Category Archives: Contraltos

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


MAUREEN FORRESTER, Contralto * 25 July 1930, Montreal, Canada + 16 June 2010, Toronto, Canada;

The Canadian contralto, teacher and administrator, Maureen (Katherine Stewart) Forrester, is the youngest of a family of four children raised in Montreal. She she studied piano as a child. Encouraged by her mother she joined Montreal church choirs, where two organists, Warner Norman at St James United and Doris Killam at Stanley Presbyterian, provided a background in music theory and literature. After she left high school at 13 her studies were financed by her earnings as a secretary, supplemented by assistance from the Montreal Social Club. She sang as a soprano until she was 17. She had begun voice studies at 16 in Montreal with Sally Martin, who soon recognized the potential of her lower voice, and she continued at 19 with Frank Rowe, a retired English oratorio and opera tenor. Forrester’s studies with Bernard Diamant, whom she has acknowledged as her most important teacher, began formally in 1950 and later continued on a casual basis into the 1960s. She also studied with Michael Raucheisen in Berlin (1955). She was first runner-up in ‘Opportunity Knocks’ of spring 1951 and also competed in ‘Singing Stars of Tomorrow’ and ‘Nos Futures Étoiles.’

Maureen Forrester made her professional debut with the Montreal Elgar Choir in Edward Elgar’s The Music Makers on December 8, 1951 at the Salvation Army Citadel. With the Opera Guild of Montreal she was a sewing girl in Charpentier’s Louise on January 9-10, 1953 and the Innkeeper in Boris Godunov on January 8-9, 1954. Although she had sung as a church soloist and in contests, Forrester did not make her recital debut until 29 Mar 1953 at the Montreal YWCA accompanied by John Newmark. This collaboration became a long-standing one and included world tours. She was then engaged to give a recital for the Ladies’ Morning Musical Club, which subsequently awarded her a scholarship. The expenses of launching a career which many accurately predicted would be among the greatest in Canadian annals were assumed for more than a decade by then publisher of the Montreal Star, J.W. McConnell, who had been made aware of the young singer’s gifts by his music critic Eric McLean.

After Maureen Forrester’s MSO debut on December 8-9, 1953 in L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 under Otto Klemperer she appeared on CBC radio and TV, toured Quebec and Ontario 1953-1954 for the JMC (YMC), and made her Toronto Symphony Orchestra debut on December 29, 1954 in George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. Forrester made her European debut on February 14, 1955 in Paris at the Salle Gaveau with Newmark. The European tour which followed, planned by the JM of France to last two months, was so successful that they continued to perform in recital and oratorio, and on the BBC and the Westdeutscher Rundfunk until January 1956. A subsequent Canadian tour included the premiere on August 11, 1956 at the Stratford Festival, of Harry Somers’ Five Songs for Dark Voice, a work commissioned for her by the festival. Among other pianists with whom Forrester has collaborated in recital are Stuart Hamilton, Donald Nolan, John Arpin, Derek Bampton, and David Warrack.

Maureen Forrester made her New York debut on November 12, 1956 at Town Hall and shortly afterwards, at the request of Bruno Walter, she sang in Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony (the ‘Resurrection’) in Bruno Walter’s farewell performances (February 17-19, 1957) with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. (She later sang the work at the orchestra’s 10,000th concert, a gala performance in March 1982). In addition to a demanding schedule of recitals, oratorio appearances, and broadcasts in Canada in 1957, she appeared with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London (under Thomas Beecham) and the Berliner Philharmoniker in its home city. Also in 1957 she married the violinist Eugene Kash (they separated in 1974). They have five children. At the 1958 Vancouver International Festival she sang Johannes Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody with the Vancouver Bach Choir under Bruno Walter (repeating it three days later in the presence of HRH Princess Margaret) and premiered Jean Coulthard’s Spring Rhapsody. She sang in 1960, 1961, and 1963 at the Casals Festival, and her 1960 performances there of the Alto Rhapsody and Alessandro Scarlatti’s recently rediscovered Salve regina were filmed by the NFB (Festival in Puerto Rico). In 1961 she gave the Canadian premiere (July 30) of the Salve regina at Stratford and the premiere (August 26) of Milhaud’s Bar Mitzvah Israel at the First Israel Music Festival in Jerusalem. In November she began an eight-concert tour of the USSR, and late in 1962 she toured Australia. She had lived for two years in Connecticut, and moved to Toronto in 1963. Her European and USA appearances continued. In 1963 she sang in the NBC TV production of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (BWV 244). In 1965 she and Lois Marshall joined the USA-based Bach Aria Group (founded in 1946 by William H. Scheide), bringing the number of Canadians in the group’s quartet of singers to three (with Norman Farrow, bass-baritone, an original member). Forrester sang with the group until 1974.

Although she had coached singers previously, Maureen Forrester gave her first master-classes in the summers of 1965 and 1966 at the RCMT. In 1966 she became chairman of the voice department at the Philadelphia Music Academy, beginning her second sojourn in the USA. She returned in 1971 to Toronto and taught in 1971-1972 part-time at the University of Toronto, where her pupils included Mary Lou Fallis. She has also given master-classes for the Department of Music of the University of Alberta (in 1985), and in many locations where she has performed.

Often described as one of the world’s leading contraltos, Maureen Forrester always remained loyal to her Canadian origins and to Canadian music. She premiered Gabriel Charpentier’s Trois Poèmes de St-Jean de la Croix (1955), Jean Papineau-Couture’s Mort (1956), Robert Fleming’s The Confession Stone (Stratford, July 16, 1967), Harry Freedman’s Poems of Young People, and Srul I. Glick’s … i never saw another butterfly… (Toronto, September 6, 1969), four of Keith Bissell’s Six Folk Songs of Eastern Canada (at a CBC Festival, July 12, 1971), Oskar Morawetz’ A Child’s Garden of Verses (under the title From the World of a Child, at a CBC Festival, February 10, 1973) and his Psalm 22: God Why Have You Forsaken Me? (January 4, 1984), R. Murray Schafer’s Adieu Robert Schumann (with the NACO, March 14, 1978), Beauty and the Beast (with the Orford String Quartet, April 1, 1981), and The Garden of the Heart (with the NACO, May 6, 981), Jean Coulthard’s Three Sonnets of Shakespeare (Vancouver, April 2, 1978), and Stephen Chatman’s You Are Happy (Vancouver, March 1989).

Maureen Forrester gave as many as 120 performances a year on five continents (at one time averaging above 30 each year in Canada alone) and performed with virtually every major orchestra and choir in the world under John Barbirolli, Thomas Beecham, Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals, Herbert von Karajan, Otto Klemperer, Krips, James Levine, Ernest MacMillan, Seiji Ozawa, Fritz Reiner, Malcolm Sargent, Leopold Stokowski, Szell, Bruno Walter, and many other conductors. She appeared frequently and toured as soloist with both the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (USA, 1981-1982 performing Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’Eté) and Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Japan and China, 1978). She returned to China in 1982 with Claude Corbeil and pianist Claude Savard.

Although she sang very little opera until the 1970’s, Maureen Forrester was Cornelia in a concert performance on November 18, 1958 of G.F. Handel’s Julius Caesar with the American Opera Society and made her Toronto stage debut on May 28, 1962 as Orpheus in Orpheus and Eurydice under Nicholas Goldschmidt at O’Keefe Centre. In June 1966 she sang the role of Orfeo in the first recording of the 1761 Vienna version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, conducted by Charles Mackerras and published by Vanguard Bach Guild. Other assignments have included Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde in Buenos Aires (1963) for L’Opéra du Québec (1975) and for the Canadian Opera Company (1979); Cornelia in G.F. Handel’s Julius Caesar (Forrester’s USA stage debut on September 27, 1966, with the New York Opera); the Witch in Norman Campbell’s CBC TV production (1970) of Hansel and Gretel (a role she repeated at the 1979 Guelph Spring Festival, and at the San Diego Opera in 1984); Ulrica in The Masked Ball with the Edmonton Opera (1971); Fricka in the Canadian Opera Company’s Die Walküre (1971); Carmen in a concert performance (1972) with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra; Madame Flora in Menotti’s The Medium (1974 at the Stratford Festival and again in 1977 for the COMUS Music Theatre production in Toronto which also was telecast by CBC in November 1978); Mistress Ford in Falstaff for L’Opéra du Québec (1974); Erda in Das Rheingold for her Metropolitan Opera debut (February 10, 1975); the Countess in The Queen of Spades at Festival Canada (Festival Ottawa) in 1976, again in 1979, and in 1990 for her La Scala debut; Herodias in Salome with the Edmonton Opera in 1977 and the Canadian Opera Company in 1986; the Marquise in the Canadian Opera Company’s Daughter of the Regiment in 1977, Festival Ottawa’s in 1980, and her Opéra de Montréal debut in 1994; Klytemnestra in Elektra for the Canadian Opera Company (1983), Madame de la Haltière in Massenet’s Cendrillon for the San Franciso Opera (1982) and the New York City Opera (1983), the Old Prioress in Dialogues des Carmélites (COC, 1986), and Amente Nufe in the premiere of Schafer’s Ra in 1983.

Maureen Forrester also ventured into Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire, performing as Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe (1984 at the Stratford Festival) and as Katisha in the Canadian Opera Company’s Mikado (1986). As part of Carnegie Hall’s centennial celebrations she was a soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra in Verdi’s Falstaff (November 15, 1990) and with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under Raymond Leppard in the world premiere of an orchestral arrangement of Benjamin Britten’s A Charm of Lullabies (22 Jan 1991).

Maureen Forrester’s voice, originally a dark mezzo of trumpet clarity and power and at maturity a duskily sumptuous, extraordinarily responsive contralto at ease in the mezzo range, commanded virtually the entire repertoire within that range, although most effective, perhaps, in lieder, (especially J. Brahms, Robert Schumann, G. Mahler, and Strauss), in oratorio, and in orchestral works with voice such as G. Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. From the outset of her career, Forrester’s singing was marked by a reliable and sophisticated musicianship of which impeccable pitch is only one facet. This quality, abetted by stamina and poise in the face of a hectic travel schedule and heavy advance bookings, has made her popular with conductors and managers at home and abroad. In the early years a few critics felt she used the same sound to meet the varied demands of song, resulting in overly placid interpretations. However, as her experience deepened and her vocal control became more refined, her communicative powers increased. In the Toronto Globe and Mail, May 5, 1977, John Kraglund wrote, ‘It seemed to me that a well-ordered musical world would require that all vocal artists – if they could not study with Miss Forrester the art of using the voice as an instrument to interpret meaning as well as notes – should attend as many as possible of her concert performances.’

In the late 1980’s Maureen Forrester’s voice took on a reedier quality, and she began to include less contemporary music in her repertoire. During the 1990s she cut down on travel and trimmed her schedule to approximately 50 to 60 engagements annually. She sang with the BC Boys Choir in a 1995 concert, and in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s tribute concert of G. Mahler’s Second Symphony in 1995, at which she was presented with the $125,000 Royal Bank Award. Further reducing her opera and classical recitals, by 1996 she had embarked, with composer-pianist David Warrack, on a national tour of their show Interpretations of a Life, featuring humourous tunes written for her by Warrack. By 2002 she performed only occasionally, and resided in a Toronto nursing home.

Maureen Forrester served a challenging term as chairwoman of the Canada Council (1983-8). Throughout the duration of this voluntary position she travelled extensively, continuing to promote Canadian music and actively communicating to various levels of government the need for greater support and increased funding for the arts on behalf of Canadian musicians, artists, and cultural organizations. She was also chancellor 1986-1990 of Wilfrid Laurier University. In 1986 she was named honorary president of the International Year of Canadian Music, and also had her memoirs, Out of Character, published. Until the late 1990s she remained active in aiding various charitable foundations, performing at benefit concerts; she also was appointed as a director of duMaurier Arts in 1993, and was honorary chair of the Toronto School of Music Canada.

Maureen Forrester was named a Companion of the Order of Canada (1967) and received the University of Alberta National Award in Music (1967), the Council’s Prize of the Harriet Cohen International Music Award (1968), and the Molson Prize (1971) awarded by the Canada Council for outstanding cultural achievement. In 1977 she was made an honorary member of the International Music Council. She was national president of the JMC 1972-5 and a member of the board of the NAC 1973-1979. She was a founding director of the COMUS Music Theatre Foundation in 1975, and received the CCA’s Diplôme d’honneur for outstanding service to the arts in Canada in 1980 and the Canada Music Day Award in 1981. She won a Canadian Music Council medal in 1983, was given a life membership from Canadian Actor’s Equity in 1986, and won the music award from the Toronto Arts Foundation in 1988. In 1990 she received the Order of Ontario, and was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame (only classical performer besides Glenn Gould to have been so honoured). In 1994 Wilfrid Laurier University named its recital hall for her and established a music scholarship fund in her name. Forrester received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 1995, a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, and Opera Canada’s first ‘Ruby’ award in the creative artist category in 2000. Also in 2000, CBC Radio Two featured Forrester on In Performance, and CBC TV aired the television documentary Maureen Forrester: The Diva in Winter on its Life and Times series. The Stratford Festival administers a Maureen Forrester Award, and features promising Canadian musicians in its Maureen Forrester Young Artists series. The selection committee for the Royal Bank Award termed her ‘a remarkable Canadian who has enhanced Canada’s reputation around the world with her art, and provided leadership in artistic endeavour.’

Maureen Forrester was awarded nearly 30 honorary doctorates, among them: honorary LL D (Sir George Williams) 1967, honorary D LITT (York) 1972, honorary D LITT (St Mary’s) 1972, honorary D MUS (Western) 1974, honorary D MUS (Mt Allison) 1974, honorary LL D (Wilfrid Laurier) 1975, honorary D MUS (Toronto) 1977, honorary LL D (McMaster) 1978, honorary LL D (Victoria) 1978, honorary LL D (Carleton) 1979, honorary D MUS (McGill) 1982, honorary LL D (Trent) 1983, honorary LL D (Dalhousie) 1983, honorary DU (Ottawa) 1984, honorary DU (Sherbrooke) 1985, honorary D MUS (Laval) 1985, honorary LL D (PEI) 1986, honorary doctorate (Montreal) 1987, honorary D LITT (Lakehead) 1988, honorary LL D (Windsor) 1988, honorary LL D (Simon Fraser) 1989.

Maureen Forrester died in Toronto on June 16, 2010, at the age of 79, after suffering from Alzheimer’s complications.

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Posted by on July 26, 2017 in Contraltos


ERNESTINE SCHUMANN-HEINK, Contralto * 15 June 1861, Libeň, Prague, Czech Republic + 17 November 1936, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States;

Ernestine Schumann-Heink in 1918.jpg

Ernestine Schumann-Heink (15 June 1861 – 17 November 1936) was a German Bohemian, later American, operatic contralto. She was noted for the size, beauty, tonal richness, flexibility and wide range of her voice.


Ernestine Schumann-Heink (1916)

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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Contraltos


KATHLEEN FERRIER, Contralto * 22 April 1912, Higher Walton, Lancashire, England + 8 October 1953 London, England;

Kathleen Ferrier as a young woman

Kathleen Ferrier was (and still is) one of the world’s great singers. Her appeal transcends all ages and seemingly all generations, more so perhaps than any other singer. She died more than fifty years ago, yet she is still remembered and her voice is still heard and loved by millions around the world.

Kathleen Mary Ferrier was born on 22 April 1912 at Higher Walton, a village near Preston in Lancashire in the North of England. She died in London on 8 October 1953. During her short career she went from one triumph to another, received the adulation of her peers, of critics and of audiences all over the world and still maintained her natural charm, nobility, humility, humour and love for truth, people and life.

Kathleen’s father was the village schoolmaster at Higher Walton. A good singer himself, he taught most of the music at the school. He later became a headmaster in Blackburn and the family moved there when Kathleen was two years old.

Kathleen did not begin her career as a singer. She was a keen member of the school choir but even then she had a big voice and she was usually asked just to stand at the back and sing quietly. Her mother, keen to encourage Kathleen’s musical interest, arranged piano lessons for her and, as a talented young pianist of only 14 she passed the final grade of the Associated Board of the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music. A newspaper of the time called this ‘an unprecedented success for so youthful a student.
Kathleen left school at 14 and went to work for the GPO in Blackburn, first in the telegrams department and then as a switchboard operator.

In July 1930, at the age of 18, Kathleen took part in her first concert as a pianist, which was broadcast from Manchester, and began to accompany many local singers in a musical scene which was very active in Lancashire. She regularly entered and won all the major music festivals, but had become interesting in singing and began taking some rudimentary lessons from the singers she accompanied.

By the time Kathleen was 23 she was married and living in Silloth, on the Cumbrian coast, where her husband was the local bank manager. Kathleen gave piano lessons to the local children. When she entered the prestigious Carlisle Festival in 1937 as a pianist, her husband bet her a shilling that she dare not enter for the singing contest as well as the piano prize. Never one to refuse a dare Kathleen accepted the challenge, entered the contralto solo class and not only carried off both trophies, but won the first prize for the best singer at the Festival. Carlisle was a turning point, and this brilliant new singer was in great demand. In 1939 she made her first radio broadcast as a singer.

Kathleen was approached by CEMA – the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, and the forerunner of the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was now wartime and CEMA were doing an ENSA style job in bringing music to people in the factories, villages and hostels throughout Britain, during the war years. In June 1941 she signed up with CEMA and her professional career had effectively begun. The CEMA tours were hard but invaluable and important training for Kathleen. Wartime travel was extremely difficult and the venues were geographically haphazard, the North one day, South next, North the day after, and so on. She sang in church halls, cinemas, schools and factories – in fact anywhere where an audience could be got together.

In 1942 Kathleen sang for the great English conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent who told her that she had a great future, but that to further her career she must live in London. With the help of her sister, Winifred, the decision was made and they moved into a flat in Hampstead. Kathleen began lessons with the baritone singer Professor Roy Henderson who helped to improve Kathleen’s voice dramatically.

Kathleen FerrierKathleen’s career began to take off. She made records and became well known on the concert platform and in all the great oratorio works, particularly the Messiah and Elgar’s masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius. The composer Benjamin Britten wrote his second opera, The Rape of Lucretia, with Kathleen in mind for the title role.
Kathleen sang for the first time in New York in 1948, to great acclaim, and then began tours of America, Canada, Holland, Scandinavia and America again. The problems of travelling abroad were almost as bad as travelling at home. Stars in those days did not have the entourages they have now, and Kathleen was mostly on her own, coping with indifferent and sometimes non-existent hotel arrangements.

During 1951 Kathleen had an operation to remove a malignant breast tumour. This seemed to be successful and she resumed her career after a spell in hospital. She toured again, at home and abroad and was one half of many brilliant collaborations – with Roy Henderson, Benjamin Britten, Sir John Barbirolli and the great German conductor Bruno Walter, with whom she was instrumental in bringing the work of the composer Gustav Mahler to a much wider audience. Throughout 1952 she was dogged by problems of movement and it was found that further treatment was necessary. Determined as ever, she fulfilled as many of her commitments as she could between regular hospital visits. Eventually though, she was unable to meet the travel demands. She and Barbirolli were working on an English version of Orfeo and it was as much as she could do to keep up with this. Despite a further operation her condition continued to deteriorate and she was re-admitted to hospital where she died on 8 October 1953.

Kathleen Ferrier’s life was not a tragic one, even despite its brevity. She was forty-one years old when she died. In the ten years or so of fame which were granted her she achieved more than most singers achieve in a lifetime. In tribute Bruno Walter said that the greatest privileges in his life were to have known and worked with Kathleen Ferrier and Gustav Mahler – in that order.

Kathleen Ferrier with Bruno Walter at the piano

Kathleen as a pianist

Courtesy: Kathleen Ferrier Society

“A soul full of joy” (Bruno Walter)

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Miss Katherine Ferrier – Aged 30 years – 1942

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Kathleen as a young woman


London portrait of Kathleen Ferrier.

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Posted by on September 17, 2016 in Contraltos


MARGARETHE ARNDT-OBER, Contralto * 15 April 1885 Berlin, † 17 March 1971 Bad Sachsa;

Margarethe Arndt-Ober (b. Berlin, April 15, 1885–d. Bad Sachs, March 17, 1971) was a German opera singer who had an active international career during the first half of the twentieth century. A highly skilled contralto, Ober enjoyed a particularly long and fruitful association with the Berlin State Opera from 1907 to 1944. She also was notably a principal singer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City between 1913 and 1917.

A native of Berlin, Margarethe Ober studied singing in Berlin with Benno Stolzenberg and Arthur Arndt, the latter of whom she eventually married in 1910.

Ober made her professional opera debut as Azucena in Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore at the Opern- und Schauspielhaus Frankfurt in 1906. After a short stint at the opera in Stettin, she became a principal singer with the Berlin State Opera in 1907, remaining with that company for over 35 years. In 1908 she had her first major success in Berlin singing Amneris in Verdi’s Aida with Enrico Caruso as Radames. That same year she portrayed the tile role in the German premiere of Jules Massenet’s Thérèse. In April 1910 she sang in the world premiere of Arthur Nevin’s Poia. In 1913 she portrayed Eboli in the Berlin premiere of Verdi’s Don Carlos.

In 1913 Ober joined the roster of principal singers at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, singing with the company for four seasons. She made her debut with the company on November 21, 1913, as Ortrud in Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin. With the company she notably sang Octavian in the United States premiere of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Katharine in the Met’s first production of Hermann Goetz’s Der Widerspänstigen Zähmung, and Alisoun in the world premiere of Reginald de Koven’s The Canterbury Pilgrims. Her other Met roles included Amneris, Azucena, Brangäne in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Dalila in Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila, Eglantine in Carl Maria von Weber’s Euryanthe, Erda in both Wagner’s Das Rheingold and Siegfried, Fricka in Wagner’s Die Walküre, Laura in Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, Nancy in Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha, Waltraute in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, and the Witch in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Königskinder. Her final and 182nd performance at the Met was as Marina in Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov on April 27, 1917. On May 8, 1917, Ober performed in a benefit concert for the composer Eugen Haile.

With news of an imminent declaration of war against Germany circulating among audience members at the April 2, 1917, performance of The Canterbury Pilgrims, spontaneous displays of American patriotism briefly interrupted the performance. Shortly after the opera had resumed, Ober dramatically fainted on stage within full view of the audience. On November 2, 1917, a few days before the opening of the 1917-18 season, the Met cancelled the contracts of several of its German artists, including Ober, citing its right to cancellation reserved for events such as war. Ober sued for $50,000 for breach of contract, maintaining she was “simply an artist.” She lost her case, but nevertheless was detained in America until the end of the war.

Ober returned to Germany in 1919 and resumed her career at the Berlin State Opera until her retirement from the stage in 1944. In 1924 she portrayed Kostelnicka in the Berlin premiere of Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa, and on 11 May 1925 she sang in the Berlin premiere of Der Ferne Klang by Franz Schrecker, alongside the composers’s wife, Maria, and Richard Tauber, conducted by Erich Kleiber. Other Berlin highlights included appearances in three more world premieres: Eduard Künneke’s operetta Die große Sünderin (31 December 1935), and the operas Der singende Teufel by Franz Schreker (10 December 1928) and Peer Gynt by Werner Egk (24 November 1938).

Outside of Berlin, Ober was a regular performer at the Zoppot Festival, appearing there almost every year from 1922 to 1942. She also made appearances in Spain, the Netherlands, and Norway, and at most of Germany’s major opera houses. Her voice is preserved on a number of recordings made on the HMV, Odeon, Parlophon, Pathé, and Victor labels.

She died in 1971.

Source: Wikipedia

as Brangäne (Collection G&K)

as Ortrud

as Fricka Berlin (Collection G&K)

as Erda

as Carmen

as Amneris

as Amneris

as Amneris (Berlin Unten den Linden)

as Dalila


as Octavian Berlin

as Octavian MET

as Octavian MET 1914

as Octavian MET

as Octavian with Hempel MET 1913

as Herodias

as Herodias (Collection G&K)

as Klytäm- nestra (by courtesy of Andrea Suhm)

as Laura

as Marzelline Berlin

with Whitehill “Taming of the shrew” MET 1916

as Kostelnicka (by courtesy of Andrea Suhm)

as Fides






in her Kitchen (by courtesy of George Parous)



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Posted by on September 4, 2016 in Contraltos


EUNICE DOROTHY ALBERTS, Contralto * 27 November 1922, some sources say 1927 Boston, Massachusetts + 13 April 2012, Boston, Massachusetts;

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Eunice Alberts (1927–2012) was an American contralto who had an active career as a concert soloist and opera singer during the 1950s through the 1980s. She began her career as a concert soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the young age of 19 and quickly became a lauded oratorio singer during the late 1940s and the early 1950s. She began her opera career with the New York City Opera in 1951. She went on to have a successful opera career with companies throughout the United States, ultimately forging a strong partnership with Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston that lasted from 1961 to 1988. She notably sang in a number of United States premieres in Boston and appeared in a few world premieres in New York City. Although Alberts made a number of impressive achievements in the field of opera, her legacy remains in the numerous appearances and recordings she made with major symphony orchestras in the United States. She was particularly successful as a soloist in the great choral works of J.S. Bach, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Early life and career
Born in Boston, Alberts attended the Girls’ Latin School in her native city during her youth; earning her diploma there in 1940. She was later awarded the school’s outstanding alumni award in 1990. She studied singing with Cleora Wood and Rosalie Miller at the Longy School of Music, earning a certificate in vocal performance. She also studied at the Tanglewood Music Center where she drew the attention of conductor Serge Koussevitzky. She made her concert debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) as the contralto soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the Tanglewood Music Festival in August 1946. Shortly thereafter she joined a madrigal group led by Nadia Boulanger with which she toured North America and Europe for two years. She made several more appearances with the BSO during the late 1940s and early 1950s in annual appearances at Tanglewood, singing as a soloist in works like Bach’s Mass in B Minor (1950) and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (1951).

Alberts moved to New York City in 1950 where she became a pupil of impresario Boris Goldovsky. Her first concert appearance in NYC was as the contralto soloist in Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the John Harms Chorus at Town Hall on April 30, 1950. She made her first appearance with the New York Philharmonic in a summer concert at Lewisohn Stadium on June 4, 1951 as the contralto soloist in Verdi’s Requiem under conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos. This performance drew the attention of Laszlo Halasz, then director of the New York City Opera (NYCO), who offered her a contract to join the roster of singers at the NYCO. She accepted the offer and on October 4, 1951 Alberts made her professional opera debut as the Elderly Woman in the world premiere of David Tamkin’s The Dybbuk at New York City Center. Later in the 1951-1952 NYCO season she portrayed Maddalena in Rigoletto and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with the company.

Alberts quickly became one of America’s leading contraltos during the 1950s, singing in concerts and operas throughout the United States. In 1953 she was a soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Temple University Chorus, and conductor Eugene Ormandy. She also sang with the orchestra that year in several works by Bach at the Bethlehem Bach Festival. The year 1955 proved to be a banner year for Alberts. That year she sang Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion and the world premiere of Howard Hanson’s Sinfonia Sacra with the Philadelphia Orchestra and sang Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the New York Philharmonic under conductor Leonard Bernstein at United Nations General Assembly Hall with soprano Adele Addison. She also joined the roster of singers at the Lyric Opera of Chicago where she sang for two highly acclaimed seasons. She made her debut with the company on November 11, 1955 as Enrichetta to Maria Callas’s Elvira in Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani. This was followed by a portrayals of Inez to Callas’s Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Suzuki to Callas’s Cio-Cio-San in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Other roles she sang with the company during the 1955-1956 season included, Marthe in Charles Gounod’s Faust with Jussi Björling in the title role, Lucia in Cavalleria rusticana with Giuseppe di Stefano and Carlo Bergonzi alternating in the role of Turiddu, and the Old Woman in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re with Dorothy Kirsten as Fiora and Robert Weede as Manfredo. In the 1956-1957 Chicago season, Alberts portrayed Wowkle in La fanciulla del West with Eleanor Steber as Minnie, Madelon in Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier with Mario Del Monaco in the title role, the Page in Salome with Inge Borkh in the title role, and Grimgerde in Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre with Ludwig Suthaus as Siegmund.

Following her stint in Chicago, Alberts performed leading roles with the Kansas City Opera, the New Orleans Opera, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Houston Grand Opera during the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1956 she sang in Verdi’s Requiem with the Connecticut Orchestra at the Stratford Festival. In 1960 she portrayed Emilia in Verdi’s Otello with the Opera Society of Washington in Washington D.C. That same year she gave a lauded performance for her New York City recital debut at Town Hall. In 1961 she returned to the NYCO to sing Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Mrs. Cripps in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Rebecca Nurse in the world premiere of Robert Ward’s The Crucible.

Later life and career
During the early 1960s Alberts decided to return to school, having never actually earned a college diploma. She entered the New England Conservatory, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1967. During this time she continued to perform in concerts and operas. In 1963, upon the death of President John F. Kennedy, Alberts sang in the pontifical mass honoring Kennedy which was broadcast nationally on CBS. She performed with the BSO in Mozart’s Requiem. In 1964 she sang in a number of Schubert works with the BSO under conductor Erich Leinsdorf. In 1965 she was the contralto soloist in performances of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s B Minor Mass at Avery Fisher Hall under conductor Hermann Scherchen.

As an opera singer Alberts was highly active with Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston during the 1960s through the 1980s. Her first performance with the company was as the mother in Hänsel und Gretel which was followed shortly thereafter with a performance of Mistress Quickly in Falstaff in 1961. She sang regularly with the company over the next seventeen years, notably appearing in the United States premieres of Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron (as the invalid woman, 1966), Roger Sessions’s Montezuma (as Cuaximatl, 1976), Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla (as Ratmir, 1977), Rodion Konstantinowitsch Schtschedrin’s Tote Seelen (1988), and Rodion Shchedrin’s Dead Souls (as Maslennilov, 1988). Her other Boston roles included Magdalena (1962), the voice of Antonia’s mother in The Tales of Hoffman (1965), Kseniya’s nurse in Boris Godunov (1966), Mother Goose in The Rake’s Progress (1967), Countess Geschwitz in Lulu (1968), Alice in Lucia di Lammermoor (1969), Mary in The Flying Dutchman (1970), The Good Soldier Švejk (1970), Suzuki (1974), Princess Marya Bolkonskay in War and Peace (1974), Beda Balanco in La vida breve (1979), Wessener’s mother in Die Soldaten (1982), Junon in Orpheus in the Underworld (1982), and Alkonost in The Invisible City of Kitezh (1983) among others.

Source: Wikipedia


Image result for Eunice Alberts died


As Amneris in Aida


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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Contraltos


FANNY ANITÙA, Contralto, * 22 January 1887, Durango Mexico + 04 April 1969, Mexico City;

Anitúa was born in the city of Durango. Daughter of Antonio Sarabia Anitúa, mining, and Josefa Medrano Yanez. The father moved with his wife and two daughters to Topia, Durango, when Fanny was three years old. From an early focus was on school holidays, as it had an innate musical talent. At age 10 she had won a radio contest and a contract to sing on a local radio station.

Anitùa initially studied singing in her native city, moving afterward to Mexico City, and later to Rome. She debuted at Teatro Nazionale in Rome in 1910, singing the role of Orfeo from the eponymous Christoph Willibald Gluck opera. She often sang at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, especially in Sigfried (1910-11 season), Etra in the first edition of Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Fedra (1914-15 season), Konciakovna in Borodin’s Prince Igor (1915-16 season), and besides Gluck’s Orfeo, Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Un Ballo in Maschera (1923-26 seasons). She sang in other important Italian theaters, including Teatro Rossini in Pesaro and Teatro Regio in Parma, performing Il barbiere di Siviglia (1916) and La Cenerentola (1920), and very often in South American theaters such as Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, especially as Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (1911) and as Amneris Verdi’s Aida (1939).

She has been considered one of the last true contraltos in the history of modern singing with low notes, wide and deep, with a sonorous and extended voice and with a solid technique that allowed her to perform Rossini despite the limited knowledge of coloratura at that time. One of her many students was the tenor José Sosa Esquivel.

Anitùa did not release many recordings, but there is a full edition of Carmen and a few opera pieces edited by Columbia.


  • Gluck
    • Orfeo ed Euridice
  • Gioacchino Rossini
    • Il barbiere di Siviglia
    • La Cenerentola
  • Giuseppe Verdi
    • Aida
    • Il trovatore
    • Un ballo in maschera
  • Richard Wagner
    • Siegfried
    • Lohengrin
    • Tristan und Isolde
    • Die Walküre
  • Georges Bizet
    • Carmen
  • Alexander Borodin
    • Prince Igor
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    • Eugene Onegin

Source: Wikipedia

as Carmen


with “Barbiere” -Team: De Angelis, Macnez, Kaschmann, Zanella and Galeffi Parma 11. Mar. 1916

with “Barbiere” -Team (close-up)Parma 11. Mar. 1916



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Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Contraltos

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