In 1997, Malena Ernman began her career as an opera singer, appearing as Princess Cecilia in Ivar Hallström’s ‘Liten Karin’. She quickly drew the attention of the media for her expressive presentation.
In 1998, she appeared as Rosina in ’Il barbiere di Siviglia’ and as Kaja in ‘Staden under Leif Segerstam’, both held at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. In both the cases, she received great critical acclaim for her rich voice and impressive techniques.
In July 1999, she appeared in a trouser role, performing as Ziöberg in the premiere of Jonas Forssell's ‘Trädgården’ at the Drottningholm Palace Theatre in Stockholm. It was the first new opera to be premiered at that theatre in recent times.
In 2000, she had her international breakthrough when she appeared as Nerone in ‘Agrippina’, conducted by René Jacobs, at La Monnaie in Brussels and Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Also, in the same year, she had her first album, ‘Naïve’, released.
From 2000 onwards, she began performing both at home and abroad, singing Sesto in Handel’s ‘Giulio Cesare’ at the Drottningholm Festival (Sweden) in 2001. In 2002, she appeared as Nancy in the chamber opera, ‘Albert Herring’, at the Glyndebourne Festival, held in East Sussex, England.
In 2003, she sang Prince Orlovsky in Johann Strauss's operetta, ‘Die Fledermaus’, which was performed and broadcast at the BBC Proms. Also in 2003-2004 session, she sang Donna Elvira in ‘Don Giovanni’ in Brussels and appeared as Lichas in the musical drama ‘Hercules’ at Aix-en-Provence Festival.
In 2003, she debuted in television films, appearing as Prince Orlofsky in ‘Die Fledermaus’. Also in the same year, she had two albums, ‘Songs in Season’ and ‘My Love’ released. In the following year, she appeared in the highly challenging concert, ‘No String Attached’ with Martin Fröst and Niklas Sivelöv.
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In March 2005, she appeared as Julie in the premier of Philippe Boesmans’s opera of the same name at La Monnaie, Brussels. Later she reprised the same role first at the Vienna Festival and then at Aix-en-Provence Festival.
In spring of 2006, she sang Dido’ in Henry Purcell’s opera, ‘Dido and Aeneas’, at the Vienna Festival and Nerone in ‘Agrippina’ at Oper Frankfurt. In summer, she debuted at Salzburg Festival, singing Annio in ‘La clemenza di Tito’ under conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
In 2007, she appeared as Sesto in ‘Giulio Cesare’ (Vienna), as Cherubino in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ (Aix-en-Provence) and as Nerone in ‘L'incoronazione di Poppea’ (Amsterdam). Thereafter, she continued to appear in various roles participating in operas like ‘La Cenerentola’ and ‘Dido and Aeneas’ in various cities.
In February 2009, she entered Melodifestivalen 2009, a Swedish song contest organized by Sveriges Television (SVT) and Sveriges Radio (SR), with the song ‘La Voix’, written by her friend Fredrik Kempe. On winning the contest, she entered Eurovision Song Contest 2009, held in Russia, finishing twenty-first in the final.
In 2010, she sang Idomeneo (Idomeneus), King of Crete, in ‘Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante’ (in Brussels) and was highly praised for her spirited portrayal of a prince. In the following year, she was in Vienna, playing the title role in Handel’s ‘Serse’.
In 2012, she sang Eduige in ‘Rodelinda’ and Elena in ‘La donna del lago’; she was specially commended for her performance in ‘La donna del lago’. In the following year, she was cast as Béatrice in Hector Berlioz’s ‘Béatrice et Bénédict’.
Possibly in 2017, she decided to give up her international opera career. In this she was convinced by her daughter, Greta, that her travel abroad by airplane has negative impact on the environment.
Although she abandoned her international career, she continues to remain active at home. She sang Gabriella in ‘Så som i himmelen’ in September 2018. In August 2018, she published ‘Scenes from the Heart’ (Swedish: Scener ur hjärtat), an autobiographical book that she had co-written with her husband and daughters.
Family & Personal Life
In 2004, Malena Ernman married actor Svante Thunberg, currently working as her manager and producer. They have two daughters, Greta and Beata. While Greta (2003 born) has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism, Beata is known to suffer from ADHD.
In spite of her deficiency and her young age, Greta Thunberg is now a renowned environmental activist, credited with raising global awareness about the negative impact of climate change. In May 2019, she published a collection of her speeches, entitled ‘No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference’.