Greta Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernman, is a famous Swedish opera singer

2 October 2019, 21:58 | Updated: 12 October 2021, 18:26

By Kyle Macdonald

The Swedish mezzo-soprano has worked with the likes of Daniel Barenboim and Nicolas Harnoncourt in a wide-ranging career on stage.

18-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg is now known to millions around the world for her impassioned and fiery address to world leaders at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, and the protest she held outside the Swedish Riksdag in August 2018, which led to the ‘School Strike for the Climate’ movement around the world.

Thunberg is continuing to campaign ahead of this month's United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow.

And she comes from a remarkable Swedish family, with music at its heart.

Her mother is mezzo-soprano Malena Ernman, who sings everything from Mozart operas in Europe’s great opera houses, to cabaret, jazz and pop. She even sang a mezzo-infused entry for her country at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow.

Malena Ernman - La Voix (Sweden)

Who is Greta Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernma?

Ernman was educated at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, the Music Conservatory in Orléans, France, and at the school of the Royal Swedish Opera.

Malena began to make a name for herself in opera in the late 1990s, with Rossini and contemporary opera at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. In 1999, she was described in Opera Magazine as having “focus and expression” and a “full, rich voice not that far behind Cecilia Bartoli”.

Over the last 20 years she has sung Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni under conductor Daniel Barenboim, along with Britten at Glyndebourne Festival in 2002. In 2006, Ernman made her debut at the Salzburg Festival with Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito with legendary Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

As her CV suggests, Malena is renowned for her Mozart singing. Here she is in concert singing the composer’s famous mezzo aria ‘Voi che sapete’ from The Marriage of Figaro:

Malena Ernman, Voi che sapete

What about the rest of Greta Thunberg’s family?

Malena’s husband – Greta’s father – is Swedish actor and author Svante Thunberg.

There’s a musical connection with Svante too, as he played classical composer Joseph Martin Kraus in an episode of the TV series Veckans konsert back in 2002. The paternal grandparents of the climate activist, Olof Thunberg and Mona Andersson, are also actors.