Category Archives: Mezzo-Sopranos

ELIZABETH CONNELL, Mezzo-Soprano * 22 October 1946, Port Elizabeth, South Africa + 18 February 2012, London, United Kingdom;


Elizabeth Connell was a South African-born soprano with a strong international reputation in the dramatic soprano roles of Strauss and Wagner.

Her debut was as Varvara in Janacek’s Katya Kabanova at the Wexford Festival in 1972. Following that, she primarily sang with the English National Opera and the Australian National Opera. She won a nomination for an Australian Drama Critics’ Award for her performance in the title role of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Her debut at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden was in Verdi’s I Lombardi. She first sang at Bayreuth in 1980 as Ortrud in Lohengrin, a role she performed in a video production, at the Vienna State Opera and the Paris Opéra (Bastille). Her dramatic qualities were praised in her performance (as Senta in The Flying Dutchman) in Tokyo with Seiji Ozawa conducting. Her San Francisco Opera debut was in 1987 and she was frequently invited back.

She sang the role of Brünnhilde in both Die Walküre (Santiago, Chile opera) and Siegfried (Rome Opera). Her repertory included leading roles in the Verdi operas Nabucco, Macbeth, and Oberto. Her performances as Isolde in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde included appearances at the Opera Real in Madrid and a concert performance in Carnegie Hall. Other parts she sang were Ellen Orford in Britten’s Peter Grimes and the Kostelnicka in Janacek’s Jenufa.

Connell also had an active concert career. She performed in the Beethoven Missa Solemnis under Carlo Maria Giulini, the Verdi Requiem, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, and Arnold Schoenberg’s Guerre-Lieder.

She was recorded in all those works, in addition to Mendelssohn’s Second Symphony, as well as Guillaume Tell, Poliuto, Lohengrin, I Due Foscari, and Schreker’s Die Gezeicheten.

Artist Biography by Joseph Stevenson

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Posted by on February 18, 2018 in Mezzo-Sopranos


NELL TANGEMAN, mezzo-Soprano * 21 December 1914, Columbus, Ohio + 15 February 1965, Washington D.C.;


Nell Tangeman (21 December 1914 – 15 February 1965) was an American mezzo-soprano.
Life and career
Tangeman was born in Columbus, Ohio. After earning a degree in violin performance from Ohio State University, she pursued vocal studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She studied with Friedrich Schorr, Margaret Matzenaur, and Nadia Boulanger. In 1946 she made her New York debut singing the role of Jocasta in Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus rex with the New York Philharmonic under conductor Leonard Bernstein. In 1947 she sang the New York premiere of Aaron Copland’s In the Beginnin with the Collegiate Chorale and conductor Robert Shaw.

In 1951 Tangeman created the role of Mother Goose in the world premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at La Fenice in Venice. The following year she performed the role of Dinah in the world premiere of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti at Berstein’s Festival of the Creative Arts on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to an audience of nearly 3,000 people. In 1955 she performed the role of Teresa in the American Opera Society’s production of Vincenzo Bellini’s La sonnambula at Carnegie Hall. As a recitalist she championed new works by American composers; most notably Ned Rorem who wrote several works with her voice in mind.

She died in Washington D.C., aged fifty, of unknown causes. She made one recording during her career, performing Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder with conductor Rene Leibowitz in 1951.

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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in Mezzo-Sopranos


IRINA ARKHIPOVA, Mezzo-Soprano * 02 January 1925, Moscow + 11 February 2010, Moscow, Russia

Irina Arkhipova

Irina Konstantinovna Arkhipova (2 January 1925 – 11 February 2010) was a Russian mezzo-soprano, and later contralto, opera singer.

She originally studied architecture but switched to voice and studied with Malisheva, graduating in 1953. That same year she won an international singing competition in Warsaw. She began studies with Savransky at the Moscow Conservatory and from 1954 to 1956 sang with the Sverdlovak Opera where her roles included Marina in Boris Godunov, Eboli in Don Carlos, Charlotte in Werther and Marfa in Khovanshchina. Her first appearance at the Bolshoi Theater was as Carmen in 1956 which became one of her most famous roles. The Bolshoi became her operatic home and she sang all of greatest roles there. At the Bolshoi she was especially noted for roles in Queen of Spades, War and Peace, Tsar’s Bride and Mazeppa as well as her earlier roles in Boris Godunov, Don Carlos and Khovanshchina. After 1960, she began to appear outside Russia and first won fame as Carmen in Naples. She sang Helene in Prokofiev’s War and Peace at Teatro alla Scala in 1964 where in later seasons she sang Marina in Boris Godunov and Marfa in Khovanshchina.

Her first American appearance was is a recital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with John Wustman as accompanist. Her sensational performance of Azucena at the Orange Festival in 1968 brought her even more international acclaim. Her San Francisco Opera debut came in 1972 as Amneris. In 1975, she made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, as Azucena and in 1988 she returned to London as Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera. Although she sang at the Metropolitan Opera House with the Bolshoi Theater several times, she did not sing with the Metropolitan Opera until 1997 when she sang Filippievna in Eugene Onegin at the age of seventy-two. She also appeared at the opera houses in Berlin, Paris, Hamburg, Lyon, Marseille, Belgrade and the Savonlinna Festival. She directed several opera productions as she moved into semi-retirement. She was married to heldentenor Vladislav Piavko. In 1993, a voice competition was set up in her name.

Arkhipova’s voice was a full, rich mezzo-soprano with great power and intensity. She did not lose quality as she moved between vocal registers, and she understood what her vocal strengths were and did not try to move beyond her best repertoire. Her voice had some of the edge that was often found in Slavic voices, but this helped give her voice an individuality which is sorely lacking in many singers today.

Her recorded legacy is vast but much of it has only been available in Russia. While her Marina in Boris Godounov was reissued by Melodiya, her Eboli in Don Carlos, Joan in the Maid of Orleans by Tchaikovsky and Laura in Dargomizhsky’s The Stone Guest are still unavailable. Almost none of her wonderful song recitals are currently available. In particular, the songs of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Mussorgsky bring out the best in her interpretive art. The LP disc with settings of poetry by Pushkin is very good and the reissue of some of her opera arias would be most welcome.

Artist Biography by Richard LeSueur

Image result for Ири́на Константи́новна Архи́пова

Image result for Ири́на Константи́новна Архи́пова

Image result for Ири́на Константи́новна Архи́пова

Image result for Ири́на Константи́новна Архи́пова

Image result for Ири́на Константи́новна Архи́пова

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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Mezzo-Sopranos


ANNA KASKAS, Mezz-Soprano * 04 January 1909 (or 1907 NY Times), Richfield, Connecticut, USA + 19 March 1998, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, USA;

The American mezzo-soprano and contralto, Anna Kaskas-Lokot, was born in Richfield, Connecticut to Lithuanian parents, and began singing in Hartford as a choir girl at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. She won a two-year scholarship at the Hartford Conservatory of Music, and received there a performer’s degree in voice with honors in 1931 (most probably earlier). Upon graduation she received a scholarship for further training in Europe. There she made her debut in 1930 at the Opera House of Kaunas (Kovno) as Ulrica in Verdi’s Ballo in maschera. The Lithuanian government gave her two-year grant to study and perform in Rome, Milan, Genoa, and Nice. She continued her education with the teachers Ferdin and Ferrara in Milan, and made her Italian debut in 1930 at the Theater of Pavia in a small role in Francesca da Rimini by Zandonai. Back in North America, she completed her training with Enrico Rosati in New York. In 1936, she entered the first Metropolitan “Auditions of the Air” and was co-winner over 700 other aspirants, which led to her joining the Metropolitan Opera company.

This was the beginning Anna Kaskas’ 14-year career with the Met (1936-1950) – in which she established herself as a valued and popular member of the company. She made his debut at this house in 1936 as Maddalena in Rigoletto. She performed at the Met in 52 contralto and mezzo-soprano roles, and was valued as a dependable house contralto for smaller roles like Maddalena in Rigoletto, the nurse in Boris Godunov, Cieca in La Gioconda by Ponchielli, Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana, Erda in the operas of the Ring Cycle, Albina in Thais by Massenet, as well as the the title hero in Orpheus by Gluck, and many smaller roles. There were some novelties along the way, including the role of Mercurius in J.S. Bach’s secular cantata Phoebus and Pan (BWV 201), which the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham dressed up for the stage as part of a double bill when he made his company debut in 1942. During this period she was also a highly respected oratorio singer and appeared as soloist with the major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra (including Missa Solemnis by L.v. Beethoven under Serge Koussevitzky), Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and with the orchestras of Kansas City, Denver, and Houston Symphony Orchestra. She also performed at the Tanglewood and Chautauqua Festivals.

When Anna Kaskas left the Met in 1950, she toured as a recitalist for two years, then devoted herself to teaching She embarked on her teaching career in 1952, when she joined the voice faculty of Indiana University’s School of Music, where she remained for five years. She then accepted a full professorship at the Florida State University School of Music (1957-1959). In 1959, she joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, and chaired the voice department from 1963 until 1965. Her summer activities included teaching at Brigham Young University (1954) and giving master-classes at Temple University’s Ambler Music Festival (1968-1969). Among her pupils were Sylvia Anderson (mezzo), Carol Murphy Streator (soprano) and John Maloy (tenor). She judged various competitions, such as the Ford Foundation Competitions for Professional Artists (1962), the Metropolitan Opera Auditions (1960-1964), and the Connecticut Opera Guild Competition (1964). She retired from the Eastman voice faculty in 1974, becoming professor emerita.

In 1942 Anna Kaskas married Anthony J. Lokot Jr., who died in 1991. She died in 1998 at her home in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania (at age 91NY Times). She was survived by a son, Anthony, of Pittsford, New York; a granddaugther, and a sister.

Recordings: Columbia (one of the Valkyries in a recording of the last act of Walküre with Helen Traubel as Brünnhilde; Missa Solemnis under Serge Koussevitzky). She can also be heard on Disco Corp. in a complete recording of Cavalleria Rusticana (with her as Lola); on EJS as Cieca in La Gioconda and Erda in Rheingold (1945); and on Walhall as 3rd Lady in Zauberflöte.

Courtesy: Bach Cantatas Website

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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in Mezzo-Sopranos


NELL RANKIN, Mezzo-Soprano * 3 January 1924, Montgomery, Alabama, United States + 13 January 2005, New York City, New York, United States;

Image result for Nell Rankin

She studied with Jeanne Lorraine and continued with Karin Branzell in New York. She made her operatic debut as Amneris iwith the Salmaggi Opera Company in Brooklyn in 1947. Her European debut was as Ortrud in Zurich in 1949. Amneris in Vienna, La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera in 1951. Eboli at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1959. Her repertoire included Adalgisa, Azucena, Ulrica, Laura, Santuzza, Dalila, Carmen, Giulietta, Cassandre in “Les Troyens”, Brangäne, Gutrune, Fricka, Herodias, and Suzuki. After she retired from the Metropolitan Opera, Rankin devoted herself to teaching, first at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, from 1977 to 1984. She taught privately in New York City until she retired in 1991.

Biography by Charles Rhodes

NELL RANKIN opera mezzo-soprano signed photo as Santuzza

signed photo as Amneris with a furry friend

Marina in the featured recording.

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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in Mezzo-Sopranos


THELMA VOTIPKA, Mezzo-Soprano * 20 December 1906, Cleveland, Ohio, United States + 24 October 1972, New York City, New York, United States;

Image result for Thelma Votipka

Thelma Votipka (December 20, 1906 – October 24, 1972) was an American mezzo-soprano who sang 1,422 performances with the Metropolitan Opera, more than any other woman in the company’s history (her nearest rival, Mathilde Bauermeister, sang 1,062).

Votipka was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at Oberlin College. She specialized in comprimario roles. She also studied in New York City with Anna E. Schoen-Rene, a student of Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Manuel Garcia.

She was a member of Vladimir Rosing’s American Opera Company in the late 1920s and made her debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro on December 14, 1927 in Washington D.C.

She made her Metropolitan debut on December 16, 1935, as Flora in Verdi’s La traviata, a role she sang 101 times with the company.

Other frequent roles with the Met included Giovanna in Verdi’s Rigoletto (139 performances), Marthe in Gounod’s Faust (128), Alisa in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (116), Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen (112), Marianne in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (109), the Priestess in Verdi’s Aida (101), Gerhilde in Wagner’s Die Walküre (93), and Mamma Lucia in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana (72). Mamma Lucia was the role of her final performance, in Dallas, on May 11, 1963.

Votipka shared the stage with many artists on the occasions of their Metropolitan debuts: Marjorie Lawrence, Zinka Milanov, Rose Pauly, Eleanor Steber, Astrid Varnay, Robert Merrill, Victoria de los Ángeles, Hilde Gueden, Charles Anthony, Mattiwilda Dobbs, Nicolai Gedda, and Joan Sutherland.

She returned to the Met on April 16, 1966, to sing in the quintet from Carmen as part of the gala farewell performance at the opera house at Broadway and 39th Street.

She died in New York in 1972.

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Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


ERMINIA BORGHI-MAMO, Mezzo-Soprano * 18 November 1855, Paris, France + 29 July 1941, Bologna, Italy;

Opera Singer. A dramatic soprano, she sang leading roles in many of Europe’s principal venues. The child of an operatic family, she was raised within the artistic milieu and received private training prior to her 1873 professional bow at Nice as Leonora from Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino”. Erminia had the dual role of Elena/Margherita for the October 4, 1875, Bologna world premiere of the revised version of Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele” and over the next two decades was heard in Rome, Paris, Madrid, and elsewhere with travels to Buenos Aires in 1881 and St. Petersburg in 1891. For the most part confining herself to the heavier repertoire her roles included the title leads of Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia” and Verdi’s “Aida”, Marguerite in Meyerbeer’s “L’Huguenots” and Selika from the same composer’s “L’Africaine”, Santuzza of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana”, Marguerite in Charles Gounod’s “Faust”, Paolina of Donizetti’s “Poliuto” and Verdi’s ‘other’ Leonora in “Il Trovatore”. While still young and in good voice Erminia retired in 1893 and lived out her days in Bologna. Her mother was mezzo Adelaide Borghi-Mamo.

Biography by: Bob Hufford


The Borghi-Mamo grave at the Cimitero monumentale della Certosa, Bologna.

Photo taken by Neil Funkhouser on 6th May 2017

The Borghi-Mamo grave at the Cimitero monumentale della Certosa, Bologna.
Picture by Androom (13 Feb 2017)

Photo courtesy: FIND A GRAVE and The Androm Archives

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Posted by on December 15, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

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