Category Archives: 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)

Leave a comment

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)

Image result for Kathleen Ferrier 1942

Miss Katherine Ferrier – Aged 30 years – 1942

Image result for London portrait of Kathleen Ferrier.

Kathleen as a young woman


London portrait of Kathleen Ferrier.

Leave a comment

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)



Leave a comment

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;

Image result for Eunice Alberts husband

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


Leave a comment

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



Leave a comment

Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Contraltos

Powers Behind Grand Rapids

History of Powers and Ball Family

Arioso7's Blog (Shirley Kirsten)

Journal of a Piano teacher from New York to California




Aprile Millo's View of the Opera/World


Information and Resources for Historic-Sound Enthusiasts

Ihr Opernratgeber ( Herausgeber: Sven Godenrath )

Sängerporträts, CD & DVD Besprechungen, Rezensionen von Aufführungen

winckelmann in venedig

cronache da una città morta

Il cavaliere della rosa

Un blog orgogliosamente di nicchia: opera, ricordi e piccole manie di un improvvisato collezionista

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.