CAROL BRICE * Contralto * 16 April 1918, Sedalia, North Carolina, United States + 15 February 1985, Norman, Oklahoma, United States;

Carol Brice (1918 – 1985) contralto and one of the first African American classical singers to record extensively, was born in Sedalia, North Carolina. Brice earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Talladega College in 1939 and studied at the Juilliard School of Music from 1939 to 1943. She first gained public attention when she sang in the 1939 production of “The Hot Mikado” at the New York World’s Fair. In 1943, Brice became the first African American to win the Walter Naumburg Award and the following year made her recital debut at Town Hall. Brice made a number of appearances on Broadway, including the 1959 production of “Saratoga, the 1960 revival of “Finian’s Rainbow,” the 1971 production of “The Grass Harp,” and the 1976 revival of “Porgy & Bess.” In 1975, Brice and her husband founded the Cimarron Circuit Opera Company in Norman, Oklahoma. Brice died February 15, 1985.



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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Contraltos


ZARA DOLUKHANOVA, mezzo-Soprano * 15 March 1918, Moscow + 04 December 2007, Moscow;


Zara Dolukhanova (b Moscow, 15 March 1918; d Moscow, 4 December 2007). Russian mezzo-soprano. She studied with V. Belyayeva-Tarasevich at the Gnesin music school and graduated from the Gnesin Institute in 1957. In 1939 she made her début at the Yerevan Opera but soon left the stage for the concert hall. She was, however, one of the singers who took part in re-establishing Gioachino Rossini’s florid mezzo roles in the repertory: she broadcast performances of Cinderella and Rosina (also Cherubino) and recorded extracts of Semiramide. She was appointed a soloist with the All-Union Radio and Television in 1944, and with the Moscow PO in 1959. Dolukhanova was outstanding among Russian singers of her day. She used the wide range and agility of her coloratura voice with controlled ease, giving polished performances of such differing composers as Modest Musorgsky, P. I. Tchaikovsky, Sergey Prokofiev, Giuseppe Verdi and Claude Debussy; she also gave the first performance (1955) of Dmitry Shostakovich’s cycle From Jewish.

zara_dolukhanova4 (1)

Zara Dolukhanova with her husband, Alexander Dolukhanian.


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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Mezzo-Sopranos


EVA MYLOTT, Contralto * 16 September 1875, Tuross Head, New South Wales, Australia + 20 March 1920, New Jersey, United States;


Eva Mylott ukS

She was a contralto and the paternal grandmother of the actor and film director Mel Gibson.

Tuross Head, from the Narrows east, was owned by the Mylotts, wine merchants and shipping fleet owners. It was not until well into the 20th century that the headland was subdivided for building.

Eva was born in September 16, 1875 in the stone house built by her father Patrick Mylott in 1870 on Tuross Head. Discovering his daughters rich contralto voice at an early age, Mylott leased his farm in 1883 and invested in a Sydney wholesale liquor firm. Eva first went to Madame Christine, an internationally known Canadian opera singer turned nun. then to the teacher Kowalski. She matured slowly but in 1897 was a rising young star in the Sydney Musical world. Encouraged by the great Melba Eva was to leave for Europe in 1902.

Eva Mylott uk

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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Contraltos


SIR GERAINT EVANS, Baritone * 16 February 1922, Cilfynydd, Glamorganshire [now in Caerphilly], Wales + 19 September 1992, Aberystwyth, Dyfed [now in Ceredigion]);


Sir Geraint Evans, (born February 16, 1922, Cilfynydd, Glamorganshire [now in Caerphilly], Wales—died September 19, 1992, Aberystwyth, Dyfed [now in Ceredigion]), Welsh opera singer, one of Britain’s leading operatic baritones, who was known for his interpretations of such roles as the title characters in Falstaff and The Marriage of Figaro, as well as Leporello in Don Giovanni and Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger.

Evans, the son of a coal miner, won a gold medal in a singing competition at age four. As a teenager he won a solo role on the Welsh Rarebit radio program. After service in the Royal Air Force in World War II, he was stationed in Hamburg, West Germany, and worked for the British Forces Radio Network, occasionally performing.

In 1948 Evans joined the opera company at London’s Covent Garden, making his debut in Die Meistersinger. The next season he made his debut as Figaro, a role he sang internationally, notably in his debuts at La Scala, Milan (1960), and the Salzburg (Austria) Festival (1961). He first appeared as Falstaff, his signature role, at the Glyndebourne (England) Festival in 1957 and made his debut at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in that role in 1964. Other major roles were Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Balstrode in Peter Grimes, Papageno in The Magic Flute, and Dulcamara in L’Elisir d’amore, which he sang at his farewell performance at Covent Garden (1984). He was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1959) and was knighted (1969). His autobiography, A Knight at the Opera, was published in 1984.

Biography comes from Brittanica


From the 1957 Covent Garden production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Geraint Evans as Beckmesser.

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Posted by on March 18, 2018 in Baritones


FRIEDRICH PLASCHKE, Bass-Baritone * 07 January 1875, Jaroměř, Czech Republic + 04 February 1952, Prague, Czech Republic;


Friedrich Plaschke (7 January 1875 – 4 February 1952) was a Czech operatic bass-baritone. From 1900 to 1937 he was a member of the Dresden Hofoper. He also appeared as a guest artist with companies in the United States, the Bayreuth Festival, and at the Royal Opera House in London.

At the Dresden Opera, he appeared in five Richard Strauss premieres: Feuersnot, Salome, Die ägyptische Helena, Die schweigsame Frau, and Arabella. He was married from 1911 to the soprano, Eva von der Osten, who in that year created the role of Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. [Details from Kutsch and Riemens Großes Sängerlexikon.


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Posted by on March 18, 2018 in Bass-Baritones


RUBY HELDER, Contralto * 03 March 1890, Bristol, United Kingdom + 21 November 1938, Hollywood, Los Angeles, United States;

She was born as Emma Jane Holder on March 3, 1890 at 7 Brooklyn Terrace in the Easton district of Bristol. Her father, Thomas, a dairyman at the time, later became landlord of the nearby Glasshouse pub, where little Emma would sing to entertain the regulars. From these humble beginnings an outstanding operatic career was launched.

Encouraged to take formal singing and piano lessons, the young Emma Holder became Ruby Helder on finding out someone else in her class had the same surname. This tiny child’s deep and powerful singing voice astonished everyone who heard her perform. Her aunt, housekeeper to the great Scottish music hall star Harry Lauder, made arrangements for Helder to train at the Guildhall School of Music under Charles Tinney, before she received tuition from one of the outstanding figures in British music, Charles Santley.

He later wrote: “Miss Ruby Helder possesses a natural, pure tenor voice of great beauty and power. She also possesses what few can boast, a thoroughly artistic temperament. In my opinion, she has no rivals among the artists of the day.”

Helder began recording for Pathe as early as 1908 and in July 1909 made her first public appearance on the operatic stage at the Queen’s Hall, London. After making further records for Edison Bell Velvet Face, in 1911 Ruby signed a recording contract with HMV. By this time, her remarkable voice was known worldwide and invitations to sing poured in from many countries, including Russia. An American millionaire is said to have persuaded Ruby to cross the Atlantic in 1913, for the sole purpose of singing at his private party.

The United States witnessed some of Helder’s greatest concert triumphs, especially in Philadelphia and Chicago, and in 1915 the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso took an interest in her career. On hearing her voice, he was so amazed by its two octave range – from C to high C, only three notes short of his own – he approached the management of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and suggested they offer Helder tenor roles.

They declined, fearful of engaging someone who might be regarded as a freak. Undeterred, she continued performing and recording a mixture of operatic pieces and light, sentimental music of the time, while pursuing further music studies at the Grinnell College Faculty between 1916 and 1917.

While rehearsing at New York’s Hippodrome Theatre, the petite 5ft 3ins tall Helder, sporting a bob hairstyle long before it became fashionable, attracted the attention of the legendary John Philip Sousa. Impressed by her voice, he invited her to join his band and she enjoyed a lengthy tour of the United States and Canada with them.

In 1920, Helder returned to England with the eminent American architect and artist Chesley Bonestell and they were married at St Marylebone Register Office on July 12. In 1925, to further both their careers, they undertook an extensive tour of Italy, living in Florence for most of the time. But her popularity had started to diminish, with her last recording having been made in 1921, and most catalogues no longer listed her work.

A Gramophone magazine review reflected the opinion of Helder’s abilities by certain critics. “Miss Helder, if she will forgive me saying so, has a fresh voice, a tenor, yet not a tenor… it is quite lacking in the characteristic power and expression of the tenor’s top register.”

She and Bonestell returned to England before moving back to the United States in 1927, where they set up home in Berkeley. Helder made a number of radio broadcasts from New York in the late twenties, prior to announcing her retirement from singing in 1935. During this period she threw many lavish parties, which were attended by her musician friends from the operatic world. Jam sessions took place with Ruby adding her unusual voice. It was said that at any one party up to one hundred people would pass through the house.

But there was a price to pay for this high living and on November 21, 1938 she died, aged just 48 years, at the Highland Hotel, Hollywood, after a long battle with alcoholism.

Britain’s world famous lady tenor has not been completely forgotten in her birth city of Bristol. In June 2001 a plaque was unveiled at her birthplace by the city’s Lord Mayor. Also, a few years ago, a CD containing some of her best recordings, including Come into the Garden Maude, Songs of Araby, Good Night Beloved and My Dreams was issued by Pearl Records.

© Terry Hallett – The Stage 2013
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Posted by on March 18, 2018 in Contraltos


ARTA FLORESCU, Soprano * 10 March 1921, Bucharest, Romania + 06 July 1998, Bucharest, Romania


She studied voice at the Conservatory in her native Bucharest with Elena Saghin, and in 1945 she made her debut at the National Opera there as Lucia di Lammermoor. Her career was centered there, as her travels were restricted, but she did sing in Vienna, geneva, at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, in Rio de Janiero, and at the Opera of Toulouse. Her varied repertoire included the Donna Anna, the Countess, Rosina, Manon , Marguerite, Gilda, Violetta, Desdemona, Aida, Mimi, Butterfly, Tosca, Nedda, Santuzza, Elsa and Eva, the Marschallin, and Antonida in Glinka’s “Ivan Susanin”

Short Biography by Charles Rhodes




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Posted by on March 16, 2018 in Sopranos

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