EZIO PINZA, Bass * 18 May 1892, Rome, Italy + 9 May 1957, Stamford, Connecticut, United States;

Italian-American Bass Ezio Pinza was born in Rome in 1892, and grew up in Ravenna. Like so many famous artists, he was born in poverty. Such individuals often strive to succeed in sports or show business, largely because their poverty frees them from ordinary middle-class expectations, and, to put it simply, they can afford to take the chance. He showed musical promise early on, and was able to take some lessons at Bologna’s Martini Conservatory. His operatic debut was in Norma in 1914.

His operatic career began in earnest after WWI, when he made his La Scala debut, in 1919, under Arturo Toscanini. From the very beginning, his voice was uncommonly smooth and beautiful, a great asset for a singing bass, especially one with matinee idol looks, which Pinza possessed in abundance. His lack of formal education meant that he was not a particularly well-schooled musician. He was not able to read music, for example, but he had a very sharp ear, and could memorize music accurately, even to the point of being able to hear—and absorb—stylistic nuances. His musical instincts were superb. The result of this was that he began his musical career to considerable acclaim, coming across to audiences and critics alike as a very good-looking and sophisticated singer and actor, with a brilliant and beautiful voice. His career soared as a result, and by 1926 he had been invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. Engagements at Covent Garden and Salzburg soon followed. He was particularly successful in the Italian repertoire, including Bellini, Verdi and Donizetti.

Like other Italians before him, he felt most at home in America, where he was an idol of the huge Italian-American audience that had so warmly embraced Caruso, Galli-Curci, Martinelli, and so many others. He was a favorite at the Met, where he sang for 22 years. In 1948 he switched gears, so to speak, and embarked upon a successful Broadway career, becoming a popular and well known matinee idol, largely through the success he enjoyed in South Pacific and, later, Fanny. It was in South Pacific, however, that he first became known by America’s popular music audience, and it brought him great fame. He was frequently heard and seen on radio, TV and in the movies, and found acceptance as an essentially popular singer. His was one of the broader and more successful American singing careers.

big smile

wearing an ascot

in black tie




trying out a camera


All Photos courtesy of Sandy’s Opera Gallery

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Posted by on January 17, 2017 in Bassses


GÉORI BOUÉ, Soprano * 16 October 1918, Toulouse + 05 January 2017, Paris;

Georgette “Géori” Boué (16 October 1918 – 5 January 2017) was a French soprano, particularly associated with the French repertory, especially Thais. She was born in Toulouse.

Life and career
Boué studied at the Music Conservatory of her native city (solfege, piano, harp, voice) with Claude Jean. After winning a first prize in a vocal competition, she made her debut at the Capitole de Toulouse in 1934, aged only 16, in small roles, such as Urbain in Les Huguenots, Siebel in Faust, Stéfano in Roméo et Juliette, quickly followed by bigger parts such as the lead role in Mireille, and Micaëla in Carmen.

She made her Paris debut at the Opéra-Comique in 1939, as Mimi in La Bohème (singing in the 1,000th performance at the Salle Favart on 3 May 1951), and other roles there included: Lakmé, Manon (singing in the 2,000th performance on 18 January 1952), and Ciboulette (first performance at the Opéra-Comique). Her debut at the Palais Garnier took place in 1942, as Marguerite in Faust, and she went on to sing roles such as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Thais, Salomé in Hérodiade, Louise, Gilda in Rigoletto, Violetta in La traviata, Desdémone in Otello, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, etc.

On the international scene, she appeared at the Liceu in Barcelona, at La Scala in Milan, as Mélisande under Victor De Sabata in 1949, Mexico, Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, and the Bolshoi in Moscow, as Tatyana, in 1956.

She also sang in operetta such as La belle Hélène, The Merry Widow, and in contemporary operas such as Le fou and Les Adieux by Marcel Landowski and Colombe by Jean-Michel Damase.

Boué had a clear voice of considerable power, renowned for her impeccable diction, she was widely regarded as one of the greatest French sopranos of the 1940s. She was married to French baritone Roger Bourdin in May 1944, with whom she can be heard in two recordings, Faust under Thomas Beecham, and Thaïs. While married to Bourdin, she gave birth to Françoise Bourdin.

Boué appeared in the title role of the movie La Malibran, by Sacha Guitry, in 1943, assisted by her ability to accompany herself while singing.

She retired from the stage in 1970. As well as Faust and Thaïs her recorded legacy includes L’Aiglon, Angélique, Paganini, Véronique, Les contes d’Hoffmann, L’heure espagnole. Boué died in January 2017 at the age of 98.

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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Sopranos


ALEXANDER KIPNIS, Bass * 13 February 1891, Zhytomyr, Ukraine + 14 May 1978, Westport, Connecticut, United;

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Alexander Kipnis represented for many the very model of a bass singer, with a voice deep, round, and solid. Although a native Ukrainian, he studied predominantly in Germany; perhaps because of this he specialized in the major bass roles of Wagner, Mozart and Strauss. Kipnis also became one of the most respected lieder singers of his age and made numerous recordings which keep his memory very much alive.

Born in extreme poverty in a Ukrainian ghetto, Kipnis was able to learn music and perform at the local synagogue; later he moved to a slightly more prosperous temple in Bessarabia (in Moldavia). When he returned to Ukraine, he became a jack-of-all-trades with a small theatrical troop, working in the crew as well as acting and singing. When he was 19, he entered the Warsaw Conservatory, intending to become a band conductor. However, he still sang in synagogues to provide himself with an income, and in 1912, at a teacher’s encouragement, he left Warsaw for Berlin to study singing (as well as to avoid conscription into the Russian army).

When WWI broke out, the Russian Kipnis was arrested and jailed. A German colonel, whose brother was an opera impresario, heard him sing and had Kipnis audition for him (in jail!); the singer was subsequently engaged by the Hamburg Opera. Under supervision, Kipnis was permitted to both study and fulfill his contract. Following two years in Hamburg, he was engaged by the Royal Opera in Wiesbaden where he built an impressive repertory. By the end of the war, Kipnis’ reputation had spread well beyond Germany, and he began performing throughout Europe.

In 1922, he traveled to the United States as a member of the Wagner Festival Company and was shortly thereafter engaged by the Chicago Civic Opera Company; there he continued to sing major roles for nine seasons (also during this time becoming an American citizen). Despite being a true bass (rather than the bass-baritone more typical of the role), he undertook the demanding role of Wotan in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

During this time Kipnis also attracted attention for his recital performances. The New York Times described him as “not only one of the greatest contemporary operatic basses but also one of the foremost living masters of the lied.”

Upon leaving the Chicago opera, Kipnis returned to Germany to become principal bass with the Berlin State Opera and a leading artist at the Bayreuth and (later) Salzburg festivals. This same period also found him at the Glyndebourne Festival and Covent Garden in England and at Argentina’s Teatro Colón. With Hitler’s rise in Germany, Kipnis, a Jew, transferred his performing activities to Austria. When the Anschluss took place, Kipnis moved to America, where he remained for the rest of his career.

His Metropolitan Opera debut came on January 6, 1940, in Parsifal. Critic Olin Downes commented, “Mr. Kipnis immediately won the favor of his audience. He invested the role with the utmost significance.” Kipnis remained at the Met for seven seasons, where his primary roles were King Marke in Tristan und Isolde, Arkel in Pelleas et Melisande, Hermann in Tannhäuser, Hunding in Die Walküre, Hagen in Götterdämmerung, and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte. He also sang Boris Godunov in the original Russian while the rest of the cast sang in Italian. Kipnis retired in 1946, and undertook a distinguished second career as a voice teacher.

Kipnis was married to Mildred Levy of Chicago for 53 years. Their son, Igor, is a well-known harpsichordist.

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Photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Kipnis

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Posted by on January 6, 2017 in Bassses


MATTIA BATTISTINI, Baritone * 27 February 1856, Rome, Italy+ 7 November 1928, Rieti, Italy;

By the time he began his career at the age of twenty-two, he had already familiarised himself, through extensive study with the famous Persechini, with a considerable portion of the baritone repertoire, including principal roles in La Favorita, Aida, Don Carlos, Un Ballo in Maschera, Rigoletto, Luisa Miller, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Traviata, Don Sebastiano, La Forza del Destino, as well as Ruy Blas by Marchetti, Jone by Errico Petrella, and Giovanna di Guzman (the first version of I Vespri Siciliani).

Blessed with uncommon physical strength Battistini was known to give as many as thirty-four encores after a full recital. He was able to perform every night of the week, and found little difficulty in tackling different roles on consecutive days. The ardency of his devoted fans was such that they would tend to him, reverently wiping his brow, or, if deprived of his actual presence, would break shop windows so as to steal a photograph of him.

The Tsar of Russia, who only received the most elite in St. Petersburg, welcomed Battistini back for twenty-six winters, until war and revolution swept the land.
The Americas were also keen to witness the artistry of the last Divo, but were to be less rewarded: although he visited South America early in his career, the experience of a violent sea storm led to his vowing never to cross the Atlantic again.
He kept to his word, despite the blank cheques, extravagant promises and multifarious offers from opera companies in the United States.

He did, however, travel widely within Europe, and conquered his fear of the sea many times to visit England.


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Photo courtesy: Comune di CONTIGLIANO and Great Opera Singers

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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Baritones


DOROTHY MAYNOR, Soprano * 03 September 1910, Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. + 19 February 1996, West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S.;

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Dorothy Maynor (September 3, 1910 – February 19, 1996) was an American soprano, concert singer, and the founder of the Harlem School of the Arts.

Early life

Maynor was born Dorothy Leigh Mainor in 1910 to Reverend J. Mainor, a local African-American Methodist minister in the town of Norfolk, Virginia. She attended the Hampton Institute where she studied under R. Nathaniel Dett. After her graduation from the Institute in 1933 she received a four-year scholarship to the Westminster Choir School in Princeton, New Jersey.


In 1939, she performed at the Berkshire Festival where she was noticed by Sergei Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Impressed by her singing, he arranged her debut at The Town Hall in New York City on 9 December 1939. She received the Town Hall Endowment Series Award for 1940 as a result of this performance. In New York, she was taught by voice instructors William Clamroth and John Alan Haughton. Despite the fact that racism precluded her from performing in opera houses, Maynor toured extensively throughout the USA, Europe, and Latin America, performing in concert halls and frequently on the radio. She is noted as the first African American to sing at a presidential inauguration, performing at President Harry S. Truman’s inaugural gala in 1949 and at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1953 presidential inauguration at Constitution Hall, where the Daughters of the American Revolution famously refused to let Marian Anderson sing in 1939.

In 1964, she founded the Harlem School of the Arts which was designed to give music education at a reduced rate to the children of Harlem. Under Maynor’s directorship the school grew from 20 students to 1,000 by the time of her retirement in 1979. She received honorary degrees from several universities including Westminster Choir College, Oberlin College, The Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford), and two degrees from Howard University. In 1975, she became the first African-American on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera. She died on 19 February 1996 in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Personal life

In 1942, she married Reverend Shelby Rooks, the pastor of Harlem’s St. James Presbyterian Church where the Harlem School of the Arts was originally located. After her retirement from the School, Maynor moved to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania with her husband.

Source: Wikipedia

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Fredi Washington (second from right) with Dorothy Maynor, Canada Lee, Fredric March, and Judge Hubert T. Delany during a 1943 YMCA-sponsored radio broadcast on African American support for the war effort.

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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in Sopranos


IRENE DALIS, Mezzo-soprano * 08 October 192, San Jose, California, United States + 14 December 2014, San Jose, California, United States;

Irene Dalis, before her retirement from the stage in 1977, was a principal artist at New York’s Metropolitan Opera for twenty consecutive seasons, appeared regularly with Covent Garden, Berlin, Hamburg, Bayreuth and other major opera houses in Europe and the U. S. and was distinguished by the range and large number of roles in her repertoire.

She had her operatic debut in Oldenburg, West Germany, in 1953 as Princess Eboli in Verdi’s epic, Don Carlo. By the end of her career she had performed in every major opera house from Naples to San Francisco, and had forty-four roles in her repertoire. Recognized from the beginning as a major dramatic talent, she was most often engaged to sing operas by Verdi, Wagner, and Richard Strauss, eventually performing every major dramatic mezzo-soprano role by these operatic giants. Miss Dalis was the first American-born Kundry (Parsifal) to open a Bayreuth Festival, and was the first mezzo-soprano to perform Lady Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera.

Among her many awards and distinctions, Irene Dalis has been honored with a Grand Prix du Disque for her recording of the opera Parsifal, made in live performance at Bayreuth under conductor Hans Knappertsbusch in 1962. Most recently, she received a special Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 Silicon Valley Arts & Business Awards for the “immeasurable impact she has had on the arts in San Jose and the region. She was honored by the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera in commemorating her twentieth anniversary season with that company. She has been given San José State University’s Tower Award and honorary Doctor of Music degrees from both Santa Clara University and  San José State University. Most recently, she was featured in the March 2007 issue of Opera News in an article recapping her career at the Metropolitan Opera as well as her achievements as founder and General Director of Opera San José. In fall of 2008, she received a lifetime achievement award at the Silicon Valley Arts & Business Awards (ABBYs) for her leadership in the field of the arts. Ms. Dalis was the first artist to receive the award, putting her in a group that includes David Packard, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Peter Hero and Blanca Alvarado.

On retirement from her performing career, Miss Dalis returned to her native San José where she was appointed a Full Professor of Music by the President of San José State University. Her principal focus at SJSU was the opera program, and her work there quickly surpassed the production standards expected of collegiate opera. The program produced such a large number of career entry-level performers that Miss Dalis was able to establish a professional, regional company, Opera San José, in 1984. Ms. Dalis served as general director of OSJ for 30 thirty years, retiring on June 30, 2014. The company now showcases talented American singers from across the nation. The company has received excellent notices in journals from Warsaw, Berlin, London, Milano, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and, of course, San José.

Irene Dalis’ credits include: Principal Artist at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden, Bayreuth Festival, Chicago Lyric Opera, Berlin, Rome, Naples and others. Her awards include: Fulbright Award, 1951; Richard Wagner Medallion, Bayreuth, West Germany, 1963; Grand Prix du Disque (Parsifal recording, Phillips, Bayreuth Festival 1962), 1964; Tower Award, San José State University, 1974; Honored by the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera Association on the occasion of her twentieth anniversary season, 1977; Woman of Achievement Award from the San José Mercury News and the League of Friends of Santa Clara County, Commission on the Status of Women, 1983; Commendation from the Honorable John Vasconcellos, 23rd Assembly District, 1983; inducted into the California Public Educators Hall of Fame, 1985; Award of Merit from the People of the City of San Francisco, 1985; Honored Citizen of the City of San José, 1986; San Francisco Opera Gold Medal Award, 1998; recipient of the Don Goldeen Award (Rotary Club of San Jose). Miss Dalis is listed in Who’s Who in America (since 1958); Who’s Who in Opera (since 1971); and Who’s Who in Music; Beautiful Minds Award recipient, 2010. She obtained her B.A. from San José State University, her M.A. from Columbia University (New York), and  honorary Ph.D.s from Santa Clara and California State University.

For additional information, please visit, or consider purchasing Irene Dalis: Diva, Impresaria, Legend by Linda Riebel.

as Isolde

as Ortrud

as Amneris

as Lady Macbeth

as Eboli

All Photos Courtesy of Sandy’s Opera Gallery

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos


KURT BÖHME, Bass * 05 May 1908, Dresden, Germany + 20 December 1989, Munich, Germany;

Kurt Böhme (5 May 1908 – 20 December 1989) was a German bass.

He was born in Dresden, Germany, where he studied with Adolf Kluge at the Dresden Conservatory. He made his debut in 1930 in Bautzen as Kaspar, later one of his most important roles. From 1930-1950, he was a member of the Dresden State Opera, 1949 he became a member of the Munich State Opera and in 1955 a member of the Vienna State Opera. In the 1950s and 1960s he became known worldwide because of his acting talents, as Bass-Buffo Baron Ochs and also as “Bösewicht” (Kaspar 1954 with Wilhelm Furtwängler, Fafner 1958-1964 with Georg Solti). “Matteo” in Fra Diavolo; Dresden Nov. 1944.

He was known for his interpretations of Wagnerian roles, and Mozart’s big bass roles (Osmin, Sarastro, and the Commendatore), and Baron Ochs von Lerchenau in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.

He can be heard on numerous CDs, and seen on video in a speaking-only role (videotaped when he was 75 years old): the Third Priest in The Magic Flute (a performance from the Bayerischen Staatsoper, 1983, conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch and featuring Lucia Popp, Francisco Araiza, and Kurt Moll).

Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier

in costume

All Photos Courtesy of Sandy’s Opera Gallery


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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Bassses

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