MANFRED JUNGWIRTH, Bass * 04 June 1919 in St Pölten, Austria + 23 October 1999, Passau, Bavaria, Germany;

Manfred Jungwirth

Jungwirth, Manfred, Austrian bass; b. St. Polten, June 4, 1919. He studied voice in St. Polten, Vienna, Bucharest, Munich, and Berlin; entered the Univ. of Vienna to study medicine in 1937, but passed the examinations in voice, piano, and conducting instead (1940). He sang for German troops in Romania and Bulgaria (1941–45); made his operatic debut as Gounod’s Méphistophélès at the Bucharest Opera (1942), and then sang at the Innsbruck Landestheater (1945–47). In 1948 he was awarded his Ph.D. in musicology in Vienna and also won first prize in the Geneva voice competition; then sang in Zürich, Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, and London; he made regular appearances at the Frankfurt am Main Opera (1960–67) and the Vienna State Opera (from 1967). On Feb. 16, 1974, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. as Baron Ochs, which became his most famous role.


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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Bassses


ALOIS PERNERSTORFER, Bass-baritone * 03 June 1912, Vienna, Austria + 12 May 1978, Vienna, Austria;

The Austrian bass, Alois Pernerstorfer, began his training in 1933 at the Vienna College of Music with Theo Lierhammer and with Josef Krips.

Alois Pernerstorfer made his debut in 1936 at the State Theatre of Graz as Biterolf in Tannhäuser. After three-year activity in Graz he came in 1939 to the Vienna Volksoper. In 1945 he joined the Vienna State Opera, whose member he remained from then. In 1947-1948 was temporarily engaged at the City theatre (Opera House) of Zurich, and afterwards appeared there often as a guest. In Zurich he participated in 1947 in the premiere of the opera Der unsterbliche Kranke by Hans Haug. The artist sang at the Festivals of Edinburgh and Glyndebourne (1951 as Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro and as Leporello in Don Giovanni) and almost annually at the Salzburg Festival. There he sang in 1948, 1953 as well as 1956-1958 the Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro, 1957 Orest in Elektra by R. Strauss, 1958 in Vanessa by Samuel Barber, 1959 in Schweigsamen Frau by R. Strauss, 1962-1963 Arkas in Iphigenie in Aulis by Gluck, 1959-1960 in Zauberflöte, 1960 and 1963 in Rosenkavalier, 1964 in Verdi’s Macbeth and in August 1953 in the premiere of the opera Der Prozess by G. von Einem. In addition he appeared in many concerts in the Festival (for the first time already 1937). He appeared in Salzburg in the premiere of Mozart’s La finta semplice. Under the direction of Bernhard Paumgartner followed then appearances with this youth opera of Mozart in the European music centres (Paris, London, Brussels, Germany, Scandinavia). Appearances brought him also to the Milan’s La Scala (1950, Alberich in Der Ring des Nibelungen under Wilhelm Furtwängler), to the Teatro Liceo of Barcelona, to the Grand Opéra Paris and to the Opera (Théâtre de la Monnaie) of Brussels. In the period of 1951-1952 he was member of the Metropolitan Opera New York.

Alois Pernerstorfer also appeared successfully as a concert singer. He was married with the soprano Henny Herze (1906-1993), who had a successful career at the Vienna Volksoper, particularly as operetta singer.

Recordings: Nixa (Don Giovanni), MMS, Philips (La finta semplice by Mozart), Columbia, Bruno Walter Society (Alberich in complete Der Ring des Nibelungen from Milan’s La Scala, 1950). On the label Cetra appeared a complete recordings of Elektra from Salzburg Festival 1957 with him as an Orest, and of Wagner’s Tannhäuser.

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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Bass-Baritones


ROLAND HAYES, Tenor * 03 June 1887, Curryville, near Calhoun, Georgia, USA + 01 January 1977, Boston, Massachusetts, USA;

The American lyric tenor, Roland Hayes, was born in Curryville, Georgia, near Calhoun, to Fanny and William Hayes, who were former slaves. When Hayes was 11 his father died, and his mother moved the family to Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was a singer trained with Arthur Calhoun in Chattanooga as well as at Fisk University in Nashville. As a student he began publicly performing touring with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1911. He furthered his studies in Boston with Arthur Hubbard. During his period studying with Hubbard he was a messenger at the Hancock Life Insurance Company to support himself. Then in London he studied with George Henschel and Amanda Ira Aldridge.

Roland Hayes began with arranging his own recitals and coast-to-coast tours from 1916 to 1919. He sang at Craig’s Pre-Lenten Recitals and several Carnegie Hall concerts. He made his official debut that year in Boston’s Symphony Hall which received critical acclaim. He performed with the Philadelphia Concert Orchestra, and at the Atlanta Colored Music Festivals and at the Washington, D.C. Washington Conservatory concerts. In 1917, he toured with the Hayes Trio which he formed with baritone William Richardson and pianist William Lawrence who was his regular accompanist. His London debut was in April 1920 at Aeolian Hall with pianist Lawrence Brown as his accompanist. Soon Hayes was singing in capital cities across Europe and was quite famous when he returned to the USA in 1923. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1924.

Roland Hayes finally secured professional management with the Boston Symphony Orchestra Concert Company. He is considered the first African American male concert artist to receive wide international acclaim as well as at home. He was reportedly making $100,000 a year at this point in his career. Critics lauded his abilities and linguistic skills with songs in French, German and Italian. He published a collection of spirituals in 1948 as My Songs; Aframerican Religious Folk Songs Arranged and Interpreted.

Roland Hayes is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He and his wife Helen Alzada Mann had a daughter, Afrika, in 1933. After Hayes’ wife and daughter were thrown out of a Rome, Georgia shoe store for sitting in the white-only section, Hayes confronted the store owner. The police then arrested both Hayes, whom they beat, and his wife. Hayes and his family eventually left Georgia.

In 1982, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga opened a new musical performance center, the Roland W. Hayes Concert Hall. The concert venue is located at the Dorothy Patten Fine Arts center. The Roland Hayes Committee was formed in 1990 to advocate the induction of Roland Hayes into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. In 1992, when the Calhoun Gordon Arts Council was incorporated, the Roland Hayes Committee became the Roland Hayes Music Guild and Museum in Calhoun, Georgia. The opening was attended by his daughter Afrika. There is a historical marker located on the grounds of Calhoun High School (Calhoun, Georgia) on the north west corner of the campus near the front of the Calhoun Civic Auditorium.

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Portrait of Tenor Roland Hayes as a child. Handwritten on front: “Roland Hayes.” Undecipherable handwriting on back.
Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

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Tenor Roland Hayes: 1940 ca

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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Tenors


INA SOUEZ, Soprano * 03 June 1903 – Windsor, Colorado, USA + 07 December 1992 – Santa Monica, California, USA;

The American soprano, Ina Souez, was born to a family of Cherokee descent in Windsor, Colorado. Her real name was Rains, Souez being the name of her maternal grandmother. She studied singing in Denver the Canadian contralto Florence Hinman (Florence Hinricks), who sent her to Europe in 1931, and studied with Sofia del Campo in Milan.

After making her debut in 1928 at Ivrea as Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme, Ina Souez sang at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. In May 1929 she made her Covent Garden debut as Liu, with Eva Turner as Turandot. She caused a sensation, but was not re-engaged. For the next decade she made her home in England. It was Hamish Wilson, who designed the sets for all the pre-war productions there, apart from Verdi’s Macbeth, who brought Ina Souez to the notice of Glyndebourne. As a result of her success as Fiordiligi, Souez was asked back to Covent Garden for the 1935 season, causing a crisis at Glyndebourne, where the management, taking it for granted that she would return, had not contracted her for W.A. Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. In the end matters were sorted out: Souez sang Fiordiligi on May 30, and June 7, 1935 at Glyndebourne; between the performances she sang Micaela at Covent Garden on June 4, with Conchita Supervia as Carmen, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. Once again she was very well received, but not re-engaged. In 1936 she added Donna Anna to her Glyndebourne repertoire and by all accounts this part suited her vocally and temperamentally even better than Fiordiligi. She sang both roles for the next three seasons, and also appeared in Stockholm (1939) and The Hague, where she sang in Verdi’s Requiem.

Ina Souez was the prima donna of the Glyndebourne festival in its formative years (1934-1936) and made her home in England for a while. Cosi fan tutte, an opera much less well-known then than now, rapidly became popular. Souez, who married in 1929 an Englishman and lived in London until 1938, was described in the programme as English. Returning to Glyndebourne every year until the outbreak of World War II, she continued to sing Fiordiligi and, from 1936, Donna Anna in W.A. Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Her Donna Anna was described as ‘superbly fiery and brilliant’, while her Fiordiligi was thought to have increased in technical security and dramatic strength with every season that passed.

At the beginning of World War II, Ina Souez returned to the USA and enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps. After singing Fiordiligi with the New Opera Company in New York in 1941 and with the New York City Opera in 1945, she retired from opera and became a jazz singer She toured America with Spike Jones and his City Slickers, whose popularity was at its height in the late 1940’s. “Spike was offering me some real money,” she later said. She spent more than 10 years with him as the butt of his musical satire, with members of the band removing pigeons from her huge hat as she sang.

After leaving the band, Ina Souez taught voice in San Francisco and later in Los Angeles. She had lived at the home for eight years after a stroke, She died at a nursing home in Santa Monica, California. She was 89 years old.

The passion and involvement that Ina Souez brought to her singing of W.A. Mozart in no way detracted from its stylishness as can be heard on the Glyndebourne recordings of Cosi fan Tutte and Don Giovanni, in which she takes her accustomed roles. Those recordings were the first commercial recordings of those two W.A. Mozart operas and are treasured by collectors. Her recorded performance of Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte is widely regarded as the yardstick by which all subsequent interpretations have been measured. These recordings, frequently reissued, remain as a worthy souvenir of a gifted singer who, although her career was not of long duration, will not be soon forgotten. She also won praise for her performances of Verdi’s Requiem with the tenor Jussi Bjoerling.

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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Sopranos


GEORGE LONDON, Bass-baritone * 30 May 1920, Canada + 24 March 1985, New York City, New York, United States;

George London (May 30, 1920 – March 24, 1985), born George Burnstein, was a Canadian concert and operatic bass-baritone.

George London was born to a Russian Jewish family in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and grew up in Los Angeles, California, United States.

In the summer of 1945 Antal Doráti invited his longtime friend, the Hungarian bass Mihály Székely, to sing at the first concert of the newly reorganized Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Because of travel difficulties Székely was unable to arrive in time, so Doráti called upon young George London as a substitute.

After performing widely with tenor Mario Lanza and soprano Frances Yeend as part of the Bel Canto Trio in 1947–48, London was engaged by the Vienna State Opera, where he scored his first major success in 1949.

In 1950 he sang the role of Pater Profundis in Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

He was among the most famous exponents of his five signature roles: Don Giovanni, Boris Godunov, Wotan, Scarpia and Amfortas. He never recorded any role in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, although recital performances of Hans Sachs’ monologues exist on record.

In 1951 he sang at Bayreuth as Amfortas in Parsifal, and reappeared frequently in the 1950s and early 1960s as Amfortas and in the title role of The Flying Dutchman. He made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1951 as Amonasro in Aida, and sang over 270 performances, both baritone and bass-baritone roles, in such operas as The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Arabella, Tosca, Don Giovanni, Boris Godunov, Carmen, Otello, Parsifal, Tannhäuser, The Tales of Hoffmann, Pelléas et Mélisande, and Faust. In 1964, he created the role of Abdul in the American premiere of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage. He was the first American to sing the title role of Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War in 1960.[1]

He frequently performed in English: Broadway show tunes and negro spirituals. Recordings of both are available.

He recorded many of his roles for RCA Victor, Columbia Records, and Decca. He recorded Verdi’s Requiem with Richard Tucker and Lucine Amara, under Eugene Ormandy. A recording of a live concert with piano accompaniment is also available from VAI, which includes Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death, as well as several Schubert Lieder and a variety of songs in English.

During his Met career, in 1956, he appeared on Ed Sullivan’s television program in an abridged version of Act II of Tosca, opposite Maria Callas, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos. A kinescope of that performance was preserved. Another black-and-white videotape of him in the same role, opposite Renata Tebaldi in a complete performance, is sometimes available. In 1958, London performed the leading role of Wotan, in the groundbreaking recording of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold, conducted by Sir Georg Solti, and produced by John Culshaw for Decca.

Having already sung the Rheingold Wotan and the Siegfried Wanderer roles at the Met in New York in December 1961 and January 1962, he was ready to sing his first complete Ring Cycle. This was to be the now legendary new production mounted by Wieland Wagner at the Cologne Opera in West Germany in May 1962. Wieland Wagner was ready to try out new singers and production ideas in advance of his new Bayreuth Festival production which was scheduled for the summer of 1965 with London as Wotan and the Wanderer.

The Cologne Ring proved to be a great success (a private recording of Das Rheingold from this cycle exists to verify this) but London’s vocal health began to deteriorate rapidly during the 1963–64 season; subsequently the problem was diagnosed as a paralysed vocal cord. This problem increased so much that shortly after singing Wotan in Die Walküre at the Met in March 1965, he canceled his upcoming appearances at the Bayreuth Festival to rest and ideally recover his voice. However, his vocal decline continued so severely that by March 1966, he performed his last appearance at the Metropolitan Opera: the role of Amfortas in Parsifal. London subsequently received injections of Teflon in his paralyzed vocal cord – then the state-of-the-art treatment for this condition – which filled it out and therefore restored his voice to some extent. But he decided the improvement did not let him achieve again his self-imposed highest standards. He therefore ended his singing career in 1967, at 46.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and George London in “Le Nozze di Figaro”

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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Bass-Baritones


ROSA RAISA, Soprano * 30 May 1893, Białystok, Poland + 28 September 1963, Santa Monica, California, United States;

Born Raitza Burchstein in the Russian sector of late nineteenth-century Poland, Rosa Raisa ascended with blinding quickness to the upper echelons of the operatic world. A child witness to a pogrom in which dozens in her hometown were killed, young Raitza left her Russian-language native town and traveled to Italy where she trained with Barbara Marchisio who grounded her in the early and middle nineteenth-century Italian vocal tradition. After a successful Italian debut, she came to the Chicago Opera in the fall of 1913. There she remained for 24 years as reigning dramatic soprano. The lustre of her powerful instrument and the dramatic intensity of her stage personality made her an icon of the Chicago company, regarded with awe and respect throughout the world.

Raisa’s parents were Jewish and she remained fiercely proud of her heritage throughout her life, although she converted to Catholicism only weeks before her death in order to make possible burial next to her husband in Italy. Raisa left Poland for Italy, where other relatives had already emigrated. An audition for Maestro Vincenzo Lombardi led to a scholarship at the Naples Conservatory with Marchisio accepting her not as a class member, but as a private pupil. Marchisio also counseled the girl with the “exceptional” voice in matters of career preparation, good health, and adequate sleep. Raisa graduated in June 1911 and sang “Bel Raggio” for the ceremony. After performing in several orchestral concerts, she made her operatic debut on September 6, 1913, at the Teatro Reggio in Parma. Her Leonora in Verdi’s Oberto prompted the reviewer in Orfeo to describe her voice as “magnificent, rich in sonorous and powerful notes of beautiful timbre.” Although reservations about her awkwardness were mentioned, the writer predicted, “she will be splendidly successful.”

Only two months after her first performance on any stage, Raisa sang in Baltimore and Philadelphia before making her Chicago debut, singing first at a singers’ showcase at the Blackstone Hotel, then as Aida. The following January, Raisa sang the only secondary role of her career, taking on the First Flower Maiden in Parsifal. Her first Chicago-Philadelphia Opera Company tour took her to Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, St. Paul, and Milwaukee before the end of April 1914.

In May 1914, Raisa sang at Covent Garden, introducing her voice to English audiences in Aida and later singing Elena in Mefistofele and the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. Paris heard her as Nedda and Desdemona and Modena made its acquaintance with her in a long run of Zandonai’s Francesca di Rimini. Rome followed, then a season in Buenos Aires. Raisa made her La Scala debut in 1916, again as Aida. Later, she created in that theater the role of Asteria in Boito’s Nerone (1924) and was the choice of Puccini and Toscanini for the title role in the 1926 premiere of Turandot.

In 1920, Raisa married Italian baritone Giacomo Rimini. They sang together often and, upon retirement, opened a school of singing in Chicago. Critics were fond of Raisa, absorbed by her dramatic intensity and authority — and a voice described by the feared Claudia Cassidy as “a royal purple dramatic soprano shot with gold and fire.”

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Rosa Raisa as Maliella

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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Sopranos


JOAN HAMMOND, Soprano * 24 May 1912, Christchurch, New Zealand + 26 November 1996, Bowral, Australia;

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One of the great opera stars of the two decades following World War Two, Joan Hammond established a wide international following as a soprano on stage and as a recording artist.

Dame Joan was a woman of many talents. While at school, she won the NSW Junior Golf title and would eventually win the NSW Golf Championship three times and be runner-up in the nationals. In her early years, she trained in voice and violin at the Sydney Conservatorium and played violin with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Although her real love was for singing, success in this field did not begin until her talent was recognised by the wife of the then NSW Governor, who raised funds to send her to Vienna in 1936. There she trained under the best tutors of the day.

While striving to maintain her career during the early years of World War Two, she drove an ambulance in London during the Blitz.

In 1941, she recorded the Puccini aria, Oh My Beloved Father, which became the first classical aria to sell more than a million records. She entertained troops and civilians during the war, even singing in underground air raid shelters and on battleships in northern Scotland.

Returning to Australia in 1946, she resumed her career by singing all the major soprano roles in Europe, the United States and Australia. From 1975 she taught at the Victorian College of the Arts. She was the first artistic director of the Victoria State Opera and in 1974 she was created Dame of the British Empire.

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Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Sopranos

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