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Monthly Archives: August 2017

JANIS MARTIN, Soprano * 27 March 1940, United States of America + 3 September 2007, Danville, Virginia, United States;

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A powerful, energetic beauty best known for her performances in Wagner roles at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera and in Germany, Martin was a member of the Merola Program in San Francisco in 1958 and ’59.  She began her career as a mezzo-soprano, eventually switching to the soprano repertoire when she was in her early thirties.  Martin made her professional debut at San Francisco Opera in 1960, as the First Spirit in Die Frau ohne Schatten,and continued to sing a wide variety of comprimario roles — Lola, Flora Bervoix, Sister Anne in the 1961 world premiere of Dello Joio’s Blood Moon — for the company before moving on to higher-profile SFO assignments such as Ortrud, Brangäne, Sieglinde, Tosca, Marie in Wozzeck, the Mother in Il Prigioniero, Strauss’s Elektra and Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer.  Martin’s last San Francisco Opera appearance was as Brünnhilde in a 1990 Ring cycle.

Martin’s first Met appearance was as a finalist in the 1962 National Council Auditions concert. Later that year, she made her debuts at New York City Opera, as Mrs. Grose in the company premiere of The Turn of the Screw, and at the Metropolitan Opera, as Flora in La Traviata. Martin sang 148 performances for the Met in New York and on tour, including Singer in the U.S. premiere of The Last Savage (1964) and the Princess in the company premiere of Rusalka (1993).  Martin’s major Met assignments included Senta, the Dyer’s Wife, Kundry, and Marie in Wozzeck. Her last Met performance was in 1997, as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre.

Martin enjoyed particularly long associations with Deutsche Oper Berlin (1971–88) and the Bayreuth Festival (1968–97), where her roles included the Rheingold and Walküre Frickas, the Walküre Brünnhilde, Sieglinde and Kundry.  She also sang at La Scala, Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Paris Opera and Staatsoper Hannover, among other theaters.  She retired from the opera stage in 2000. spacer

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Sopranos

 

RITA SHANE, Soprano * 15 August 1936, The Bronx, New York City, New York, United States + 9 October 2014, New York City, New York, United States;

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Rita Shane, a dramatic coloratura who was much admired for her performances at New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and other theaters.
Shane studied at Barnard College and with Beverley Peck Johnson. She was a member of the apprentice program at Santa Fe Opera before making her debut as Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann in 1964 at Chattanooga. The following year, Shane made her New York City Opera debut as Donna Elvira in an English-language performance of Don Giovanni in the company’s last full season at New York City Center. Shane’s performances with NYCO at Lincoln Center in the 1960s included Madame Lidoine in The Dialogues of the Carmelites, Fata Morgana in The Love for Three Oranges, Donna Anna and the Queen of the Night. After an absence of a few seasons, Shane returned to NYCO in 1979, to create Aurelia Havisham in the world premiere of Miss Havisham’s Fire, by Dominick Argento; in later seasons, she sang Dircé in Medée and Giselda in I Lombardi for the company.
Shane sang seventy-one performances with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and tour, beginning with her 1973 debut as the Queen of the Night. Her other Met roles in her eight seasons on the roster were Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera, Musetta, Lucia, Berthe in Le Prophète, Gilda, Pamira in The Siege of Corinth and Violetta. In the U.S. premiere of Aribert Reimann’s Lear, at San Francisco Opera in 1981, Shane was Regan, a role that she later sang at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich opposite Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s Lear. Shane also appeared with Lyric Opera of Chicago, New Orleans Opera Association, Philadelphia Lyric Opera, the Salzburg Festival, La Scala, De Nederlandse Opera, Opéra du Rhin and Grand Théâtre du Genève, among other theaters.
Shane was a member of the voice faculty at the Eastman School of Music from 1989 to 2014.

Courtesy: The Metropolitan Opera Guild

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Sopranos

 

JAN KIEPURA, Tenor * 16 May 1902, Sosnowiec, Poland + : 15 August 1966, New York City, New York, United States;

Born on the 16th of May 1902 in Sosnowiec, a quite small yet industrial town in Poland, Jan Kiepura was certainly not born in the ideal circumstances for becoming a star.

Kiepura discovered his singing voice in his youth, thus he started singing in a school choir. He wasn’t set on a singing career at the time, however. His parents wanted Jan, as well as his brother W?adis?aw, to learn a real trade. Sent by his parents to Warsaw in 1920, Jan Kiepura applied to study law at the University of Warsaw, to which he was admitted in 1921. During his law studies he took singing lessons under Wac?aw Brzezin’ski (and under Tadeusz Leliwa).

Before Kiepura’s modest (but actual) début he had to deal with some competition, namely Dygas and Gruszczyn’ski – the two main tenors at the time in Warsaw. Reportedly, when word got around about Kiepura’s voice, it was especially tenor Dygas who got anxious regarding the newcomer. Dygas was keen on hindering Kiepura’s attempts to break through as a solo singer. Hence, even though Kiepura was supported by his teacher Brzezin’ski, he began his singing in the chorus at the Wielki Theater in Warsaw. His take on the humble role of a mountaineer in the opera ‘Halka’ (Moniuszko) in 1924, was the very first time he could showcase his voice as soloist in an opera. He also gave his first concert in 1924.

His big début was on February 11th 1925 in the opera Faust (Gounod), also on the boards of the Wielki Theater in Warsaw. The audience that evening was in for a surprise, for the tenor to sing Faust, Dobosz, would not appear. Just before the opera started, the audience was informed that instead of Dobosz, Jan Kiepura would sing the role of Faust. The name Kiepura hardly rang a bell at that moment in time. In his biography of the tenor, Jerzy Waldorff describes the performance that evening of February the 11th. Waldorff recalls the sharp contrast between the initial disappointment of the audience due to the absence of Dobosz, and the growing enthusiasm during the performance, which started by stupefaction from the first notes Kiepura emitted, climaxing in a standing ovation at the end. In the following months Kiepura gained popularity singing in Rigoletto (Verdi), Halka (Moniuszko) and Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni) at the Warsawian Wielki Theater.

In 1926 Puccini’s Tosca and Gianni Schicchi were added to his repertoire as well as Straszny dwór by Moniuszko. Having gained considerable popularity, Kiepura had quite a few engagements in Poland, yet he wanted to try his luck abroad, specifically in Paris. Passing by Vienna he decided to contact F. Schalk, the director of the Vienna Opera House. Schalk was very impressed with Kiepura and offered him the role of Mario Cavadarossi (Tosca), which would make his début at the Vienna Staatsoper. Kiepura was yet again replacing someone, the ill partner of soprano Jeritza. Schalk asked Kiepura: ‘Can you sing in Italian?’, to which Kiepura replied assuredly: ‘But of course!’.

Thus, Kiepura sang Cavadarossi opposite Maria Jeritza in Tosca. And what a performance that was! The audience was so excited by Kiepura’s ‘Recondita Armonia’ in Italian, it did not matter that immediately after the aria Kiepura switched to Polish, not being as sure of his Italian as he was in his answer to Schalk. The performance was a fantastic success; the Viennese newspapers labeled him ‘King of tenors’ and even ‘ Caruso’s successor’. In light of the success, Kiepura was offered the taxing role of Calaf in Puccini’s Turandot in the same year (15 October 1926) at the Vienna Staatsoper. He premiered the role out of Italy. In 1929 Jan Kiepura debuted at La Scala (Milan) where he sang Mario Cavadarossi (Tosca) and in 1931 Des Grieux (Manon Lescaut).

By 1937 Kiepura had married Martha Eggerth, a singer and actress, with whom he appeared in many movies as well as in a production of ‘The merry widow’ on Broadway. The merry widow was such a success that the production toured throughout the U.S.A. as well as Western Europe, and was sung in four different languages. Kiepura acquired great fame in the ’30s, shifting the emphasis from opera to the big screen. On January the 10th 1938 he debuted at the Metropolitan in New York as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme. Kiepura also sang in Tosca, Bizet’s Carmen, and Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Metropolitan until 1942. The duke of Mantua (Rigoletto) was regarded as his best role.

His golden timbre and overall generosity towards the public made Kiepura very popular. Neither the opera house boards, nor Broadway bühne, nor film sets were his only stages: arriving in Poland by train, being already famous, awaiting fans cried out ‘Sing, Jasiu!’ – and he did: broadly smiled Kiepura was always ready to sing for fans, and did so on many occasions.

Kiepura’s voice was an outpouring of a rich, warm tone: powerful and generous singing forte, sweet and honeyed when singing piano. Equipped with such an instrument he managed to sing roles throughout virtually the entire tenor fach. He did, however, stay away from the most taxing and heavy roles such as Otello. Besides being successful as an operatic singer he was also a prolific singing movie star. One of the songs for which he was so famous was ‘Brunetki i blondynki’ (R. Stolz and M.Halicz) from the movie ‘I love all women’ (1935). The song was written for him and served as a display of the unparalleled richness and spontaneity in his voice.

His technique allowed him to sing concerts well into his sixties. Unfortunately a heart attack ended his life prematurely when he was still active as a singer. Jan Kiepura died on August 15th, 1966.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Tenors

 

BARBARA CONRAD, Mezzo-soprano * 11 August 1937, Center Point, Camp County, Texas, Texas, United States + 22 May 2017, Edison, New Jersey, United States;

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In 1957, she became the focus of a racial controversy revolving around her role as Dido in a student opera at The University of Texas at Austin. Pressure from the Texas Legislature forced her removal from the cast, and her story received national media coverage. She began her stage career in 1965 as a soprano at City Center Opera New York singing Bess followed by Countess Almaviva. She switched to mezzo in the early 1970’s and returned there as Carmen in 1976. Annina in “Der Rosenkavalier” was her debut role at the Metropolitan Opera in 1982. Her other roles there included Amneris, Maddalena, Preziosilla and Maria in “Porgy and Bess”. Azucena, Fricka, and Eboli in opera houses in Vienna, Munich, Frankfort, Venezuela, and Brussels. Under the direction of some of the world’s leading conductors, including Maazel, Bernstein, and Levine, she has performed much of the mezzo-soprano concert repertoire with the New York Philharmonic, and the London, Boston, Cleveland, and Detroit Symphonies.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

MARIA OLSZEWSKA, Contralto * 12 August 1892 + 7 May 1969, Klagenfurt, Austria;

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After her singing studies with Karl Erler in Munich, she initially worked as an operetta singer. In 1915, she made her debut at the Opernbühne at the Stadttheater in Krefeld as a page at “Tannhäuser”. Brigitte in 1920 in the premiere of the “Totenstadt” by Korngold. From 1921 to 1930 she sang at the Vienna Staatsoper, From 1924-32 she sang at Covent Garden, where some of her roles there were Fricka, Ortrud, Orlovsky, and Herodias. Her repertoire included Amneris, Azucena, Carmen and Elektra too. ng primarily Wagner’s repertoire, but also as Carmen and Amneris. In 1928-32 she was a member of the Chicago Opera. and in 1933 she came to the Metropolitan Opera as Brangäne where in addition to her Wagner roles she sang the Italian ones too during two seasons there. La Scala too.She retired from the stage in 1955 after which she devoted her time to teaching .

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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Contraltos

 

SALVATORE LICITRA, Tenor * 10 August 1968, Bern, Switzerland + 5 September 2011, Catania, Italy;

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Hailed as Luciano Pavarotti’s successor, the extraordinary Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra had his American debut in November 2001 when he performed at the Richard Tucker Foundation Gala. Critics were deeply impressed by Licitra’s singing and praised his rich, spacious voice and flawless, reassuring technique. An even greater triumph for Licitra was his Metropolitan Opera debut in May 2002. On May 11, 2002, Licitra, whose Met debut had originally been scheduled for the the 2004-2005 season, replaced the indisposed Pavarotti in Puccini’s Tosca. Not only did Licitra charm the audience in his role as Cavaradossi, but he also elicited rave critical reviews. In general, critics noted Licitra’s visceral power, further commenting on the singer’s remarkable ability to tame his volcanic energy, so the speak, in moments of exquisite finesse. When Licitra was 18, his mother heard him imitate a singer on the radio. Instantly realizing her son’s immense talent, she urged him to study singing. Initially, his studies were not auspicious; it was not until he started working with legendary tenor Carlo Bergonzi that Licitra made his first steps toward an operatic career. Having appeared in a number of small roles throughout Italy, he triumphed as Gustavo in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera in Verona in 1998. Encouraged, Licitra auditioned for La Scala, securing a role in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, and consequently sang in a number of La Scala productions worldwide. As Manrico in an Il Trovatore production during the 2000-2001 season, Licitra was part of La Scala’s celebration of the centennial of Verdi’s death. In 2000, Licitra made his first Sony Classical recording singing music by Bizet and Puccini on the soundtrack for Sally Potter’s film The Man Who Cried. Licitra’s promising career was cut short when he died in September 2011 following a moped accident in Sicily.

Artist Biography by Zoran Minderovic

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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Tenors

 

BRIAN SULLIVAN, Tenor * 09 August 1917, Oakland, California + 17 June 1969 Geneva, Switzerland;

He studied at the University of South California and was a student of Lillian Backstrand-Wilson. He first appeared on Broadway in musicals and sang in 1946 in the premiere of “Street Scene” by Weill in Philadelphia. He made his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1984 as Peter Grimes. He stayed until 1964 at this house, where he sang twenty roles in 122 performances, including Tamino, Don José, Lohengrin, Narraboth, Lionel in Flotow’s “Martha”, Rodolfo Des Grieux, Dimitrij in “Boris Godunov” and Andrej in “Khovantchina”. Avito in Montemezzi’s “Amore dei tre Re” in San Francisco in 1952 , and Don Carlos in Chicago in 1957 His repertoire included Ferrando, Edgardo, Alfredo, Pinkerton,Faust, Tannhauser, Erik, Florestan, Matteo in “Arabella” and Otello(!). There are varying stories as to the cause of his demise. He was scheduled to sing Siegfried in “Gotterdammerung” in Geneva, and his body was discovered in the Rhone river without him ever singing the role.

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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Tenors

 
 
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