LUDWIG SUTHAUS, Tenor * 12 December 1906, Cologne, Germany + 7 September 1971, West Berlin;

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Ludwig Suthaus (December 12, 1906 – September 7, 1971) was a major German opera singer (“Heldentenor”), who was born in Cologne and died in West Berlin.

Ludwig Suthaus was a stonemason’s apprentice when his singing talent was first discovered. He subsequently started his voice studies at the age of seventeen in his hometown of Cologne. His teacher, Julius Lenz, originally mistook him for a baritone, but in 1928 Suthaus debuted as a tenor in Aachen in the role of Walther von Stolzing in Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. From 1932 to 1941, he was engaged in Stuttgart, but was fired in 1942 because he would not join the Nazi party.[citation needed]

Suthaus subsequently got a new contract at the Berlin State Opera. After the war, in 1949, he switched from the State Opera – now based in East Berlin – to the “Städtische Oper” which was based in West Berlin, and remained a member of that company until the end of his career.

Since the end of the forties, Suthaus appeared regularly at the Vienna State Opera and as guest at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, London, La Scala, Milan, in Paris, Stuttgart, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, in San Francisco and at Hamburg State Opera.

Beginning in 1943, he regularly appeared at the Bayreuth Festival where he sang Loge in “Das Rheingold”, Siegmund in Die Walküre and Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which was recorded (1943), Hermann Abendroth conducting.

Suthaus was one of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s favorite singers toward the end of Furtwängler’s life. With Furtwängler, Suthaus sang (Berlin, 1947) and recorded Tristan und Isolde (1952); Der Ring des Nibelungen as Siegfried (1953); and Die Walküre as Siegmund (1954) (Furtwängler’s last opera recording).

He had to quit his career suddenly after a car accident, and died at 64 years of age.

To some, Ludwig Suthaus’s voice did not have the radiance and vocal energy of Lauritz Melchior, but sounded slightly coarse and melancholic; however, it was not without deep-felt lyrical expressiveness when it was required. He was not perceived as a youthful hero, but was able to give some of his best performances when he sang broken characters. In his time he was not as widely appreciated as his contemporaries Günther Treptow, Max Lorenz or Ramón Vinay.

Today, his performance as Tristan in the Furtwängler recording is considered one of the best on record, next to those of Melchior, Windgassen and Jon Vickers.

Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Paul Schöffler, Friedrich Dalberg, Erich Kunz, Fritz Krenn, Ludwig Suthaus (Walther), Erich Witte, Hilde Scheppan, Camilla Kallab – Hermann Abendroth, conductor: Bayreuther Festspiele, 16 July 1943 (Preiser 90174 4CD mono)
Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Ludwig Suthaus (Tristan), Gottlob Frick, Margarete Bäumer, Karl Wolfram, Erna Westenberger – Franz Konwitschny, conductor: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, 21–23 October 1950 (Walhall Eternity Series WLCD 0118 3CD mono)
Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Ludwig Suthaus (Tristan), Kirsten Flagstad, Blanche Thebom, Josef Greindl, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Rudolf Schock – Wilhelm Furtwängler, conductor: Philharmonia Orchestra, London, 10-21 & 23 June 1952 (EMI Classics 58587326 4CD mono)
Richard Wagner, Der Ring de Nibelungen, as Siegfried, RAI, 1953, Wilhelm Furtwängler.

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Ludwig Suthaus

Ludwig Suthaus   1956

Ludwig Suthaus 1956

Ludwig Suthaus als Radames Stuttgart 1937

Ludwig Suthaus as Radames Stuttgart 1937
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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Tenors


HANNY STEFFEK, Soprano * 12 December 1927, Bielitz + 11 June 2010;

Hanny Steffek (1927-2010) Also known as Hannelore Steffek was an Austrian soprano.

Vocal studies at the Vienna Music Academy under Riza Eibenschütz and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. After her concert debut in 1949, she began her stage career in 1950 at the Salzburg Festival as the first boy in “The Magic Flute”. Sophie was her debut role in Covent Garden in 1959. She sang at the State Theater of Wiesbaden,at the Opera House of Graz, ad at the Opera House of Frankfurt aM before singing at the Vienna State Opera from 1964 to 73. At the Volksoper, where she was a member of the ensemble from 1973 until her retirement in 1984, she sang Felice in The Four Ruffians, Marguérite in the Opera Ball, Colombina in The Burning House, and Christine in the Intermezzo. Beautifully formed soprano, especially admired in operas by Mozart and Richard Strauss. Sophie and Pamina.

Artist biography by Charles Rhodes

Litrato ni Charles Rhodes.

Hanny Steffek  as Amor in the featured recording.

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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Sopranos


GIACOMO LAURI-VOLPI, Tenor * 11 December 1892, Lanuvio, Italy + 17 March 1979, Valencia, Spain;

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Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (actual surname simply Volpi) was orphaned, together with the rest of his large family, when he was eleven years old. In Rome he studied law at La Sapienza University as well as singing at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia with the baritone Antonio Cotogni.

At the outbreak of World War I he enrolled in the Italian army, reaching the rank of captain by its close and being awarded the War Cross, Italy’s highest medal for military courage. Meanwhile he continued his vocal studies in Milan with Enrico Rosati and while still a member of the army made his debut under the name of Giacomo Rubini in 1919 at Viterbo as Arturo / I puritani. The following year he appeared under the name of Giacomo Lauri-Volpi at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome as des Grieux / Manon (Massenet) with success, followed by performances in Florence and Genoa.

So great was the impact of Lauri-Volpi’s singing that his reputation spread rapidly throughout Italy and beyond. During 1920 he appeared at Valencia and Saragossa; the following year he sang the Duke, Arturo, Rodolfo / La Bohème, Cavaradossi / Tosca and Fernando / La favorita at Madrid; and in 1922 made his debut at La Scala, Milan as the Duke opposite Toti dal Monte and Carlo Galeffi, with Toscanini conducting. Also that year he appeared at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Buenos Aires in a repertoire that included the Duke, des Grieux, Fernando, Cavaradossi, Rodolfo, Pinkerton / Madama Butterfly and Alfredo / La traviata.

From 1923 to 1933 Lauri-Volpi sang regularly at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. He made his debut as the Duke, while later notable appearances included Pedro in Vittadini’s Anima allegra (US premiere 1923); Calaf / Turandot (US premiere 1926) opposite Maria Jeritza; Licinio / La vestale (1926) and Pollione / Norma (1927) both opposite Rosa Ponselle; Rodolfo in the first American performances of Verdi’s Luisa Miller (1929) and Arnold / Guillaume Tell (1931). Other roles at the Met included Rodolfo, Alfredo, Cavaradossi, Count Almaviva / Il barbiere di Siviglia, Turiddù / Cavalleria rusticana, Pinkerton, Edgardo / Lucia di Lammermoor and Alim / Le Roi de Lahore (1924); the title roles in Andrea Chénier (1924), Montemezzi’s Giovanni Gallurese (1925) and Gounod’s Faust; Radamès / Aida, Vasco de Gama / L’Africaine and Enzo / La Gioconda (all 1926); Manrico / Il trovatore (1927) and Canio / Pagliacci (1928). While in the USA Lauri-Volpi also sang in Chicago at the Ravinia Festival (1923–1924) and with the San Francisco Opera (1929). He parted company with the Met, as did several other Italian singers, when fees were reduced as a consequence of the economic Depression.

At the Royal Opera House, London Lauri-Volpi made his debut as Chénier in 1925, returning in 1936 as the Duke. Other European appearances included the Paris Opera (1929–1930, 1935, 1948), the Vienna State Opera (1929, 1934, 1936) and the Verona Arena (1928, 1933, 1949) where he sang Raoul / Les Huguenots (1933). His principal base however was La Scala, where in 1929 he sang Arnold in the centenary performances of Guillaume Tell and took part the same year in the company’s famous tour to Berlin under Toscanini.

In 1935 Lauri-Volpi settled in Spain, henceforth appearing mainly in Italy and Spain. During 1942 he added the title role of Otello to his repertoire, giving seven performances only at La Scala and the San Carlo, Naples. A man of firm views, he leaned to the extreme right during the Fascist era but continued to sing throughout Europe and Italy after World War II, although by this time his voice was beginning to show its age. He made his formal stage farewell in 1959, as Manrico at the Rome Opera, but was still able to take part in a gala concert at Barcelona in 1972. He also wrote several books.

Lauri-Volpi’s voice was unusual in that he could tackle parts in the lyric, dramatic and heroic repertoires with distinction, giving to each richness of timbre, elegant phrasing and notable control of dynamics. It is possible however that the length of his career and his later recordings may have damaged his overall reputation. The bass Nazzareno de Angelis, after hearing him sing in Il trovatore at La Scala in 1933, sent him a telegram which stated: ‘…your Manrico, which is matchless, puts together drama, passion, phrasing and bel canto.’

Courtesy: The following biographical notes of Lauri-Volpi  comes from NAXOS.

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi as the Duke in Rigoletto

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Posted by on December 12, 2017 in Tenors


RAFAELO DÍAZ, Tenor * 16 May 1883, San Antonio + 12 December 1943, New York City;

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RAFAELO DÍAZ (1883–1943). Rafaelo Díaz, operatic tenor, was born in San Antonio on May 16, 1883. He was the son of Rafaelo and Rosa (Umscheid) Díaz. He was baptized Francisco Rafael Díaz but as an adult changed his name to Rafaelo Díaz. He received his early schooling at the German-English School in San Antonio and the West Texas Military Academy.qqv He showed musical talent at an early age and began his career as a pianist under the guidance of one of San Antonio’s pioneer music teachers, Miss Amalia Hander. After his promising voice was discovered while he was studying at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, Díaz went to Italy to study under famous Italian maestro Vincenzo Sabatini. He returned to America and made his debut in the Boston Opera Company’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. In 1917 he joined the Metropolitan Opera Company and performed leading tenor roles in Jules Massenet’s Thaïs and Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov’s Le Coq d’Or.

His stage presence and magnetic personality, along with his fine lyric tenor voice, kept him with the Metropolitan until 1936. He then toured the country with the Scotti Opera Company, making several stops in San Antonio along the way. In his spare time he made records for a leading phonograph company. He also conducted a series of concerts at the Waldorf-Astoria. Critics praised Díaz for his smooth performance, the depth and richness of his voice, the clarity of his enunciation, and the beauty of his phrasing. He sang in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German, and was known as the “Lone Star Tenor of the Lone Star State.” He never married. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York City on December 12, 1943.

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Posted by on December 12, 2017 in Tenors


ETTA MOTEN BARNETT, Contralto * 05 November 1901, Weimar, Texas, United States + 2 January 2004, Chicago, Illinois, United States;

African American singer and actress Etta Moten Barnett (1901–2004) was perhaps best known for her signature performance in the title role of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. But her long and fascinating life was filled with other remarkable accomplishments, such as being the first African American performer to sing at the White House and breaking color barriers in Hollywood. She later became active in civic pursuits, represented U.S. presidents in Africa, and was a noted patron of the arts.

Sang Her Way Through School
Barnett was born on November 5, 1901, in Weimar, Texas. She was the only child of Ida Norman Moten and the Reverend Freeman F. Moten. Her father was an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and her mother was a schoolteacher. Because young ministers were frequently transferred, Barnett went to various elementary and secondary schools in Texas, California, and Kansas. Her vocal talent evidenced itself early on, and she was singing in the church choir (as well as teaching Sunday school) by the age of ten. Barnett’s mother constructed a pink and white box so that her daughter would be tall enough to comfortably participate, and Barnett remembered it fondly in a 1942 interview cited by Jet. “To this day, I can’t remember anything quite so wonderful as standing on that box singing hymns out over the heads of people.”

Barnett continued to sing as a teenager, both in school and church choirs. During that time, she also made her professional debut with the Jackson Jubilee Singers. The group consisted of a pianist, four male singers, and two female vocalists, and traveled to small towns on the Chautauqua circuit in the summers. It was an excellent way for Barnett to develop her instrument and earn money for college simultaneously.

College, however, was put on hold, as Barnett married Curtis Brooks when she was just seventeen. The couple moved to Oklahoma and had four children (one died at birth) before Barnett spurned convention by divorcing her husband six years later. Even more astonishing for the time, she left her children with their doting grandparents in Kansas City and enrolled as one of only 150 African American students out of the 6,000–member student body at the University of Kansas at Lawrence.

In order to help finance her studies, Barnett reunited with the Jackson Jubilee Singers in the summers and conducted a church choir on the weekends back in Kansas City. At the university, she studied drama and voice, along with education (as a sort of insurance). She had her own radio program at school, and formed a vocal quartet. And despite the obstacles and racism that African Americans faced in those days, Barnett’s talents were encouraged and much admired. Her senior recital drew a crowd of 1,000 people and resulted in an invitation to join the prestigious Eva Jessye Choir in New York City. So after Barnett received her BFA in 1931 at the age of 30, she headed for the Big Apple.

Broke New Ground
On her way to New York, Barnett stopped in Chicago, Illinois. There, she met the founder of the Associated Negro Press, Claude Barnett. He had many connections through his work with the wire service, and was very helpful to her throughout her career. Barnett later recalled to the Hannibal Courier–Post, “My whole life has been about good friends, and being in the right place at the right time. And the newspapers were very good to me because Claude Barnett was a fine and very well–liked man. Wherever I went, I had letters of introduction to somebody.” The couple married in 1934.

Her future husband was not her sole admirer, however. Only two weeks after Barnett’s arrival in New York, Eva Jessye (the choir director) commended the young singer’s talents to Broadway. Barnett first appeared in the short–lived Fast and Furious, and then was cast in Zombie. Zombie ran for two months in New York before going on the road. The show closed in California in 1932, and Barnett was poised to make her mark in Hollywood.

Barnett began her Hollywood career dubbing vocals for such established actresses as Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers. Then, she made a splash with her groundbreaking appearance in Gold Diggers of 1933. Barnett was cast as an attractive war widow, rather than a domestic worker, an unprecedented event for a black actress of the time. (She did not initially receive screen credit for the role, however). Delighted to witness the toppling of a despised stereotype, black audiences lined up to see the picture and the African American press hailed Barnett as “The New Negro Woman.”

Barnett’s next movie was 1933’s Flying Down to Rio, in which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers appeared together for the first time. Barnett sang “The Carioca,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, and received her first screen credit. Indeed, her popularity was such that the studio often gave her top billing when the film was shown in African American neighborhoods. Both movies gave Barnett the prominence that earned her a place on the lecture circuit, and even attracted the attention of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1934, she broke boundaries once again when she became the first African American woman to perform at the White House, singing “Forgotten Man” from Gold Diggers of 1933, at Roosevelt’s birthday party.

Courtesy: Encyclopedia of World Biography

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Porgy and Bess playbill dated November 1942. Opera starred Etta Moten Barnett and Todd Duncan and played at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago.

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Etta Moten and Claude Barnett posed in front of their private African art collection at their home in Chicago, 1960s.




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Posted by on December 12, 2017 in Contraltos


MARGUERITE D’ ALVAREZ, Contralto * 1883, Liverpool, England + 18 October 1953, Alassio, Italy;

Marguerite d’Alvarez (c. 1883 – 18 October 1953) was an English contralto.

d’Alvarez was born in Bootle, her father was Peruvian and her mother French. She studied at the Brussels conservatoire, and made her debut in Rouen in 1907, singing Delilah.[1] After further studies in Paris she made her first American appearances with the Manhattan Opera Company in 1909[1] as Fidès in Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le prophète. Following her season in New York City, she went to London to help Oscar Hammerstein inaugurate his London Opera in 1911; that year, she scored great successes in French roles.

d’Alvarez subsequently appeared at leading European opera houses such as Covent Garden, and also sang in Chicago and Boston.

She made several acoustic recordings in New York in 1920-21, including arias from her operatic repertoire and Spanish songs by Falla, Chapi and Tabuyo.

She made three films, Till We Meet Again, in 1944, An Angel Comes to Brooklyn (1945) and Affair in Monte Carlo (1953); her autobiography, Forsaken Altars, was published in 1954, after her death in Alassio, Italy.

Courtesy: Wikipedia


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Photo courtesy: Old Curmudgeon On Life website

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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Contraltos


MARGARITA GONZÁLES ONTIVEROS, Mezzo-Soprano * 1 September 1927, Chihuahua, Mexico + 29 May 2006, Cuernavaca, Mexico;

Margarita González Ontiveros (1 September 1927, Chihuahua – 29 May 2006, Cuernavaca) was a Mexican-born mezzo-soprano and contralto. She combined a bel canto technique with interpretation in French, Russian Spanish, Italian, German and Nahuatl. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto music of Salvador Moreno Manzano, and Carlos Jiménez Mabarak; further, to the works of Blas Galindo, Manuel Ponce and Tata Nacho (es). In her career she took challenges as to sing many Mexican pieces of Sonido 13 (thirteenth sound), a microtonal system invented by Julián Carrillo in 1925.

Born in Parral, Chihuahua, and raised by her mother Guadalupe Ontiveros Mardueño and a musician and band director in Oaxaca, Prospero Gonzalez. Her first opera was Wagner’s Die Walküre at age 12.

She received her musical education Mexico and established her career in France where she won the first prize of French music interpretation in the École Française du Paris in 1955.

She moved to Mexico City and studied at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música de México, she finished her musical studies very young winning the first prize of Bel canto in a contest at the Mexican Conservatory.

She started her career as a soloist at the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional under Carlos Chávez, during which time she sang in the National Mexican Opera and on national radio. Later she sang at the Russian Opera of San Francisco.

In 1953 she was given a scholarship to perfect her studies in Europe, this allowed her to perform in many international contests in Munich, Vercelli and Geneva in which she won a silver medal.

In 1955 she won the First Prize of Interpretation of French Music in the École Française du Paris. In that same year she was signed for a tour to Morocco, Rabat and Casablanca. The tour continued to the Spanish cities of Seville, Malaga and Barcelona.

In Paris, she signed for a LP record with Barclay Records, with Mexican composers like Tata Nacho, Manuel Ponce, José López Alavez (es) and Salvador Moreno Manzano.

She owned a remarkable tessitura with a vocal range that allowed her to sing in microtonal quarter tones, eights and sixteens in Julian Carrillo’s compositions.

She was the first mezzo-soprano in the world who sung in Nahuatl or Mexica language in such exclusive places as the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and La Scala in Milan.

The tone of the voice was warm, velvety, profound; the color and deep rich tones without vibrato.

Margarita Gonzalez Ontiveros, 1952

Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

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