will be seen at Opéra de Montpelier; Opéra national de Lorraine and the Vlaamse Oper.
Her recent appearances include her return to the Festival d’Aix en Provence in the World Premiere of The Arab Apocalypse directed by Pierre Audi, her debut at the Théâtre de Champs Elysees, Paris and the Grand Théâtre de Genève in Robert Wilson’s new staging of The Messiah and she returned to the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam for Starenka Buryjovka Jenufa with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.
In recent seasons, Helena made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Erna in Georg Friedrich Haas’ Morgen und Abend, a role which also marked her debut at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin; she made her role debut at the Aalto Musiktheater, Essen as the Old Countess Pique Dame; she made her debut at the Aix en Provence Festival as Dritte Dame Die Zauberflöte and returned to Dutch National Opera in the same role and she sang the role of Ramise in Handel's Arminio with Laurence Cummings at the Internationale Händel-Festpiele Göttingen. In concert, Helena reprised the Contralto role in George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill with Ensemble Modern at the Wigmore Hall and at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and with the Ensemble Intercontemporain at the Festival Présences, Paris and with the Münchener Kammerorchester. Other recent concert engagements include: Bach's Matthäus Passion; Mahler's 8th Symphony and Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra; Schumann's Szenen aus Goethes Faust with The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; Bruckner’s Mass No. 3 with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Leocasta in Händel’s Giustino with with Lautten Compagney at the Händel-Festspiele Halle.
Her other operatic engagements include Third Secretary to Mao Nixon in China; First Maid Elektra; Grimgerde Die Walküre; Hedwige Guillaume Tell; and Mother Lulu for the Dutch National Opera, Bryna (Michel van der Aa’s After Life) for the Melbourne Festival and roles which Helena has created include: Ursula (Peter-Jan Wagemans’s Legende); Paula (Robin de Raaf’s Waiting for Miss Monroe); Mother (Martijn Padding’s Laika); Archangel Michael (Rob Zuidam's Adam in Ballingschap) and in 2013 the World Premiere of Robert Zuidam’s chamber opera Troparion directed by Pierre Audi.
In concert, Rasker has worked with orchestras including the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; Gulbenkian Orchestra; Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; London Sinfonietta; Scottish Chamber Orchestra; the Lausanne and Geneva Chamber Orchestras; Europa Galante and ASKO/Schoenberg Ensemble. She has sung at festivals throughout Europe and in Australia. Her concert repertory includes oratorios by Bach, Pergolesi; Händel and Mendelssohn, Mahler symphonies and Kindertotenlieder, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder; Shostakovich Tsvetajeva Lieder; Frank Martin's Der Cornet and chamber and recital repertoire by Debussy; Schumann; Brahms; Ravel; Gubaidulina and Schoenberg.
Helena Rasker trained at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague and the Tanglewood Music Center. She continues to study privately with Margreet Honig.
Biography not for publication, for an up to date version please contact Oliver Clarke.
'Helena Rasker’s deep contralto was the ideal complement, her grasp of Benjamin’s intent impeccable – the way she interacted with entwining woodwind in ‘The Minister and the Stranger’ was positively hypnotic. Her breathless way with the disjointed line of ‘The Minister and the Stranger’ was similarly perfectly placed; she coped with the low register demands of ‘Mother(s) and Child(ren)’, a deathly lullaby, with perfect ease.' Seen and Heard International
'Into the little Hill...perhaps sounding edgier and more painfully urgent than ever up close at the Wigmore...impressive contralto Helena Rasker...' The Guardian
'Komsi and Rasker brought the vocal lines to vivid life, Komsi often reaching the stratosphere, Rasker stern and steely in the lower reaches. Although neither is a native English speaker, they got the text across with ample clarity.' The Evening Standard
'Ganz nebenbei lernt man, wieso im Barock das Geschlecht des Sängers bei der Besetzung zweitrangig war. Aus der Altistin Helena Rasker macht das Kostüm nämlich einen optisch so perfekten Claudio, dass man angesichts ihrer dunkel und herb timbrierten Stimme zu Anfang tatsächlich zweimal hinhören muss. Wenn sie in der Arie «Con tromba guerriera» in prächtig durchschlagskräftigen Tönen mit der konzertierenden Barocktrompete wetteifert, ahnt man viel von der Macht der Stimme, die Händels Sänger über ihre Zuhörer ausübten.’ Neue Zürcher Zeitung
'The singing was extremely accomplished....In the role of the Minister Rasker was grounded and stoic with a sound that was powerful yet controlled.' Schmopera
'Seasoned Dutch contralto Helena Rasker brings rich, ethereal sensuality to Johannes's dead wife Erna' The Londonist
“Dutch contralto Helena Rasker produced grand tone as Erna.” Opera News
“The Dutch contralto Helena Rasker has a wonderful warm deep voice and a stage presence to match. She was convincingly sympathetic towards her widower in his discomfiture.” Opera Brittania
“Helena Rasker glows with affection as his departed wife Erna.” Culturewhisper
“...and Helena Rasker as the wife gave committed an telling performances.” The Guardian
“Helena Rasker brings poise to the latter's wife Erna” Classical Source
'......and an excellent cast gives its all. As Ursula, Helena Rasker turns the huge third-act aria in which she remembers her father's sexual abuse into a thing of tragic grandeur' Financial Times
'....one wonders about Festus' dominant sister Ursula, who wants to seduce him, only to bid farewell to the world in a discreetly accompanied yet magnificent monologue of utter loneliness. The dark mezzo luminosity Helena Rasker displays here is unequaled.’ Frankfurter Rundschau