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Category Archives: Mezzo-Sopranos

NAN MERRIMAN, Mezzo-Soprano * 28 April 1920 + Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA + 22 July 2012 – Los Angeles, California, USA;

Katherine Ann “Nan” Merriman (April 28, 1920 – July 22, 2012) was an American operatic mezzo-soprano.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she performed with her pianist brother, Vic (J. Victor) O’Brien (later president of the Pittsburgh National Bank), in cafes and supper clubs in the Pittsburgh area. She studied singing in Los Angeles with Alexis Bassian and Lotte Lehmann. By the age of twenty she was singing on Hollywood film soundtracks and it was there that she was spotted by Laurence Olivier. He picked Merriman to accompany him and his wife, actress Vivien Leigh, on a tour of Romeo and Juliet, where she performed songs during the set changes.

Merriman sang many roles both live and on radio under the baton of Arturo Toscanini between 1944 and 1953, while he was conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Among the roles she sang with him, were Maddalena in Act IV of Verdi’s Rigoletto, Emilia in Verdi’s Otello, Mistress Page in Verdi’s Falstaff, and the trousers role of Orfeo in Act II of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice and also sang in his first and only studio recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, in 1952. She was also featured as Dorabella in a 1956 La Scala performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was conducted by Toscanini’s short-lived protégé, Guido Cantelli.[citation needed]

Merriman was the first singer to record Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde twice, recording it on both occasions with the tenor Ernst Haefliger and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The 1957 recording was conducted by Eduard van Beinum for the Philips label, while the 1963 recording was conducted by Eugen Jochum for Deutsche Grammophon (see discography in the external links). The latter recording was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles Cros.

Merriman was particularly well received in the Netherlands, where she met and married Dutch tenor Tom Brand, a widower with several children. She retired from performing to care for the family in 1965. Brand died in 1970. After the children were grown, she maintained residences in Hawaii and California. She died at her home in Los Angeles on July 22, 2012 from natural causes, aged 92.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

GERMAINE CERNAY, Mezzo-Soprano * 28 April 1900, Le Havre, France + 19 September 1943, Paris, France;

Germaine Cernay, born Germaine Pointu (28 April 1900, Le Havre-19 September 1943, Paris) was a French mezzo-soprano who was active both in the opera house and on the concert platform.
Life and career
Cernay studied the piano before entering the Paris Conservatoire for vocal studies under Albers and Engel, winning first prizes in 1925.

She made her debut at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 16 May 1927 as la Bossue in the Paris premiere of Alfano’s Risurrezione (in French).[3] Other creations at the Salle Favart were Floriane in Éros Vainqueur (de Bréville), la Tour in Le Fou de la Dame (Delannoy), a fairy in Riquet a la Houppe (Hue), and Léonor in Le Sicilien (Letorey). Her other principal roles at the Opéra-Comique included Sélysette (Ariane et Barbe-bleue), a sister (Béatrice), Gertrude (Le roi Dagobert), la fantôme (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Mallika (Lakmé), Javotte (Manon), title role in Mignon, Souzouki (Madame Butterfly), Vincenette/Taven (Mireille), Geneviève (Pelléas et Mélisande), Cléone (Pénélope), Charlotte (Werther) and one of the voices in Masques et bergamasques.

She was invited to many provincial centres in France and also appeared in North Africa, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Ireland and Italy.

Broadcasting on French radio allowed Cernay to enlarge her repertoire to roles in Carmen, Le roi d’Ys, Le Chemineau, La damnation de Faust, Don Quichotte and La Lépreuse. She also sang in the first performance of surviving fragments of Chabrier’s Vaucochard et fils Ier on 22 April 1941 at the Salle du Conservatoire.

Cernay was one of the best-known concert altos of her generation and highly considered as a Bach interpreter.

She appeared regularly with the Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1931 to 1942. Her first and last appearances with the orchestra were as alto soloist in the Bach Magnificat, and in 1936 she sang in two performances of the Mass in B minor. Other works in which she sang at the concerts included Trois Duos by Raymond Loucheur, an excerpt from Couronnement de Poppée, Trois Poèmes by Philippe Gaubert, the Duo from Béatrice et Bénédict, Duos by Dandelot (premiere), Szymanowski’s Stabat mater, excerpts from Prométhée, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, Jeanne d’Arc (oratorio in seven parts by Louis Beydts, George Dandelot, Loucheur, Tony Aubin, Jacques Chailley, Pierre Capdevielle, and André Jolivet), and the Mozart Requiem. She retired in 1942 to become a nun. A year later she died of status epilepticus.

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As Carmen

As Margared in Lalo’s “Le Roi d’Ys”

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

LUCIA VALENTINI-TERRANI, Mezzo-Soprano * (29 August 1946 in Padua Italy (some sources say 28 August) + 11 June 1998 in Seattle, Washington, USA;

The Italian coloratura mezzo-soprano, Lucia Valentini-Terrani (born: Lucia Valentini), studied first at the Padua Music Conservatory, and later at the Accademia Benedetto Marcello in Venice.

Lucia Valentini-Terrani made her stage debut in Brescia, as Angelina in La cenerentola, a role she will remain closely associated with throughout her career. She made her debut at La Scala in 1973, again as Angelina, and quickly established herself in the Rossini repertoire, singing in L’italiana in Algeri, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Il viaggio a Reims. She also sang the many “trouser roles” such as Tancredi, Malcolm in La donna del lago, Pippo in La gazza ladra, Calbo in Maometto secondo, Arsace in Semiramide, Isolier in Le comte Ory, etc. She also sang a few roles of the Baroque repertory, notaby Monteverdi ‘s L’Orfeo, and Bradamante in George Frideric Handel ‘s Alcina. However, she did not restrict herself to the belcanto and expanded her repertoire to include roles such as Dorabella, Eboli, Quickly, Mignon, Octavian, Charlotte, Dulcinée.

Lucia Valentini-Terrani enjoyed a very successfull international career, appearing in Paris, London, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, etc. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1974, as Angelina (Cenerentola).

Lucia Valentini married Italian actor Alberto Terrani in 1973, and added his surname to hers. She was diagnozed with leukemia in 1996, and went to the famous Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle for treatment, where her colleage and friend José Carreras was treated for the same affliction. Sadly she was not as lucky as Carreras, and died of complications following a bone marrow transplant at the age of 51.

One of the leading contemporary Italian coloratura mezzo, Lucia Valentini-Terrani had a rich, creamy and agile voice used with fine musicianship, and had a good stage presence.

Courtesy of  Bach Cantatas Website

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

IRENE DALIS, Mezzo-soprano * 08 October 192, San Jose, California, United States + 14 December 2014, San Jose, California, United States;

Irene Dalis, before her retirement from the stage in 1977, was a principal artist at New York’s Metropolitan Opera for twenty consecutive seasons, appeared regularly with Covent Garden, Berlin, Hamburg, Bayreuth and other major opera houses in Europe and the U. S. and was distinguished by the range and large number of roles in her repertoire.

She had her operatic debut in Oldenburg, West Germany, in 1953 as Princess Eboli in Verdi’s epic, Don Carlo. By the end of her career she had performed in every major opera house from Naples to San Francisco, and had forty-four roles in her repertoire. Recognized from the beginning as a major dramatic talent, she was most often engaged to sing operas by Verdi, Wagner, and Richard Strauss, eventually performing every major dramatic mezzo-soprano role by these operatic giants. Miss Dalis was the first American-born Kundry (Parsifal) to open a Bayreuth Festival, and was the first mezzo-soprano to perform Lady Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera.

Among her many awards and distinctions, Irene Dalis has been honored with a Grand Prix du Disque for her recording of the opera Parsifal, made in live performance at Bayreuth under conductor Hans Knappertsbusch in 1962. Most recently, she received a special Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 Silicon Valley Arts & Business Awards for the “immeasurable impact she has had on the arts in San Jose and the region. She was honored by the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera in commemorating her twentieth anniversary season with that company. She has been given San José State University’s Tower Award and honorary Doctor of Music degrees from both Santa Clara University and  San José State University. Most recently, she was featured in the March 2007 issue of Opera News in an article recapping her career at the Metropolitan Opera as well as her achievements as founder and General Director of Opera San José. In fall of 2008, she received a lifetime achievement award at the Silicon Valley Arts & Business Awards (ABBYs) for her leadership in the field of the arts. Ms. Dalis was the first artist to receive the award, putting her in a group that includes David Packard, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Peter Hero and Blanca Alvarado.

On retirement from her performing career, Miss Dalis returned to her native San José where she was appointed a Full Professor of Music by the President of San José State University. Her principal focus at SJSU was the opera program, and her work there quickly surpassed the production standards expected of collegiate opera. The program produced such a large number of career entry-level performers that Miss Dalis was able to establish a professional, regional company, Opera San José, in 1984. Ms. Dalis served as general director of OSJ for 30 thirty years, retiring on June 30, 2014. The company now showcases talented American singers from across the nation. The company has received excellent notices in journals from Warsaw, Berlin, London, Milano, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and, of course, San José.

Irene Dalis’ credits include: Principal Artist at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden, Bayreuth Festival, Chicago Lyric Opera, Berlin, Rome, Naples and others. Her awards include: Fulbright Award, 1951; Richard Wagner Medallion, Bayreuth, West Germany, 1963; Grand Prix du Disque (Parsifal recording, Phillips, Bayreuth Festival 1962), 1964; Tower Award, San José State University, 1974; Honored by the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera Association on the occasion of her twentieth anniversary season, 1977; Woman of Achievement Award from the San José Mercury News and the League of Friends of Santa Clara County, Commission on the Status of Women, 1983; Commendation from the Honorable John Vasconcellos, 23rd Assembly District, 1983; inducted into the California Public Educators Hall of Fame, 1985; Award of Merit from the People of the City of San Francisco, 1985; Honored Citizen of the City of San José, 1986; San Francisco Opera Gold Medal Award, 1998; recipient of the Don Goldeen Award (Rotary Club of San Jose). Miss Dalis is listed in Who’s Who in America (since 1958); Who’s Who in Opera (since 1971); and Who’s Who in Music; Beautiful Minds Award recipient, 2010. She obtained her B.A. from San José State University, her M.A. from Columbia University (New York), and  honorary Ph.D.s from Santa Clara and California State University.

For additional information, please visit IreneDalis.com, or consider purchasing Irene Dalis: Diva, Impresaria, Legend by Linda Riebel.

as Isolde

as Ortrud

as Amneris

as Lady Macbeth

as Eboli

All Photos Courtesy of Sandy’s Opera Gallery

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

LUIGIA ABBADIA, Mezzo-Soprano * 1821, Genoa, Italy + 1896, Rome, Italy;

Luigia Abbadia (1821–1896) was an Italian operatic mezzo-soprano known for her fine voice, secure technique, and a strong temperament. Possessing an uncommonly wide range, Abbadia sang several roles traditionally portrayed by sopranos in addition to roles from the mezzo-soprano repertoire.

Biography[edit]
Abbadia was born in Genoa to composer Natale Abbadia. She studied music under her father before making her professional opera debut at Sassari in 1836. Over the next several years she appeared in operas throughout Italy, including performances in Novara, Brescia, Triest, Monza, Turin, Bologna, Padua and Piacenza. In 1838 she sang the role of Agnese de Maino in Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda in Mantua. In 1840 she sang the role of Corilla in Donizetti’s Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali in Vienna. That same year she originated the role of Giulietta di Kelbar in the world premiere of Verdi’s Un giorno di regno at La Scala and originated the role of Rovena in Nicolai’s Il templario at the Teatro Regio in Turin. The following year she returned to La Scala to create the roles of Ines in the original production of Donizetti’s Maria Padilla and the role of Delizia in the original production of Federico Ricci’s Corrado d’Altamura. Her other roles at La Scala included Marie in La fille du régiment, Elvira in Ernani, Emilia in Mercadante’s La vestale, Eleonora in Donizetti’s Torquato Tasso, and the title roles in Donizetti’s Alina, regina di Golconda and Pacini’s Saffo. Other highlights of her stage career included portrayals of Alisa in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Arsace in Rossini’s Semiramide, and Normanno in Mercadante’s I Normanni a Parigi.

In 1860–61 Abbadia participated in a tour of Germany with the opera company of Achille Lorini which included performances in Berlin and Hamburg among other cities. After retiring from the stage in 1870 she established a singing school in Milan. Several of her pupils went on to have successful opera careers including mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Pasqua and tenor Giovanni Battista De Negri.

 Abbadia Luigia (Genova, 1821 - Roma, 1896)

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

MARTHA LIPTON, Mezzo-soprano * 06 April 1913 – New York City, New York, USA + 28 November 2006 – Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana, USA;

The American mezzo-soprano and music pedagogue, Martha Lipton, won a scholarship to the Juilliard School and made her debut as Pauline in Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades for the New Opera Company in Manhattan in 1941.

In February 1944 Martha Lipton sang Nancy in Flotow’s Martha during the inaugural season of New York City Opera; she made her Met debut about seven months later, on November 27, 1944, as Siebel in Charles Gounod’s Faust on opening night of the 1944-1945 season. She went on to appear 401 times in 17 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. She was a hit as the prostitute Maddalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto though over the course of her career her most frequent assignments at the Met were as Annina in Der Rosenkavalier and Emilia, Desdemona’s maid from Verdi’s Otello. A 1948 performance of the latter, which starred Ramon Vinay, Licia Albanese, and Leonard Warren, was the first complete opera ever telecast. She also performed as Mrs. Sedley in the Mets premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes in 1948, Mother Goose in the company’s first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in 1953, and Madame Larina in the 1957 Peter Brook staging of Eugene Onegin. Her final appearance at the Met was as the Innkeeper in Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov on January 7, 1961, but she returned to sing as an honored guest for the galas marking the closing of the Old Met in 1966 and the company’s centennial in 1983. Lipton also sang in Europe, and earned praise in important European venues including London, Paris, and Vienna. In 1954 she sang the title role in B. Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia for the English Opera Group. On July 7, 1956 she originated the role of Augusta Tabor in the world premiere of Douglas Moore’s seminal opera The Ballad of Baby Doe at the Central City Opera House in Colorado, repeating the performance the following April with New York City Opera.

Martha Lipton was active as a recitalist and concert soloist, and during the 1950’s as a recording artist for Columbia Records. Her recordings with Columbia included Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, featuring Leonard Bernstein leading the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Bruckner’s Te Deum led by Bruno Walter. L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. With Aaron Copland at the piano, she recorded his Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. One of her best known recordings was her George Frideric Handel’s Messiah highly regarded 1958-1959 recording with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She can also be heard on a number of archived Metropolitan broadcasts (including Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus; I. Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (Fritz Reiner, 1953), P.I. Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin; G. Verdi’s Otello, Macbeth, Falstaff (Fritz Reiner, 1949), Rigoletto, La forza del destino, R. Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Götterdaemmerung, W.A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute; R. Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier (Fritz Reiner, 1949), Elektra (Fritz Reiner, 1949/1952/1953), Arabella; Charles Gounod’s Faust; Pietro Mascagni’s Cavaleria Rusticana; Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chènier; G. Puccini’s La bohème; Georges Bizet’s Carmen).

Martha Lipton was professor emeritus at Indiana University’s School of Music, whose voice faculty she joined in 1960. She retired from full-time teaching to Professor Emerita status in 1983, but continued teaching part-time until her death. She died in Bloomington, Indiana on November 28, 2006, at age 93.

Courtesy: Bach Cantatas Website

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

SHIRLEY VERRETT, Mezzo-soprano * 31 May 1931, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States + 05 November 2010, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States;

Image result for Shirley Verrett 1950

 

Shirley Verrett was a distinguished mezzo-soprano and soprano opera singer. Born in New Orleans on May 31, 1931, one of five children to strict Seventh Day Adventists, her father was a successful building contractor. She came from a musical family, her mother often sang in the house and her father occasionally worked as a choir director. Her parents encouraged her talent, but they disapproved of opera and hoped that she would pursue other interests.  The family moved to Los Angeles where Verrett grew up.

Verrett was passionate about music but after high school, with her father’s support, she became a real estate agent. After selling houses for few years, Verrett realized that her life could only be fulfilled by pursuing singing. With help from her vocal instructor, she appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s program Talent Scouts in 1955. From this appearance she was awarded a scholarship at The Julliard School, where she studied for five years with Anna Fitziu and Marion Szekely Freschl.  Verrett made her operatic debut in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1957.  The following year she made her New York City Opera debut as Irina in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars.  Her European debut came in 1959 when she performed in Nabokov’s Rasputin’s Tod in Cologne, Germany.

In 1961 Verrett won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the beginning of a career phase which eventually placed her among the elite opera performers.  In 1962 she was acclaimed a success by critics because of her role as Carmen at Spoleto, Italy in 1962.  She later performed in the same role in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow (1963), the New York City Opera (1964), and La Scala in Milan (1966). Nowhere was she received with more adulation than in Italy, however, where she was known as La Nera Callas (the Black Callas).

Verrett commanded a continually expanding repertoire and in the late 1970s she began taking soprano roles in addition to mezzo soprano roles.  She sang Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1977.  In December 1978 she appeared in Puccini’s Tosca, where she was cast opposite Luciano Pavarotti in a performance that was televised by PBS on Live from the Met.  In 1990, Verrett sang Dido in Les Troyens at the inauguration of the Opera Bastille in Paris.  Five years later she made her Broadway debut as Nettie Fowler in the Tony Award-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel at New York’s Lincoln Center.

In her memoir, I’ll Never Walk Alone, published in 2003, Verrett recounts stories of racial prejudice she faced.  In 1959 for example the board of the Houston Symphony refused to hire her despite the insistence of its renowned conductor, Leopold Stokowski. A mortified Stokowski took her instead to the better known Philadelphia Symphony to sing in Falla’s El Amor Brujo.  Later her performance was recorded and was received by critics and fans with great acclaim.

In 1996 Verrett, at the age of 65, joined the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance as Professor of Voice and the James Earl Jones University Professor of Music. Shirley Verrett died in Ann Arbor, Michigan on November 5, 2010 of heart failure. She was 79.

– See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/verrett-shirley-1931-2010#sthash.XOeASdUa.dpuf

Courtesy: BlackPast.org

Image result for Shirley Verrett 1950

Shirley Verrett, an internationally acclaimed opera singer and Juilliard alumna, died on November 5 from heart failure at her home in Ann Arbor, Mich. She was 79. (Photo by Impact Photo Inc.)

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 
 
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