Dolores Wilson, a Metropolitan Opera soprano of the 1950s who later sang in Broadway musicals, died on Sept. 28 in Englewood, N.J. She was 82 and lived in Englewood.
A friend, Karin Farrell, confirmed the death, saying Ms. Wilson died of natural causes.
Ms. Wilson, who appeared at the Met 26 times between 1954 and 1959, was praised by critics for her silvery voice and assured stage presence. She made her debut with the company at 25, in the title role in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” opposite the distinguished tenor Jan Peerce.
Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Howard Taubman wrote that Ms. Wilson “sang a Lucia of uncommon merit,” adding: “Her voice is fresh in quality, large in size and flexible in production. She has considerable poise, and she knows something about making music rather than pretty sounds.”
At the Met, Ms. Wilson’s other roles included Rosina in Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” Susanna in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” and Zerlina in his “Don Giovanni” and Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”
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Elsewhere, she originated the title role in “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” an opera by the American composer Douglas Moore set amid the silver mines of 19th-century Colorado. Ms. Wilson sang the role in the opera’s world premiere, on July 7, 1956, at the Central City Opera in Central City, Colo. (She would alternate with Lenya Gabriele during the rest of the run.)
The opera soon entered the standard repertory; the role of Baby Doe, the young wife of the silver magnate Horace Tabor, would come to be associated in public memory with Beverly Sills, who sang it often with the New York City Opera.
Dolores Mae Wilson was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 9, 1928; her mother, Elisa E. Wilson, was a fashion designer whose clients included Loretta Young and Dinah Shore. After her parents separated when she was a girl, Dolores moved with her mother to New York.
By the time she was a teenager, Dolores was singing regularly on the radio and had also begun her classical training. Choosing opera over popular song, she got much of her early experience in Italy, where she sang to considerable acclaim under the name Dolores Vilsoni.
After leaving the Met as a result of creative differences with its famously autocratic general manager, Rudolf Bing, Ms. Wilson turned to musical theater. She made her Broadway debut in “The Yearling,” a short-lived 1965 musical that also starred David Wayne, and later took over the role of Golde in the original Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Her other Broadway credits include the 1979 musical “I Remember Mama” and “Annie,” in which she took over the role of Miss Hannigan.
Ms. Wilson was married and divorced twice. No immediate family members survive.
Only once, by all accounts, did Ms. Wilson’s operatic training fail to stand her in good stead. As she explained in an interview with The New York Mirror in 1954, it caused her unanticipated difficulties after she arrived in Italy as a young singer:
“I found that the Italian I’d learned by studying operas enabled me to talk intelligently only about poisons and suicide and tragic love affairs, and was no good at all for everyday affairs.”