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Category Archives: Sopranos

HANNY STEFFEK, Soprano * 12 December 1927, Bielitz + 11 June 2010;

Hanny Steffek (1927-2010) Also known as Hannelore Steffek was an Austrian soprano.

Vocal studies at the Vienna Music Academy under Riza Eibenschütz and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. After her concert debut in 1949, she began her stage career in 1950 at the Salzburg Festival as the first boy in “The Magic Flute”. Sophie was her debut role in Covent Garden in 1959. She sang at the State Theater of Wiesbaden,at the Opera House of Graz, ad at the Opera House of Frankfurt aM before singing at the Vienna State Opera from 1964 to 73. At the Volksoper, where she was a member of the ensemble from 1973 until her retirement in 1984, she sang Felice in The Four Ruffians, Marguérite in the Opera Ball, Colombina in The Burning House, and Christine in the Intermezzo. Beautifully formed soprano, especially admired in operas by Mozart and Richard Strauss. Sophie and Pamina.

Artist biography by Charles Rhodes

Litrato ni Charles Rhodes.

Hanny Steffek  as Amor in the featured recording.

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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Sopranos

 

MARY LEWIS, Soprano * 07 January 1900, Hot Springs, Arkansas + 31 December 1941, New York City;

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Born January 7, 1900, Hot Springs, Arkansas; Died December 31, 1941, New York City. At the age of 18 she left the home of her parents, a Methodist family, and a vaudeville troupe. She then sang in cabarets in San Francisco and joined Bathing Beauties of the Christie Comedies. She finally appeared in New York in operettas and revues before studying singing seriously there with William Thorner and Jean De Reszke in Paris. She made her operatic debut in 1923 at the Vienna Volksoper as Marguerite in Faust. Guest appearances followed in Berlin and Monte Carlo. In 1924 she was a member of the British National Company, and with them she sang in London that year in the world premiere of Hugh the Drover. In 1925 she appeared at the Opera Comique, and she was a member of the Metropolitan Opera 1926-30, making her debut as Mimi in La Boheme. For a short time she was married to a bass baritone Michael Bohnen. It was thought that when sound films were developed she would have a great career in them, but this did not happen.

(A Concise Biographical Dictionary of Singers / Kutsch & Riemens / Chilton Book Company / 1969)

Date: March 13, 1936

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Sopranos

 

IRENE EISINGER, Soprano * 08 December 1903, Cosel, Silesia, Germany + 8 April 1994, Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom;

Irene Eisinger (8 December 1903 – 8 April 1994) was a German and British opera singer and film actress. Her career was closely linked to the foundation and the early years of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

Life and career
Irene Eisinger was born in the small Silesian town Cosel, belonging to the German Empire at the time of her birth. Today, the town is in Poland. She was trained as a soubrette soprano and studied acting with Paula Mark-Neusser in Vienna and piano with G. Schönewald.

Operas and films
Her debuts – both in opera and film – took place in 1926. She played a minor role in Frederic Zelniks silent movie Die Försterchristl and started singing leading roles in operas and operettas at the Stadttheater Basel in the north of Switzerland. Already in 1928 she was called to Berlin and within a short period became one of the favourite singers of conductor Otto Klemperer – firstly at the Kroll Opera House, later on at the prestigious Staatsoper Unter den Linden. Although best remembered for her soubrette roles in Mozart operas, especially Despina and Blonde, and as Ännchen in Webers Der Freischütz, she achieved also great successes and admiration in Strauss operetta roles, particularly as Arsena in Der Zigeunerbaron and as Adele in Die Fledermaus. Musicologist Elizabeth Forbes describes her singing in this words: ″Her voice, bright-toned, light and very flexible, and her charming, diminutive appearance, invariably drew adjectives such as ‘enchanting’ and ‘winsome’ from the critics.″

The year 1930 can be considered as her break-through in both Germany and Austria as she debuted as Adele in Max Reinhardts version of Die Fledermaus, as Cherubino in Mozarts Le nozze di Figaro at the Salzburg Festival and again as Adele at the Vienna State Opera. Furthermore, in this year her first sound film was released, the light comedy Two Hearts in Waltz Time – with Eisinger as Anni Lohmeier and with famous and popular actor Willi Forst in a leading role. This film was the first foreign language film to be released with subtitles in the United States. Two further leading film parts followed in 1931: Leopoldine in Die lustigen Weiber von Wien and the title role in another Zelnik-version of Die Försterchristl, now with sound and singing.

Cherubino in Salzburg was hers until 1933, and in 1931 she added another role to her Salzburg repertory: Papagena in Die Zauberflöte – again with repeat invitations until 1933. In 1932, Eisinger performed in the Cabaret opera Rufen Sie Herrn Plim by Mischa Spoliansky and sang Luise Matthes in the Kurt Weill opera Die Bürgschaft next to Hans Reinmar and Lotte Lenya at the Städtische Oper Berlin. The conductor was Fritz Stiedry.

She appeared in two short films (Kabarett-Programm Nr. 4, 1931, and Eine Johann-Strauss-Fantasie, 1933) and did several recordings with Grammophon, HMV/Electrola, Ultraphon and Orchestrola. Her singing covered a broad repertory spanning from Mozart and Auber to C.M. Weber, Albert Lortzing, Puccini, Lehár and Strauss, including works of Leo Fall, Bruno Granichstaedten, Ralph Benatzky and Robert Stolz. Her male partners in duets were Siegfried Arno, Paul Morgan, Joseph Schmidt, Erik Wirl and Richard Fritz Wolf.

Emigrantion, Glyndebourne, ROH
Although very popular with the Berlin audience, Eisinger was forced to leave Germany shortly after the National socialist takeover in 1933 due to her Jewish origins. She could not sing any longer in any theatre of the German capital. She took refuge in Czechoslovakia and went to sing in the opera houses of Prague, Amsterdam and Bruxelles – and once again at the Salzburg Festival. In 1933, in addition to Cherubino and Papagena she was invited to sing a role in a Richard Strauss opera. It would be her last appearance in Salzburg. She sang Hermione in the first production of the second version of Egyptian Helena.

Eisinger continued to sing at Prague State Opera until 1937, but already in 1934 she was invited by German emigrants Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert to participate at the first Glyndebourne Festival. Unknown to British audiences, she sang Despina in Mozarts Così fan tutte and scored a great personal success. Thereafter she became a firm favourite at the festival, debuting as Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte in 1935, returning there each year but one, until the outbreak of the Second World War forced the festival to close down. The 1935 Glyndebourne recording of Così fan tutte, conducted by Fritz Busch, gives a very idea of Eisinger’s voice, her stylish singing and her delightful personality. Although she did not appear at the Festival in 1936, the artist sang the Aquarellen waltz, op. 258, by Josef Strauss at a concert in Glyndebourne this year – with 600 of John Christie’s employees and tenants present, to commemorate the birth of Christie’s son George on 31 December 1934. Due to its success, the concert had to be repeated.

In 1936 the impresario C. B. Cochran, who had been entranced by her Papagena in Glyndebourne, engaged her for the revue Follow the Sun at the Adelphi in London. There she sang the always much applauded song Love is a Dancing Thing, a popular number by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. Cochran was praised to engage Miss Eisinger by the Sunday Times: ″A beautiful little lady [with a] small but charming voice″. Her partner was famous baritone Gerald Nodin. In December of the same year, Eisinger debuted at the Royal Opera House as Gretel in Humperdincks Hänsel und Gretel, with Maggie Teyte as Hänsel, sung in German language. A week later she sang Adele in Die Fledermaus (in English), ″winning a particular triumph″ with the song Mein Herr Marquis.

For the next three seasons the singer returned to Glyndebourne, adding Susanna and Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro to her Glyndebourne repertory, while still continuing to sing her other roles. By now she was permanently living in England. In 1939 Eisinger sang Ilya in a university production of Mozarts Idomeneo at Cambridge and acted in Beatrice Saxon Snell’s musical Georgian Springtime at the Embassy Theatre in London – with Geoffrey Dunn, Frederick Ranalow, and George Skillan in the cast. In 1940, when Glyndebourne toured The Beggar’s Opera, she took over Polly Peachum from Audrey Mildmay who had contracted Rubella during the London run. Furthermore, she participated in the movie comedy Young Man’s Fancy and was invited by BBC to sing in Die Fledermaus and in Arlecchino, a single act opera by Ferruccio Busoni.

When Glyndebourne closed down, Eisinger withdrew from the stage.

Her last operatic performances were a series of seven performances of Così fan tutte in the original Glyndebourne production of Carl Ebert at the Edinburgh International Festival in August and September 1949 – together with a prominent cast consisting of Suzanne Danco (Fiordiligi), Sena Jurinac (Dorabella), Petre Munteanu (Ferrando), Marko Rothmuller (Guglielmo), John Brownlee (Don Alfonso) and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hans Oppenheim. She sang Despina.

Thereafter she was only heard in broadcast concerts on BBC.

Private life
The singer married Gerhard Schönewald, called Gert, a physician from London of German origin who had emigrated from Bad Nauheim. The couple had two daughters, Susanne (born in 1944) and Emily-Ruth (1946). The couple later divorced.

Irene Eisinger died on 8 April 1994, in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, Great Britain.

Recording
Così fan tutte (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), role of Despina. Glyndebourne Festival Opera Company conducted by Fritz Busch. HMV DB 2652 bis DB 2673 – Glyndebourne, June 1935

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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Sopranos

 

SIBYL SANDERSON, Soprano * 7 December 1864, Sacramento, California, United States + 16 May 1903, Paris, France;

Sibyl Sanderson (December 7, 1864 – May 16, 1903) was a famous American operatic soprano during the Parisian Belle Époque.

Biography
She was born in Sacramento, California, in the United States. Sibyl’s father Silas Sanderson was a California politician and lawyer; after serving as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California, he became a highly paid legal advisor to the Southern Pacific Railroad. After his death in 1886, she and her mother and sisters moved back to Paris and became transplanted socialites. Sanderson proved to be a remarkably gifted singer and began to appear on the stages of the Opéra-Comique, and later Opéra, in Paris, most notably in the works of Jules Massenet. She was his favorite soprano and appeared in the premieres of a number of his operas, the roles having been created for her unique talents (her professional debut took place in Paris in the title role in Esclarmonde). She was also a famous interpreter of Manon, Massenet’s most enduring opera.

Sanderson was also admired by Camille Saint-Saëns, who wrote the title role in Phryné for her. Success outside of Paris was elusive for Sanderson; she appeared at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera (debut in title role of Manon on January 16, 1895, the last performance as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette on December 31, 1901) to lackluster reviews.

In 1897 she married a Cuban millionaire and sugar heir Antonio E. Terry (d. 1899), after which she temporarily halted her operatic activity, making an unsuccessful comeback two years later.

Her last years were marred by depression, alcoholism and illness and she died in Paris of a malignant influenza (pneumonia), at the age of thirty-eight. Sanderson was responsible for helping launch the career of another soprano made famous in the French repertoire, Mary Garden.

Sibyl Sanderson as Massenet’s Esclarmonde

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Sibyl Sanderson as Phryné, April 1893.

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Posted by on December 7, 2017 in Sopranos

 

KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD, Soprano * 12 July 1895, Hamar, Norway + 7 December 1962, Oslo, Norway;

Kirsten Flagstad.

Kirsten Flagstad, (born July 12, 1895, Hamar, Nor.—died Dec. 7, 1962, Oslo), greatest Wagnerian soprano of the mid-20th century.

Flagstad came from a family of professional musicians and studied singing in Oslo, where, after her operatic debut there in 1913, she worked principally as a light soprano, singing oratorio, opera, and operetta. In 1928 she joined the Storm Theatre in Gothenburg, Swed., and added further operatic roles to her repertory.

In 1932, after a period of retirement following her second marriage, she was ready to take on the vocally challenging role of Isolde in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. In 1933 and 1934 she sang small roles at Bayreuth, and in 1935 she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as Sieglinde in Die Walküre. A year later she appeared at Covent Garden, London, as Isolde. In this role and as Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Ring cycle her greatness was at once realized. The outbreak of World War II found her in the United States; she returned to Norway in 1941 to join her husband, who was later imprisoned for his associations with the Norwegian traitor Vidkun Quisling. She was exonerated of any offense by a Norwegian court and after her husband’s death returned to the United States and England. From 1948 to 1951 she sang at Covent Garden. In 1953 she retired from public singing, but continued to broadcast and make phonograph records. She was the first director of the Royal Norwegian Opera (1958–60).

Besides the great Wagnerian roles, she made memorable appearances in Gluck’s Alceste, in Beethoven’s Fidelio, and in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.

Courtesy: Britannica

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Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde

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Kirsten Flagstad’s first official performance as a singer took place at the Chat Noir in May 17, 1912 .

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2017 in Sopranos

 

GRACE MOORE, Soprano * 05 December 1898, Slabtown, Tennessee, USA + 26 January 1947, Copenhagen, Denmark;

Grace Moore, in full Mary Willie Grace Moore (born Dec. 5, 1898, Slabtown [now Nough], Tenn., U.S.—died Jan. 26, 1947, in-flight in Copenhagen, Den.), American singer and actress who found great popular and critical success in both opera and motion pictures.

Moore was educated in Tennessee public schools and briefly at Ward-Belmont College in Nashville. She then went to the Wilson-Greens School of Music in Chevy Chase, Maryland. After making her public singing debut in a recital program at the National Theatre, Washington, D.C., in 1919, she left school and went to New York City, where she sang in a nightclub to pay for vocal lessons.

Following appearances in Suite Sixteen, Just a Minute, and Up in the Clouds, Moore made her Broadway debut in the 1920 edition of the revue Hitchy-Koo, which featured Jerome Kern’s music. She then sang in Town Gossip and went to Paris to train for a career on the operatic stage. Moore circulated easily in café society. When she had exhausted her funds, she returned to Broadway to star in Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue of 1923. In 1925 she went back to France, where the opera singer Mary Garden, long her idol and now her friend, recommended her to operatic coach Richard Barthelemy. Auditioning for Giulio Catti-Casazza in 1927, Moore finally won a contract with the Metropolitan Opera.

Her Met and operatic debut occurred in February 1928, when she sang Mimi in La Bohème to a warm reception. Later she sang in Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and then made a European tour. After singing Juliette at Deauville, Moore made a highly successful Paris debut as Mimi at the Opéra-Comique in 1928. In the next few seasons at the Met she sang in Carmen, Tosca, Manon, Faust, Pagliacci, Gianni Schicchi, and others.

Moore went to Hollywood in 1930 and subsequently appeared in the films A Lady’s Morals (1930), a biography of Jenny Lind, and New Moon (1931). In 1932 she returned to Broadway in the operetta The Dubarry. Back in Hollywood she won the starring role in One Night of Love (1934), a film that features a pioneering attempt to record operatic works with full orchestra. The film was a great popular success and brought Moore a medal from the Society of Arts and Sciences for her contribution to “raising the standard of cinema entertainment.” Her other films include Love Me Forever (1935), The King Steps Out (1936), When You’re in Love (1937), and I’ll Take Romance (1937).

Moore continued in opera throughout her film career. She made her London debut at Covent Garden in La Bohème in June 1935 to tremendous ovations. She starred in a film version of Louise (1938) in France and then performed it at the Met the following year. In 1941 she sang L’amore dei tre re. Radio broadcasts and public appearances further increased her popularity. During World War II she made numerous appearances at bond rallies, benefits, and army camp shows, for which she was decorated by several governments. Her autobiography, You’re Only Human Once, appeared in 1944. Moore died in an airplane crash in Copenhagen following a command performance there.

Grace Moore

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Photo credit: Times Free Press

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

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Posted by on December 5, 2017 in Sopranos

 

ELVIRA DE HIDALGO, Soprano * 28 December 1891, Valderrobres, Spain + 21 January 1980, Milan, Italy;

Elvira de Hidalgo (1891–1980) was a prominent Spanish coloratura soprano, who later became a pedagogue. Her most famous pupil was Maria Callas. She was born in Valderrobres, Teruel Province (Spain), as Elvira Juana Rodriguez Roglan.

She made her debut at the age of sixteen, at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, as Rosina in The Barber of Seville, which would become her best-known role. Following her debut, de Hidalgo was quickly engaged for Paris. Her debut with the New York Metropolitan Opera occurred in 1910, as Rosina. With that company, de Hidalgo sang in Rigoletto (with Enrico Caruso) and La sonnambula (with Alessandro Bonci) in the same season. In 1916, she made her debut at La Scala, Milan, as Rosina.

In 1924, she appeared in London with the British National Opera Company, at Covent Garden, in Rigoletto.

After she married the manager of a casino, in 1933 she retired to begin a career as a vocal coach and teacher, although she continued to give occasional concerts until 1936 and made a few last recordings. She became a professor at the Athens Conservatory and then, in 1940, the young soprano Maria Callas became her student.

De Hidalgo said of Maria Callas: “I knew when I met her first that she was unique. Her dark penetrating eyes and her wide, full mouth. She would come to my studio first thing each morning and stay right through my teaching day, listening to all the other lessons. She was inquisitive and wanted as much knowledge as I could give her. If I gave her a new aria one day she had it learned and memorized by the next lesson – often a day or two later. Her dedication was complete … I was always able to relax when Callas performed, unlike the anxiety I would experience in listening to my other students. I always felt at ease and comfortable, knowing she would sing beautifully.”
In 1957, Callas wrote of the woman who had an “essential role” in her artistic formation: “De Hidalgo had one method, which was the real bel canto way, where no matter how heavy a voice, it should always be kept light, it should always be worked on in a flexible way, never to weigh it down. It is a method of keeping the voice light and flexible and pushing the instrument into a certain zone where it might not be too large in sound, but penetrating. And teaching the scales, trills, all the bel canto embellishments, which is a whole vast language of its own… It is to this illustrious Spanish artist, whom the public and the old subscribers at La Scala will certainly recall as an unforgettable and superlative Rosina and as a splendid interpreter of other important roles, it is to this illustrious artist, I repeat, with a moved, devoted, and grateful heart, that I owe all my preparation and my artistic formation as an actress and musician. This elect woman, who, besides giving me her precious teaching, gave me her whole heart as well…”
Mme de Hidalgo died, aged 88, in Milan.

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Posted by on December 3, 2017 in Sopranos

 
 
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