HÈLÈNE RÈGELLY, Soprano * 1904, France + 2001, France;

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Hélène Régelly (1904, France + 2001, France) was a French operetta soprano of the 1930’s.

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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Uncategorized


MARALIN NISKA, Soprano * 16 November 1926, San Pedro, California, United States + 9 July 2016, Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States

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Maralin Niska (November 16, 1926 – July 9, 2016) was an American operatic soprano. Well known as a singing-actress, she was a mainstay of the New York City Opera during the 1960s and 1970s She was also a regular performer at the Metropolitan Opera from 1970-1977.

Early life, education, and early career
Born in San Pedro, California, Niska earned a Bachelor of English Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles and began her professional life as a second grade public school teacher for seven years. She then returned to school to study voice at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and U.C.L.A. She studied under Louise Mansfield, Lotte Lehmann, and primarily Ernest St. John Metz. She performed extensively in southern California during the 1950s, including performances with the USC Opera, UCLA Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Redlands Bowl and other regional companies. Her extensive national and international career began at the opening of the Metropolitan Opera National Company as Susannah in the Carlisle Floyd work in Indianapolis in 1965. After retiring from the stage, she lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was married to William Mullen.

New York City Opera
The soprano was first heard at the New York City Opera in the fall of 1967, as the Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, with Norman Treigle in the title role. She went on to perform with that company in many productions, including La bohème (now as Musetta), La traviata (opposite Plácido Domingo), Madama Butterfly, Pagliacci, Suor Angelica, Faust (in Frank Corsaro’s production, with whom she would often collaborate), Prince Igor, The Turn of the Screw (as the Governess), La bohème (as Mimì, with George Shirley and Carol Neblett), The Makropoulos Case (with Harry Theyard and Chester Ludgin, directed by Corsaro), Susannah (with Treigle), Tosca (with José Carreras), Don Giovanni (as Donna Anna, conducted by Bruno Maderna), Don Giovanni (now as Donna Elvira, with Richard Fredricks and Richard Stilwell alternating in the name part), Ariadne auf Naxos (as the Composer, staged by Sarah Caldwell), Médée (in the Italian version), Manon Lescaut, Salome (conducted by Julius Rudel), Idomeneo (as Elettra), a double-bill of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci (in which she sang both Santuzza and Nedda), La voix humaine, La fanciulla del West, Die Fledermaus (as Rosalinde), and Maria Stuarda (as Elisabetta). In all she sang 29 leading roles with the company, the most of any singer in its history.

Metropolitan Opera
Niska debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1970, in La traviata, and went on to appear in La bohème (as Musetta, with Montserrat Caballé, Franco Corelli, and Matteo Manuguerra), Tosca, Les vêpres siciliennes (in John Dexter’s production, with Domingo, Sherrill Milnes, and Paul Plishka, conducted by James Levine), and Salome (with Astrid Varnay, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf). On March 15, 1977, Niska sang Musetta in La bohème, for the first of the series, “Live From the Met,” with Renata Scotto and Luciano Pavarotti. She then sang Pagliacci with the company. Her final performance with the Met was on their 1978 tour to Wolf Trap Farm Park, in Don Giovanni, in which she portrayed Donna Elvira opposite James Morris, Rockwell Blake, Roberta Peters, Donald Gramm, and John Macurdy. The soprano sang with various other companies in America, as well.

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Maralin Niska in 1971. She sang in 29 lead roles with New York City Opera.

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With mezzo Betty Allen.

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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Sopranos


RON BOTTCHER, Baritone * 11 May 1940, Sandpoint, Idaho, United States + 12 April 1991, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, New York, United States;

Ron Bottcher (11 May 1940 – 12 April 1991) was an American operatic baritone who was actively performing with both the New York City Opera (NYCO) and the Metropolitan Opera during the 1960s. A native of Sandpoint, Idaho, he earned music degrees from the University of Montana and the Curtis Institute of Music. He made his debut at the Santa Fe Opera in the summer of 1961, where he portrayed the roles of Leopold in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, Marcello in Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, and the Head waiter in Paul Hindemith’s Neues vom Tage. His roles at the NYCO included Escamillo in Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Sharpless in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly among others. At the Met he created roles in the world premieres of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra and Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra. He died at the age of 50 at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan of AIDS related illness.

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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Baritones


ELISABETH SÖDERSTRÖM, Soprano * 7 May 1927, Stockholm, Sweden + 20 November 2009, Stockholm, Sweden;

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An artist of great intelligence and musical perception, Elisabeth Söderström grew from a promising young lyric soprano to a sovereign artist able to dominate a wide selection of lyric and spinto roles for three decades. Initially underrated (save by those who knew her well), she advanced to being the delight of many of her era’s most distinguished conductors. Her recital repertory ranged through the great Austro-German composers, a fruitful assortment of Scandinavians, Benjamin Britten and other important English composers, substantial numbers of Czech and other Central and Eastern Europeans, and a clutch of Russians. She also had a penchant for parlor songs, sometimes slightly naughty. With a voice best described as attractive rather than ravishing, she managed to establish herself as a notable singer of Mozart and Strauss and her performances of Janácek’s leading ladies were standard setting.

Söderström’s father was Swedish, her mother Russian. She trained with the celebrated coloratura soprano Adelaïde von Skilondz, star of the St. Petersburg Imperial Opera. After studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Opera School in her native Stockholm, Söderström made her debut at the age of 20 at the Drottningholm Court Theatre as Bastienne. She was subsequently engaged by the Swedish Royal Opera, where she remained a member for decades, singing such roles as Louise, Violetta, Mimì, Euridice, the heroines of Les contes d’Hoffman, Pamina, all three soprano principals in Rosenkavalier, Tatiana, and the eponymous characters of Janácek. Söderström made her Salzburg debut in 1955, singing Ighino in Pfitzner’s Palestrina. She first sang at England’s Glyndebourne Festival in 1957 and remained there for more than two decades, singing roles as light as Susanna and as heroic as Leonore.

In 1959, Söderström made her first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera as Susanna. Evidence that management at the various venues she visited (the Metropolitan in particular) did not know quite what to do with her gifts was seen in the fact that in that very same year, 1959, she performed Sophie at the Metropolitan, Octavian at Glyndebourne, and the Marschallin at Stockholm. Only with later engagements did the Met understand her protean talent. In 1960, Söderström made her first appearance at Covent Garden singing Daisy Doody in Karl-Birger Blomdahl’s Aniara with the Stockholm Opera.

If the Metropolitan failed to capitalize on Söderström’s abilities until a second round of engagements from 1983 to 1987, the rest of the opera world benefited during the interim from acquaintance with a singing actress of the first rank. Söderström’s Australian debut came in 1982 when she performed one of her signature Janácek roles, Emilia Marty, in Adelaide. In addition to her appearances in contemporary works by Henze and Ligeti, she had become a welcome guest in Vienna and continued to flourish in the ensemble atmosphere of Glyndebourne, winning special praise for her Frau Storch in Strauss’ Intermezzo and for the Countess in the same composer’s Capriccio.

Söderström’s skills as a recitalist and concert singer were under continual refinement. Her recording of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis under Otto Klemperer was justly applauded, as was her role in Sir Simon Rattle’s recording of Britten’s War Requiem. Her winning presence in recital inevitably meant an evening of communicative singing. Her several volumes of Russian song recorded with Vladimir Ashkenazy added immeasurably to Western understanding of this rich, but too seldom performed repertory. Likewise, her explorations of Scandinavian song opened new vistas to those who heard her live performances and listened to her recordings.

Artist Biography by Erik Eriksson

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Elisabeth Soderstrom as Madame Butterfly in 1953.  Credit Scanpix, via European Pressphoto Agency

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Sopranos


FRANZ BETZ, Bass-Baritone * 19 March 1835, Mainz, Germany + 11 August 1900, Berlin, Germany;

Franz Betz (19 March 1835 – 11 August 1900) was a German bass-baritone opera singer who sang at the Berlin State Opera from 1859 to 1897. He was particularly known for his performances in operas by Richard Wagner and created the role of Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

Franz Betz was born in Mainz and trained as a singer in Karlsruhe. He made his debut in 1856 at the Court Theater of Hanover as The Herald in Wagner’s Lohengrin, after which he sang as a guest performer in various other German opera houses. His 1859 success at the Berlin State Opera in the role of Don Carlo in Verdi’s Ernani, led to a permanent contract with the company.

He became one of Wagner’s most trusted singers, and sang the role of Hans Sachs in the world premiere of his Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (National Theatre Munich, 1868). Betz sang the role more than a hundred times and was closely identified with the character. He also sang Wotan in Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and The Wanderer in Siegfried for the first complete performance of Der Ring des Nibelungen (Bayreuth Festspielhaus, 1876). In May 1872, he was one of the four soloists in the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to mark the laying of the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

From 1882 to 1890, he served as the first president of the Genossenschaft Deutscher Bühnen-Angehöriger (the German trade union for stage artists, technicians and administrative staff). He never sang in operas in either the United States or the United Kingdom, although he sang in concerts in London in 1882 and 1889. His singing in the 1889 concert when he was in his mid-fifties was described as “still without flaw”.

Upon his retirement from the stage in 1897, Betz was made a Kammersänger of the Berlin State Opera. Franz Betz died on 11 August 1900 in Berlin and is buried in the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Friedhof there. He was married to the coloratura soprano, Johanna Betz (1837–1906).

Franz Betz  Wanderer 1876

Photograph (1876), by Josef Albert (1825-1886), of Franz Betz (1835-1900), as Wotan, in “Die Walküre” (1856), by Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

Franz Betz (1835-1900), as Wotan, in “Die Walküre”

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Bass-Baritones


RENÉ BIANCO, Baritone * 21 June 1908, Constantine, Algeria + 23 January 2008, Charbonnières-les-Bains, France;

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René Bianco (1908–2008) was a French operatic baritone who performed at the Opéra Comique and the Paris Opera in a wide variety of leading roles.

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Baritones


MAURIZIO BENSAUDE, Baritone * 13 February 1863, Ponta Delgada + 22 December 1912, Lisbon;

Maurício (Moisés) Bensaúde (also known professionally as Maurizio Bensaude) (13 February 1863 in Ponta Delgada – 22 December 1912 in Lisbon), was a Portuguese operatic baritone. He arrived in Lisbon in 1884, where he received vocal training for a short time, and then made his debut in the same year at the Teatro da Trindade in Lisbon, in the operetta La petite mariée by Charles Lecocq. He then worked in another operetta at the Portuguese capital, in the Teatro de D. Maria, where he appeared in operettas and musical comedies. However, he continued to take singing lessons, and began to take on operatic roles as well at the end of the 1880s. He quickly became a success, and went on to have extensive international guest appearances.

In 1896, he sang at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, playing Riccardo in Bellini’s I Puritani in 1897, and playing Gunther in Twilight of the Gods. In the 1893-94 and 1898-99 seasons, he was engaged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where he served as Amonasro in the debut of Aida. In 1899, he performed at the Teatro Regio in Turin, and in 1900, he performed at the Covent Garden Opera in London as Amonasro and as Figaro in Barber of Seville. He also had other guest appearances at the Berlin Court Opera, the Teatro Argentina in Rome, Paris and Milan, at the Odessa Opera, and in Zagreb. He also toured through Brazil and the United States.

In 1910, he gave up his stage career. At times he worked as the head of an opera troupe, with whom he held opera performances in Portugal. He worked as a teacher and was active in the management of the Teatro de São Carlos in Lisbon, but he died two years after his farewell stage.

Bensaude was married to the opera singer Julia de Fano. His repertoire for the stage included Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Germont in La Traviata, Lescaut in Manon by Massenet, the Escamillo in Carmen, Marcello in Puccini’s La Boheme, and Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana.

US career
Although Bensaude was primarily active in Europe, he had more than a passing career in the United States. He made his debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on November 23, 1894, as Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida, and his debut in Philadelphia on the following December 18 in the same role. he would remain a member of the Metropolitan company for the remainder of the season. At least at first he made little impression in New York, where critics described his voice as “pleasant” or “tolerable,”; The New York Times, in a generally mixed review of the production, indicated the artist “lacks distinction, both vocally and dramatically.” Perhaps Bensaude was overshadowed by other developments; the Aida soprano Libia Drog was attempting to erase memories of her own unsuccessful New York debut two days earlier in Rossini’s William Tell, when she was so stricken by stage fright that she froze onstage and was unable to perform, and the Rhadames, Francesco Tamagno, drew critical reproval for “bawling” his part over the footlights.

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Baritones

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