Category Archives: Sopranos

BLANCHE ARRAL, Soprano * 10 October 1864, Belgium + 3 March 1945, Palisades Park, New Jersey, United States;

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Blanche Arral (10 October 1864 – 3 March 1945) was a Belgian coloratura soprano.

Born Clara Lardinois in Liège, Belgium, the youngest of 17 children, she studied under Mathilde Graumann Marchesi in Paris. She debuted in a small part in the 1884 world premiere of Jules Massenet’s Manon. Arral performed in various opera houses in Brussels, Paris and St. Petersburg before moving to the United States.

In 1901 she was with a touring company in Indochina, while waiting for the 1902 Exposition of Hanoi to open, performing at Haiphong and the Hanoi Opera House.[1]

In October 1909 she debuted at Carnegie Hall and joined the Metropolitan Opera for the 1909–1910 season. She received her voice instruction from Mathilde Graumann Marchesi. Arral was married to Hamilton Dwight Bassett, a journalist from Cincinnati.[2] Author Jack London based the character of Lucille Arral in his short story collection Smoke Bellew on Blanche Arral.

She died in Palisades Park, New Jersey.

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Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Sopranos


STEFANIA WOYTOWICZ, Soprano * 8 October 1922, Orynin, East Poland5 + 1 September 2005, Warsaw, Poland;

The Polish soprano, Stefania Woytowicz, spent her childhood in Brest-Litowsk. Since 1943 she lived in Warsaw. In 1945 she began at the University of Krakau to study Romanistik and musicology. At the same time she sudied singing with Stanislawa Zawadska in Krakow. In 1949 she made her concert debut. In 1950 she won a singing competition in Poznan (Posen), in 1951 the Bach Competition in Leipzig, in 1954 the Competition of Prague Music Spring.

After Stefania Woytowicz’ first successes in Poland, followed in 1955 a big tour to Austria, Russia and China. Since then she had shining successes in the concert halls all over the world, in London and Paris, in Stockholm and Moscow, in Holland and Germany and at the Festival of Edinburgh. In 1960 the singer, who kept her domicile in Warsaw, undertook a big concert tour to North America. At the Salzburg Festival she sang in 1965 a solo part in Symphony of Gustav Mahler, in 1970 in Lukas-Passion by K. Penderecki. In 1970 she appeared in a concert in Brussels, in 1973 at Maggio Musicale in Florence. On the stage she did not appear, probably however in television operas. In addition she sang opera music on numerous records. She had richly formed soprano voice of unusual luminous timbre. She was also am important interpreter of modern music (as Lieder nach Ansichtspostkartentexten by Alban Berg).

Recordings: Supraphon, Muza (Halka by Moniuszko); Eterna, DGG (including title role in complete recondition of the opera Tosca, Stabat Mater by Dvorák, Leonore in La forza del destino), Philips (Lukas-Passion and Utrenja by Penderecki), Telefunken (Lieder of Frédéric Chopin), Edition Schwann (3rd Symphony of Górecki), Eterna, RCA (Utrenja by Penderecki).


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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in Sopranos


GRACIELA RIVERA, Soprano * 17 April 1921, Ponce, Puerto Rico + 17 July 2011, Mays Landing, Hamilton, New Jersey, United States;

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Graciela Rivera (April 17, 1921 – July 17, 2011) was the first Puerto Rican to sing a lead role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Graciela Rivera was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. She was the seventh of eight children born to evangelical minister-cabinetmaker Gonzalo Salvador Rivera and Enriqueta Padilla. As a child she enjoyed singing. As a church pastor, her father who would often play in his record player the opera music of Caruso. He owned a piano and when he played she would sing church hymns with her mother. She was considered very talented by her family and teachers alike.

Her family moved to Cataño and later to Santurce, a section of San Juan, where she finished her primary and secondary education. She was a student at Santurce Central High School when she auditioned and participated in school productions of “The Magic Flute”, “Il trovatore”, “Rigoletto”, “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “Aida” (Ms. Rivera believes these were the first operas ever produced by a high school anywhere in the world). She delighted audiences in Puerto Rico with her soprano voice in concerts which she organized. She planned to use the money obtained from these concerts to pay for her studies at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

Rivera moved to New York after she graduated from high school. She enrolled at Juilliard’s and took voice classes, piano lessons, music theory, harmony and composition, graduating in 1943. Upon the outbreak of World War II, she sang for the American troops overseas as a member of the Red Cross.

In 1945, she was given the role of Adele in the musical “Rosalinda”, a Broadway version of Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus. Rivera traveled to France and Germany with the production. That very same year she made her operatic debut as Rosina in “The Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini at the New Orleans Opera.

In December 1951, she became the first Puerto Rican to sing a lead role at the New York Metropolitan Opera as Lucia in the production of Lucia di Lammermoor. She earned accolades for her performance from critics around the world. In 1953, Rivera was proclaimed “Citizen of the Year” by the City of New York.

In 1954 Rivera was featured as a guest singer in Name That Tune, and later that year, at an instance of Your Show of Shows, serving as a replacement for Marguerite Piazza. In 1956, she performed at the Theater of the University of Puerto Rico and one of her back-up singers was a young fellow Puerto Rican by the name of Justino Diaz, who would someday also become an opera singer. That same year Rivera was presented with a special recognition by the Government of Puerto Rico.

In 1959, Rivera returned to New York where she had a weekly radio show at WHOM. She traveled regularly between New York and Puerto Rico, in Puerto Rico she participated in the IV Pablo Casals Festival
She taught Puerto Rican music, Italian and Spanish at the Hostos Community College for 15 years before retiring in 1987. She also held conferences at Hunter College, Rutgers College and Lehman College. In 1993, Rivera earned her Doctorate Degree in Humanities from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and in 1996 she was bestowed with a Honoris Causa from Lehman College.

Rivera died on 17 July 2011 at her home in the Mays Landing section of Hamilton Township, Atlantic County, New Jersey. She was survived by her daughter, Ginny Soto, and son-in-law, Sam Soto, of Mays Landing, N.J.; her daughter-in-law, Jean Marie Zumchak; and her grandchildren, Joseph Zumchak III, and Jacob Zumchak of Port Richey, Fla.; in addition to many nieces and nephews.

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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Sopranos


JENNY LIND, Soprano * 6 October 1820, Stockholm, Sweden + 2 November 1887, Herefordshire, United Kingdom;

Jenny Lind, c. 1870.

Jenny Lind, original name Johanna Maria Lind (born Oct. 6, 1820, Stockholm—died Nov. 2, 1887, Malvern, Worcestershire, Eng.), Swedish-born operatic and oratorio soprano admired for her vocal control and agility and for the purity and naturalness of her art.

Lind made her debut in Der Freischütz at Stockholm in 1838 and in 1841 studied with Manuel García in Paris. Giacomo Meyerbeer wrote the part of Vielka for her in Ein Feldlager in Schlesien (Berlin, 1844), and in 1847 she sang in London the role of Amelia in I Masnadieri, written for her by Giuseppe Verdi. She first appeared in London in Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable (May 4, 1847); Henry Chorley reported that the town “went mad about the Swedish nightingale.”

Her range extended from the B below middle C to high G. A skilled coloratura singer who often wrote her own cadenzas, she also sang simple songs with great appeal. Eventually her sincere piety made her determine to leave the stage. Success in oratorio and recital made it easier for her to do so, and her final appearance in opera was in 1849, in Robert le Diable. The following year she toured the United States under P.T. Barnum’s auspices, and in 1852 she married her accompanist, Otto Goldschmidt. She and her husband lived first in Dresden, Ger., and from 1856 in England. In 1870 she appeared in Goldschmidt’s oratorio Ruth at Düsseldorf, and in 1875 she led the sopranos in the Bach choir in London, founded by Goldschmidt. Her last appearance was in 1883. From 1883 to 1886 she taught at the Royal College of Music, London.

Courtesy: Britannica

Litrato ni Gerhard Santos.

Lind in 1850

Source: Wikipedia

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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Sopranos


ELENA RIZZIERI, Soprano * 6 October 1922, Rome, Italy + 17 February 2016, Rome, Italy;

Elena Rizzieri (6 October 1922, Rome, Italy + 17 February 2016, Rome, Italy) was an Italian soprano.


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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Sopranos


MARIA JERITZA, Soprano * 6 October 1887, Brno, Czech Republic + 10 July 1982, Orange, New Jersey, United States;

The flamboyant soprano Maria Jeritza, born in Moravia, made her early career primarily in Vienna, where her exceptional beauty, silvery spinto-weight voice and flair for dramatic (not to say sensational) stage action made her a star of the first magnitude. Baptized Mimi Jedlitzková and later calling herself Marie Jedlitzka, she sang a wide repertory and participated in the premieres of several important operas. Her glamorous presence was as welcome at the Metropolitan Opera as it was in Europe and she became a leading artist there in the 1920s.

Surprising though it may seem, given her later theatrics, Jeritza was a very shy child. Beginning her studies at the age of 12, she entered the Brünn Musikschule. At 14, she undertook private lessons from Professor Auspitzer, with whom she remained for several years. Although urged by Auspitzer to audition for a position with a number of regional opera houses, Jeritza refused, too terrified to sing before an audience of any size. Her teacher, therefore, devised a ruse, asking her one day simply to sing through some arias. When she finished, the director of the Olmütz Opera appeared from behind some draperies and informed the startled young soprano that he wished to engage her.

Jeritza’s Olmütz debut as Elsa in Lohengrin saw the start of a rapid rise in confidence and dramatic savvy. Less than half a year later, she traveled to Vienna to audition for the Volksoper. Singing but a few measures, she was informed that she would be hired. Two seasons at the Volksoper led to guest engagements elsewhere and an appointment to Vienna’s Court Opera, especially at the request of Emperor Franz Joseph. Meanwhile, she had created the title role in Stuttgart of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, thus beginning her long-term relationship with the composer who would give her yet another spectacular role, that of the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten in its 1919 premiere in Vienna. In both Frau and in the 1916 premiere of the revised Ariadne in Vienna, Jeritza was paired with soprano Lotte Lehmann. Jeritza also created the role of Janácek’s Jenufa for Vienna, as she was later to do for New York.

Another highly publicized Jeritza creation was the role of Marietta in Erich Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt, premiered in Hamburg in 1920 and repeated in New York the following year. This role, in fact, provided the vehicle for Jeritza’s Metropolitan debut. During this time, the soprano also achieved renown for her interpretations of Puccini heroines. Her imperious Turandot was hailed as a major accomplishment and her not-quite vulnerable Tosca became exceedingly famous, not least for her singing “Vissi d’arte” from a prone position. Tenor Aureliano Pertile, celebrated in his native Italy as the best of the dramatic tenors, had the misfortune to make his debut opposite Jeritza’s first Metropolitan Tosca. Jeritza received what, according to Met manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza’s recollection, was the greatest response he had ever witnessed in a theatre. Pertile was all but ignored.

Jeritza’s successes embraced a wide range of roles, all of them interesting, if sometimes misconceived. Her Octavian in Rosenkavalier was both stunningly handsome and handsomely sung. Her Minnie, Thaïs, Salome, Fedora, and Ägyptische Helena (which she premiered at the Met) were creatures of unending fascination. Although Jeritza left the Met during the Depression years when pay cuts were mandated, she continued to enthrall audiences in Europe throughout the 1930s.

Litrato ni Gerhard Santos.

Maria Jeritza as Elisabeth

Litrato ni Gerhard Santos.

as Elisabeth MET 1923

Litrato ni Gerhard Santos.

Maria Jeritza as Octavian with Sundelius MET

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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Sopranos


ERZSÉBET HÁZY, Soprano * 1 October 1929, Bratislava, Slovakia + 24 November 1982, Budapest, Hungary;

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Erzsebet Hazy (1929-1982)

“When she stepped on the podium, she enthused the atmosphere with her soul. She was the type of artist who carried a unique aura. This was the main secret of her success at home and abroad. She had that almost indefinable ability by which a great actress or a singer-personality does not live her part, rather she becomes the personification of it.” Musicologist Peter Varnai summarized Erzsebet Hazy’s initial ascendancy, later on unfortunate early disrupted career with these words.

She was the outstanding personality of the post WWII Hungarian opera who was a favourite of the Budapest audience. Erzsebet Hazy was born in Bratislava in 1929. She finished her elementary studies in her home town, and had a native-like command of Hungarian, German, Slovak and Czech. Her family moved to Budapest through the resettlements of 1939. Here, Erzsebet (Boebe – as her parents, friends and colleagues called her) first attended the Maria Theresa grammar school, and later on she continued her studies at the National Music School as a piano major. At the Singing Faculty of the same institution, her teachers included Geza Laszlo, the acclaimed teacher, who introduced her to Aladar Toth, director of the Hungarian State Opera at that time.

Erzsebet Hazy became the original member of the Choir of the Hungarian Radio, and a year later she entered the State Opera with a scholarship. In a radio interview she recounted her first memory at the Opera as follows: “In 1951 at an audition I sang – I don’t remember exactly what, but many witnesses state – a real difficult aria, the aria of the Queen of the Night, and in a general pause, I turned around and Aladar Toth suddenly exclaimed: She is crazy, we need to accept her!” In March 1952, she first performed on stage in a little role of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, as Susanna. A few weeks later, however, she won the audience’s heart as Oscar in Verdi’s UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. From the 1952/53 season she had continuously sung title roles. She was on stage almost each night, and she charmed the critics and audience with her voice, gestures, playing and her beauty. In the 1950s and 60s Erzsebet Hazy knew no bounds regarding the genre or style.
In the comic operas of Mozart and Donizetti, important interpretaions were related to her name as the performer of the heroines of Verdi and Puccini. Her legendary Puccini series started in September, 1957 with LA BOHEME, in which she wonderfully interpreted Mimi. Perhaps the greatest success of her career was the title role of MANON LESCAUT which was premiered in December 1961, an opera which was revived nearly after 20 years. In the following year, there were more than 40, full-house MANON performances, which is almost unprecedented in the 120-year-old history of the opera. Later, Erzsebet Hazy also excelled in the title role of MADAMA BUTTERFLY in the mid 1960s, but she was also acknowledged for her performances in Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN as well as in Leoncavallo’s I PAGLIACCI. She summarized her ars poetica in an interview at that time as follows: “I am always discontent with myself because my expectations are too high. I would
not sing if I did not want to approach Callas once, and I would not perform if I felt that for me it was hopeless to reach the level of the greatest artists. There is no value in performing art with little ambition.”

Besides the classics of the opera literature, Erzsebet Hazy also proved her talent in the title roles of contemporary Hungarian operas. She performed in the premieres of the operas of Sandor Szokolay (SAMSON, BLOOD WEDDING, HAMLET), Andras Mihaly (TOGETHER AND ALONE), Gyorgy Ranki (THE TRAGEDY OF MAN) as well as Emil Petrovics (CRIME AND PUNISHMENT). She was also entrusted to sing in other modern opera such as: Menotti: THE TELEPHONE, Orff: DIE KLUGE, which are rather complicated both technically and musically. Besides her work at the Opera, she regularly performed in oratory performances, but she did not have an aversion to the lighter genres. She also sang the operettas and songs of Offenbach, Johann Strauss, Jr., Ferenc Lehar, Pal Abraham, and Szabolcs Fenyes. The Hungarian film directors of the era engaged her with pleaure, even though she rarely fulfilled such requests. She performed the Grand Duchess in the film entitled
“Geroldstein Kaland” based on Offenbach’s work in 1954.

She also played a nursery school teacher who lived in a small town and dreamed about a musical career in Viktor Gertler’s film, “Felfele a lejton” in 1958. She also performed the title role of “Es akkor a pasas (1966), a film also directed by Gertler. From the beginning of the 1960’s parallel to the political detente, the leading artists of the Hungarian State Opera occasionally had the chance to appear as guest artists.

Besided performing in the opera houses of the neighbouring socialist countries (including the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscos), Erzsebet Hazy scored a great success at the Vienna Staatsoper as well as in different German theatres. She was also offered a permanent contract, but it did not even occur to her to leave Hungary. In 1965 at the proposal of the Members of the Opera House, she was awarded with the Liszt prize, Kossuth prize, she was a Merited and Eminent Artist. In the middle of the 1970s her successful artistic career broke; she had to face severe professional and private crises. In her last years, she struggled with problems of singing technique, memory, alcoholism and depression. Her health rapidly worsened in 1982 and she passed away on November 24th, at the age of 53. Her voice was preserved for posterity on dozens of records as well as radio and television recordings. Thousands of people bade her a fond farewell at her bier set in
the foyer of the Erkel Theatre. Andras Hihaly, composer, who was the director of the State Opera at that time spoke highly of Erzsebet Hazy’s art as follows: ‘She was the virtuoso and lover of the state, someone who owned all colours of it. The Opera House has never had such a real prima donna, someone who was so influential and intense who could sing so beautifully.”

This is from a Hungaroton CD:

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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Sopranos

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