Ingrid Bjöner initially studied pharmacy at the University of Oslo, gaining her degree in this subject in 1951. She was however also a vocal pupil of Gudrun Boellemose in Oslo, and made a major impression in a concert given in Oslo Cathedral in 1952. Her vocal studies continued: in Germany with Paul Lohmann in Frankfurt and with Franziska Martienssen-Lohmann in Düsseldorf, and later with Ellen Rapp in New York.
In the Norwegian Radio production of Götterdämmerung, mounted for Kirsten Flagstad in 1956, Bjöner sang the Third Norn and Gutrune; and in 1957 she not only made her début with the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo as Donna Anna/Don Giovanni, but also sang the title rôle in Handel’s opera Rodelinda at the Drottningholm Festival at the invitation of Flagstad. Between 1957 and 1959 Bjöner was a member of the Wuppertal Opera; and of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf-Duisburg between 1959 and 1961. She made her first appearance at the Vienna State Opera in 1959 and sang there regularly until 1986 in parts such as Desdemona/Othello, Leonore/Fidelio, Rezia/Oberon, and the title rôles in Ariadne auf Naxos and Turandot. In 1960 she made her débuts in San Francisco as Elsa/Lohengrin and at the Bayreuth Festival as Freia, Helmwige, and Gutrune in Der Ring, conducted by Rudolf Kempe.
Bjöner joined the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 1961, where she sang the Empress/Die Frau ohne Schatten at the reopening of the National Theatre in 1963, Isolde/Tristan und Isolde at its centenary performance in 1965, and the Marschallin/Der Rosenkavalier in 1966. Her Metropolitan Opera début came in 1961 with Elsa, and she sang there regularly until 1967: her rôles included Ariadne, the Countess/Le nozze di Figaro, Donna Anna, the Empress, Eva/Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Gutrune. While in New York Bjöner sang the Duchess of Parma in the American première of Busoni’s Doktor Faust at Carnegie Hall in 1964. She first appeared at La Scala, Milan, as Elsa in 1965 and at Covent Garden in 1967 as Senta/Der fliegende Holländer, returning in the same year to sing Sieglinde/Die Walküre and Leonore, a rôle which she sang at the Salzburg Festivals of 1969 and 1970 and in which she made a return to the Metropolitan Opera in 1971.
During the 1970s Bjöner sang in major opera houses, including those of Berlin (Deutsche Oper), Copenhagen, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Pittsburgh, Stockholm and Stuttgart as well as at the Bayreuth Festival. Her first appearances at the Paris Opera were in 1972, as Isolde and Tosca. She both directed and sang the title part in Elektra in Oslo in 1985, repeating this feat in Copenhagen during the following year, when she also sang Isolde at Bayreuth and the Kostelnička/Jenůfa at Karlsruhe. Bjöner recorded Elektra for Italian Radio in 1987 and returned to Munich in 1988 to sing the Empress. Her last operatic performance was at Karlsruhe in 1990, again with the Empress; she continued however to be active as a teacher in both Oslo and Copenhagen.
Bjöner possesed a strong and vibrant soprano voice which was well suited to the major Wagner and Strauss rôles. Her recorded legacy consists predominantly of live recordings of stage and radio performances, which preserve much of the excitement of her singing.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).