Category Archives: Mezzo-Sopranos

MARGARITA GONZÁLES ONTIVEROS, Mezzo-Soprano * 1 September 1927, Chihuahua, Mexico + 29 May 2006, Cuernavaca, Mexico;

Margarita González Ontiveros (1 September 1927, Chihuahua – 29 May 2006, Cuernavaca) was a Mexican-born mezzo-soprano and contralto. She combined a bel canto technique with interpretation in French, Russian Spanish, Italian, German and Nahuatl. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto music of Salvador Moreno Manzano, and Carlos Jiménez Mabarak; further, to the works of Blas Galindo, Manuel Ponce and Tata Nacho (es). In her career she took challenges as to sing many Mexican pieces of Sonido 13 (thirteenth sound), a microtonal system invented by Julián Carrillo in 1925.

Born in Parral, Chihuahua, and raised by her mother Guadalupe Ontiveros Mardueño and a musician and band director in Oaxaca, Prospero Gonzalez. Her first opera was Wagner’s Die Walküre at age 12.

She received her musical education Mexico and established her career in France where she won the first prize of French music interpretation in the École Française du Paris in 1955.

She moved to Mexico City and studied at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música de México, she finished her musical studies very young winning the first prize of Bel canto in a contest at the Mexican Conservatory.

She started her career as a soloist at the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional under Carlos Chávez, during which time she sang in the National Mexican Opera and on national radio. Later she sang at the Russian Opera of San Francisco.

In 1953 she was given a scholarship to perfect her studies in Europe, this allowed her to perform in many international contests in Munich, Vercelli and Geneva in which she won a silver medal.

In 1955 she won the First Prize of Interpretation of French Music in the École Française du Paris. In that same year she was signed for a tour to Morocco, Rabat and Casablanca. The tour continued to the Spanish cities of Seville, Malaga and Barcelona.

In Paris, she signed for a LP record with Barclay Records, with Mexican composers like Tata Nacho, Manuel Ponce, José López Alavez (es) and Salvador Moreno Manzano.

She owned a remarkable tessitura with a vocal range that allowed her to sing in microtonal quarter tones, eights and sixteens in Julian Carrillo’s compositions.

She was the first mezzo-soprano in the world who sung in Nahuatl or Mexica language in such exclusive places as the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and La Scala in Milan.

The tone of the voice was warm, velvety, profound; the color and deep rich tones without vibrato.

Margarita Gonzalez Ontiveros, 1952

Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


ELIZABETH HÖNGEN, Mezzo-Soprano * 07 December 1906, Germany + 7 August 1997, Vienna, Austria;

Elisabeth Hongen, the German mezzo-soprano, was a handsome woman with a beautiful, firmly projected voice; but, above all, she was a magnificent singing actress. Karl Bohm, the conductor with whom she worked in Dresden and Vienna, called her “the greatest tragedienne in the world”.
When Bohm left Dresden for Vienna in 1942, he engaged Hongen for the Vienna State Opera, where she remained a member of the company for nearly 30 years. She sang in many of the major opera houses of Europe and America, including La Scala, Covent Garden, the Paris Opera, the Colon, Buenos Aires, and the Metropolitan, usually in operas by Mozart, Wagner or Richard Strauiss, but in Austria and Germany she also took on roles such as Carmen, Lady Macbeth, Princess Eboli in Don Carlos and Amneris in Aida.

Hongen was born in Gevelsberg, Westphalia, in 1906. At university in Berlin she studied German Language and Literature, as well as the violin, musicology and singing at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik. Her voice professor was Hermann Weissenborn. She made her operatic debut in 1933 at Wuppertal, then in 1935 she moved to Dusseldorf and in 1940 to the Dresden State Opera. There she came under the influence of Karl Bohm, the Music Director. Under his baton she sang Klytemnestra in Elektra and Herodias in Salome, roles in which she later became world-famous; she took part in Monteverdi’s Orfeo in the performing version made by Carl Orff; and sang in the premiere of Die Zauberinzel (1942), an opera by Heinrich Sutermeister based on The Tempest.

Hongen first appeared in Vienna as Ortrud in Lohengrin in 1942 and the following year became a member of the company. She sang Lady Macbeth during the “Verdi Week” of 1943 (Paul Schoeffler and Hans Hotter alternated as Macbeth), and a few weeks later could be heard as Carmen, or Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, or in one of her Wagner roles.

She first visited La Scala in 1943, singing Klytemnestra, and returned in 1949/50 for Fricka in Das Rheingold and Die Walkure, and Waltraute in Gotterdammerung. In 1947 she came to Covent Garden with the VSO company, and sang Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, Marcellina and Herodias. She did not return to Covent Garden until 1960, when she gave an unforgettable performance of Klytemnestra.

At the Salzburg Festival, Hongen appeared as Gluck’s Orpheus and Mozart’s Marcellina (1948), Clairon in Strauss’s Capriccio (1949), the tragic heroine of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia (1950) and as Bebett the maid in the world premiere of Heimo Erbse’s Julietta (1959), an opera based on Kleist’s story “Die Marquise von O . . .” She took part in the first post-war Bayreuth Festival in 1951, singing Fricka and Waltraute. The following year she made her Metropolitan debut in New York as Herodias, and also sang Klytemnestra and Waltraute. Visiting the Paris Opera with the VSO in 1953, she sang not only Klytemnestra, but the Third Lady in Die Zauberflote as well.

Meanwhile, in Vienna Hongen was adding to her repertory: she sang Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress (she was a very fine comedian), the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades and, in 1955, the Nurse in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, as part of the celebrations for the opening of the rebuilt State Opera. Conducted by Karl Bohm and magnificently cast, this performance was one of the great operatic expeiences of my life; Hongen’s malevolent Nurse contributed no small share to the general effect, as the recording made shortly afterwards bears witness.

Her other new roles in Vienna included Mme de Croissy, the Old Prioress in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites; Genevieve in Pelleas et Melisande (which she also sang at La Scala); Marthe in Faust, another excellent comic performance; and Julie in Gottfried von Einem’s Santons Tod. She continued to sing Klytemnestra and Herodias, in Frankfurt, Geneva, Monte Carlo, Strasbourg and Berlin.

Towards the end of the Sixties she played character parts with her customary dramatic skill: Grandmother Bura in Jenufa, Mary in Der fliegende Hollander, Ludmila in The Bartered Bride and the Fortune-teller in Arabella. She retired from the stage in 1971, having taught at the Vienna Academy of Music since 1957.

She recorded all her great roles: Lady Macbeth (live from Vienna), Marcellina, Fricka, Herodias, Klytemnestra and, best of all, the Nurse.

Elisabeth Hongen, opera singer: born Gevelsberg, Westphalia 7 December 1906; died Vienna 7 August 1997.


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Posted by on December 7, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


EMMY ACHTÉ, Mezzo-Soprano * 14 November 1850, Oulu, Finland + 02 December 1924, Helsinki, Finland

Emmy Charlotta Achté née Strömer (1850–1924) was an operatic mezzo-soprano, the first prima donna of the Finnish Opera. She performed in Helsinki from 1873 to 1879, excelling in dramatic roles. She was also a voice teacher for over 40 years, starting an opera class at the Helsinki Institute of Music.

Born in Oulu on 14 November 1850, Emmy Strömer studied singing in Helsinki under Emilie Mechelin. From 1869 to 1873, she received further training in Stockholm under Wilhelm Stenhammar and in Paris under Jean-Jacques Masset. In 1875, she married Lorenz Nicolai Achté, the conductor of the Finnish Opera.

When Kaarlo Bergbom opened the Finnish Opera in 1873, Achté played all the main mezzo-soprano roles until 1879. These included Azucena in Il trovatore, Valentine in Les Huguenots and Pamina in The Magic Flute. She also gave concerts in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Germany and in 1878 sang at the opera in Gothenburg as a guest star. She is also remembered for her work as a voice teacher over a period of 40 years from 1874. In the early 1880s, she studied further in Dresden under Eugen Hildach. In 1892, Achté performed in Sibelius’ choral symphony Kullervo and in 1896, she played Chatelaine in his Jungfrun i tornet.

Achté served as a teacher at her husband’s Cantor-Organist school. After his death in 1900, she headed the establishment until 1922. From 1910 to 1913, she ran a private opera school and in 1912 she initiated an opera class at the Helsinki Institute of Music. From 1910, she also taught drama and song at Helsinki’s Swedish Theatre, directing a number of operas from 1912.

Emmy Achté was the mother of the internationally famous opera singers Aino Ackté and Irma Tervani. She died in Helsinki on 2 December 1924.

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Emmy Achté, 1875.

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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


GIANNA PEDERZINI, Mezzo-Soprano * 10 February 1900, Trento, Italy + 12 March 1988, Rome, Italy;

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Gianna Pederzini (10 February 1900 – 12 March 1988) was an Italian mezzo-soprano.

Pederzini was born in Trento. She studied in Naples with Fernando de Lucia, and made her stage debut in Messina, as Preziosilla, in 1923. She sang widely in Italy, notably as Mignon and Carmen, and made her debut at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, as Adalgisa, in 1928, and at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, in 1930.

Abroad, she appeared at the Royal Opera House in London in 1931, the Opéra de Paris in 1935, the Teatro Colón in 1938, and the Berlin State Opera in 1941.

She defended a wide repertoire, she took part in the 1930s in revivals of rare operas by Rossini and Donizetti, while singing the standard mezzo roles; Azucena, Ulrica, Amneris, Laura, but also a few dramatic soprano roles such as Santuzza and Fedora, etc. She also often sang Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther with Tito Schipa. A live recording exists of one such performance.

In the 1950s, she began concentrating on “character roles” such as the Countess in The Queen of Spades, Mistress Quickly in Falstaff, Madame Flora in The Medium, and took part in the creation of Dialogues of the Carmelites at La Scala, in 1957. She died, aged 88, in Rome.

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Posted by on November 17, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


BELÉN AMPARÁN , Mezzo-Soprano * 9 November 1927, El Paso, Texas, USA + 11 April 11, 2002, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico;

She studied at the Conservatory of Mexico City, then in Milan with Adelaide Saraceni. In 1952 she debuted at the Teatro Nuovo Milan, and in 1956 she made her debut as Giulietta at the Metropolitan Opera. She sang there until 1968. Her career in Mexico City also during the same time. She was also heard in Rome, the Liceu, Naples, Parma, Bordeaux, and Wiesbaden. Her repertoire included Carmen, Amneris, Azucena, Preziosilla,Ulrica, Orfeo and Dalila. Fricka and Olga too.

La Cieca in the featured recording.

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Posted by on November 10, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


BEVERLY WOLFF, Mezzo-Soprano * 06 November 1928, Atlanta, Georgia, United States + 14 August 2005, Lakeland, Florida, United States;

The American mezzo-soprano, Beverly Wolff, studied music in her native city and in Philadelphia.

Beverly Wolff made her professional debut as Dinah in Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, on television (CBS) in 1952. Dinah was also her debut role at the New York City Opera in 1958. Other roles at that house included, Cherubino in Nozze di Figaro, Siebel in Faust, the title role in Carmen. She took part in two Tito Capobianco ‘s landmark productions there, George Frideric Handel ‘s Giulio Cesare in which she sang Sesto, opposite Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills and Maureen Forrester, in 1966, and Donizetti ‘s Roberto Devereux, in which she sang Sara, opposite Beverly Sills, Plácido Domingo, Louis Quilico, in 1970, both operas were conducted by Julius Rudel. She also took part in the creation of Douglas Moore’s Carry Nation, in 1966, in Lawrence, Kansas.

Beverly Wolff was also active as a recitalist, appearing in numerous cities around the USA. She also sang abroad, notably in Spoleto, Florence, Venice, in roles such as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, Dalila in Samson et Dalila, and Benjamin Britten ‘s Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia.

Beverly Wolff was married to businessman, John Dwiggins, with whom she had two sons. Early on in her career, she established a measured pace for her professional and personal life, in general, for every two weeks of work, she would spent three weeks at home. She retired from performing in 1981, and began teaching at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, where she remained until shortly before her death.

Selected Recordings: George Frideric Handel’s Giulio Cesare (w/ Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, Maureen Forrester, NYCO Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Julius Rudel – 1967, RCA); Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux (w/ Beverly Sills, Robert Ilosfalvy, Peter Glossop – Ambrosian Opera Chorus & Royal Philarmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Mackerras – 1969, DGG).

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Posted by on November 6, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


ELENA NICOLAI, Mezzo-Soprano * 24 January 1905, Lesichovo municipality + 23 October 1993, Milan, Italy;

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Stoyanka Savova Nikolova (Bulgarian: Стоянка Савова Николова), best known by her stage name Elena Nicolai (Bulgarian: Елена Николай) (24 January 1905 – 23 October 1993), was a Bulgarian mezzo-soprano and opera singer.

Early Life and Training
Nicolai was born in the village of Tzerovo, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria. She spent her childhood in another Bulgarian town, Panagurishte. At the age of 19, she moved to Milan to study opera, first with Vincenzo Pintorno and later with Ettore Pozzoli.

Operatic Career
She made her operatic debut as Maddalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto in 1932. She spent 20 seasons as a leading mezzo-soprano at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. After her retirement from opera, she became an actress and had a short film career, starring in seven movies in the period between 1963-68.

She recorded complete operas for RAI and EMI: Eboli in Don Carlos with Stella, Boris Christoff, and Tito Gobbi stands out among the others, which include the Grand Vestale in La vestale and Cuniza in Oberto, both with Maria Vitale, Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana with Mario del Monaco, the Principessa in Adriana Lecouvreur with Mafalda Favero, and Preziosilla in La forza del destino with Callas. She sang Wagnerian roles, including Brünnhilde in ‘Die Walküre’ at the Verona Arena.

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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

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