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TII NIEMELÄ, Soprano * 20 March 1917, Porvoo, Finland + 31 January 2018, Helsinki, Finland;

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Tii Niemelä (20 March 1917, Porvoo, Finland + 31 January 2018, Helsinki, Finland) was a Finnish soprano.

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Posted by on July 8, 2018 in Sopranos

 

NARIA DUCHÊNE-BILLIARD, Contralto * 1884 – ?;

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Maria Duchêne-Billiard (1884 – ?) was a French contralto of the Metropolitan Opera from 1912 to 1916. She portrayed such roles as Amneris in Aida, Giulietta in The Tales of Hoffmann, Lola in Cavalleria rusticana, Maddalena in Rigoletto. She sang the role of the Old Woman in L’amore dei tre re, Rosette in Manon, Schwertleite in Die Walküre, and the Solo Madrigalist in Manon Lescaut among others.

Biography
She was born in 1884. She made her debut at the Met on March 16, 1912 as La Cieca in Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda with Emmy Destinn in the title role, Enrico Caruso as Enzo, and Arturo Toscanini conducting.

She appeared in the American premiere of Boris Godunov as the Nurse in 1912 with Arturo Toscanini conducting.

On March 12, 1913 she was to sing the role of Giulietta in Les Contes d’Hoffmann when she fainted and her role was taken over by madam Fremsted who had sung the role when it premiered in the United States.

With the company she notably portrayed the role of the Peasant Woman in the United States premiere of Gustave Charpentier’s Julien on February 26, 1914.

Her mother, Elizabeth Duchêne (1859–1915) died in 1915 of pneumonia just as Maria was about to take the stage as Lola in Cavalleria rusticana.

Her final and 166th performance with the Met was as Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera in an out of town performance at the Boston Opera House on April 18, 1916. Details of her life after leaving the Met are unknown.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Contraltos

 

GILDA DALLA RIZZA, Soprano * 12 October 1892, Verona, Italy + 5 July 1975, Milan, Italy;

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She received her education from the pedagogues V.Ricci and Orefice in Bologna and debuted at the Teatro Verdi at the age of 19 in 1912 as Charlotte in “Werther” . In 1913 she performed at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome in the premieres “La Leggenda delle Sette Torri” by Alberto Gasco and “Uguale Fortuna” by Vincenzo Tommasini. She also sang Iris and Manon Lescaut there. In 1915, she made her debut at La Scala as Yaroslavna in “Prince Igor'”. Mascagni’s Isabeau and Lodoletta, Maddalena and Oktavian at this time. Her singing of Minnie brought her to the attention of Puccini, who wrote Magda in “La Rondine” Lauretta and Suor Angelica were also great roles of hers. Violetta, Zandonai’s Giulietta and Francesca, Stephana in Giordano’s “Siberia”. “Il Piccolo Marat ” of Mascagni. Wagner’s Eva, Berlioz’ marguerite, Louise, Thais, Alice Ford, Montemezzi’s Flora, and an occasional Turandot. In 1933 she sang the title role at La Scala in the Italian premiere of “La vida breve”. Arabella in the Italian premiere too. Among her pupils were Adriana Lazzarini, Rita Maltrasi, Elena Rizzieri and Laura Zannini. She was married to the tenor Agostino Capuzzo (1889-1963). The voice of the artist was distinguished by her tone and beauty as well as by her dramatic powers.

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Gilda dalla Rizza as Minnie in “La fanciulla del West”

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2018 in Sopranos

 

BELLA ALTEN, Soprano * 30 June 1877, Poland + 31 December 1962, London, United Kingdom;

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Bella Alten (June 30, 1877 – December 31, 1962) was an operatic soprano who performed at the Metropolitan Opera House during the early 1900s. Bella Alten was born in Zaskaczewo, Poland. She studied with Gustav Engel and Joachim at the Imperial Conservatory in Berlin, and later with Aglaja Orgeni in Dresden. Her first appearance in opera was as Aennchen in Der Freischütz in 1897 after which engagements followed in Berlin, Brunswick, Cologne and London. She was singing Cherubino in Marriage of Figaro, Nedda in Pagliacci and Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg under Hans Richter when Heinrich Conried, the Metropolitan Opera’s General Manager, heard her at the Covent Garden and engaged her for the Met.

Her New York debut took place in November 1904 as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro in a cast that included Emma Eames, Marcella Sembrich and Antonio Scotti.

During her nine seasons at the Metropolitan (1904–1908 and 1909–1914) she sang 31 different roles and a total of 426 performances. She appeared in casts that included famous singers such as Enrico Caruso, Frances Alda, Pol Plançon, Nellie Melba, Emmy Destinn, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Pasquale Amato, Olive Fremstad, Louise Homer, and Geraldine Farrar, among others.

Her operatic career included six Metropolitan premiere performances – Adele in Die Fledermaus (1905), Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel (1905), Saffi in Der Zigeunerbaron (1906), Olga in Fedora (1906), Columbina in Le Donne Curiose (1912), and Lisetta in L’amore Medico (1914).

In November 1905 when she sang Gretel in the premiere Metropolitan performance of Hänsel und Gretel, the composer Engelbert Humperdinck was in the audience. This opera received 11 performances that first season and was selected by Theodore Roosevelt’s wife as a benefit for the Legal Aid Society. Alten sang Gretel in this opera every season she was with the Met (77 times.) The one season she was not there the opera wasn’t presented. Her other most frequently performed roles were Musetta in La Bohème (68 times), and Nedda in Pagliacci (34 times).

From 1908 to 1909, Alten went to Braunchweig, Germany where she created Madama Butterfly for that city. She also appeared in Bayreuth. Her only recordings date from this period; three selections from Madama Butterfly and the Ballatella from Pagliacci recorded for the Gramophone Company and all sung in German.

Alten also appeared on Broadway as Maid Marian in Reginald De Koven’s Robin Hood with Wallace Hyde and Florence Wickham. This opened May 6, 1912 at the New Amsterdam Theatre and ran for 64 performances. The popular air from this work, Oh Promise Me, is still heard frequently at weddings today.

During her Metropolitan career in 1912, Bella Alten married Hermann Deri, an Austrian State Banker, and became Bella Alten-Deri. She returned to Vienna and continued to sing at both the Wiener Hofoper and Volksoper. She gave concerts and radio broadcasts as late as 1936. When the Nazis came to power in Austria, she and her husband moved to London where she died December 31, 1962 following her husband’s death in 1941.

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Bella Alten as Nedda in Pagliacci

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Bella Alten as Musetta in La bohème

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Bella Alten by Aime Dupont

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2018 in Sopranos

 

NELSON EDDY, Baritone * 29 June 1901, Providence, Rhode Island, United States + 06 March 1967, Palm Beach, Florida, United States;

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Nelson Eddy was a formally trained baritone who is most often remembered for his movie partnership with singing actress Jeanette MacDonald, an association largely played out on the sound stages at MGM. Nonetheless, Eddy was a fine singer in his own right, with established credentials gained in legitimate opera, operetta, and recital before he ever appeared in the movies. In his spare time, Eddy was also a painter and sculptor, and before he decided to pursue singing as a full-time occupation, was interested in journalism and graphic arts.

Born in Providence, RI, Nelson Eddy was, by his own admission, raised as a pampered “mama’s boy.” His singing in the local church choir gained notice, and when Eddy’s mother relocated to Philadelphia in 1917, Eddy began to divide his time working at a local newspaper and taking lessons from legendary singer David Bispham. Bispham was by this time old and ill, and died in 1921; Eddy finished his vocal training with teachers Eduardo Lippe and William W. Vilonat. Eddy started out his singing career in Philadelphia with semi-professional groups singing light opera and Gilbert & Sullivan, and this led to his joining the cast of the Philadelphia Civic Opera, making his professional debut as Tonio in I Pagliacci on December 11, 1924. He stayed with the company through its dissolution as a result of the Wall Street stock market crash of October 1929, minus a trip to Europe for more vocal study that finished in 1927. Also in 1927, Eddy began his long association with radio, a medium that would greatly help to enhance his reputation.

When the curtain ran down on the Philadelphia Civic Opera, Eddy landed a spot performing with the Philadelphia Grand Opera, beginning with the 1931-1932 season. Interestingly, Eddy’s first role with this company was as the Drum Major in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck. Eddy also began to tour out of town, giving recital concerts in New York and elsewhere, generally to excellent reviews. While in Hollywood in 1933, Eddy also appeared in walk-on parts in a couple of films, as he was known for his boyish good looks. Within a couple of years, Eddy was getting contract offers to play in the movies, and in 1935 he decided to close out his career as an opera singer, appearing for the last time on the opera stage as Amonasro in a production of Verdi’s Aïda at the San Francisco Opera. Eddy would never appear at the Metropolitan Opera in a regular production, but he would go into the movies as an A-list player. For some reason, Eddy’s activity as a commercial recording artist didn’t begin until this time, although earlier recordings of his singing going back to 1932 have been found in radio sources.

For his first major film role, Eddy was paired with an actress he’d met and briefly dated about a year earlier, Jeanette MacDonald. MacDonald was an experienced screen player, and Eddy frequently credited her afterward for helping him survive in their first production together, Naughty Marietta (1935). This film, based on the Victor Herbert operetta, was a runaway success as the MacDonald-Eddy team had a chemistry that clicked with audiences. This chemistry carried them through seven more operetta films through 1942. Not everyone shared the public’s infatuation with Nelson Eddy; M-G-M studio executive Louis B. Mayer hated him, and the feeling was mutual. Mayer hoped to sabotage Eddy’s celebrity by putting him in outfits and settings that made him look ridiculous. Unfortunately for Mayer, Eddy’s fans couldn’t get enough of him, although this did help give rise to the ill-informed critical notion of Eddy as a “wooden” actor who couldn’t make it on his own.

The MacDonald-Eddy partnership in the movies ended with the film I Married an Angel, and though Eddy attempted to pitch projects featuring the pair to other studios, no one was buying. In 1942, Eddy left MGM and joined the OSS, working as an intelligence agent under the pretext of conducting a singing tour of the Middle East. Eddy returned from his tour of duty only to discover that the wind had gone out of the sails of his film career, and his last film was a Republic Western, Northwest Outpost (1947). Although Eddy could still find work on radio for a time, by the early ’50s he was in a funk and not working. To change that, Eddy found a new partner in singer Gayle Sherwood and began to entertain on the nightclub circuit, rather than in the recital hall — by that time Eddy had lost his self-confidence and didn’t think he was “good enough” to return to opera. Eddy, however, was good enough to appear with Sherwood on a TV production of The Desert Song in 1955. When in the following year Jeanette MacDonald joined him for a special TV appearance, it attracted hordes of fan mail. In 1957, Eddy and MacDonald worked together once again, recording an LP for RCA Victor entitled Favorites in Stereo. The record sold more than a million copies, but it proved a last hurrah for both artists. Jeanette MacDonald was mostly bed-ridden with heart trouble for the last years of her life, and died in 1965 at age 61. On March 5, 1967, Eddy told an interviewer that he planned to “sing until I drop” — and he did, of a stroke, later than night. Nelson Eddy was 65 years of age.

By the time he died, Nelson Eddy was already the butt of a great deal of ridicule, cast about by a cynical society that viewed operetta itself as a hopelessly outdated form of entertainment. By the turn of the 21st century however, an entire cult has grown up around the MacDonald-Eddy (or “Mac-Eddy”) phenomenon. Fans contend that there was a personal relationship between Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald that continued on an intermittent basis for most of their lives, though the two married others and never acknowledged their mutual affection publicly. Some say this is a myth, but it has helped to keep Nelson Eddy in the public eye at a time when many of his more “legendary” contemporaries among baritones, such as Lawrence Tibbett and John Charles Thomas, are all but completely forgotten. Eddy may not have thought himself good enough to sing at the Met, but the energy and excitement that he brings to performances such as his 1940 recording of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, his broadcast work, and his duets with MacDonald are all ample evidence of his gifts. The fact that the popularity of Nelson Eddy continues to grow nearly four decades after his death is something that speaks for itself.

Artist Biography by Uncle Dave Lewis

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Nelson’s early years were spent at various locations in the Providence metropolitan area including Olneyville, Edgewood and Pawtucket. He is seen here, left to right, at six months, six years and as a choirboy.

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Nelson Eddy (perched on bass drum), 1909

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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Baritones

 

XIOMARA ALFARO, Soprano * 11 May 1930, Havana, Cuba + 24 June 2018, Miami, Florida, United States;

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R.I.P. XIOMARA ALFARO (11 May 1930 – 24 June 2018)

Xiomara Alfaro (May 11, 1930 – June 24 2018) was a Cuban coloratura soprano. Her interpretation of Cuban composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona’s Siboney was the composer’s favorite. She was a star of the Cuban music scene of the 1950s. She became famous as a singer of bolero music in part due to the way she sang them with her soprano voice. She was known as El Ruiseñor de la Cancion (The Nightingale of Music) and as La Alondra de la Cancion (The Lark of Music).

Xiomara Alfaro has passed away at the age of 88 on June 24, 2018.

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Posted by on June 26, 2018 in Sopranos

 

MAARTJE OFFERS, Contralto * 27 February 1891, Koudekerk (aan den Rijn) + 28 January 1944, Tholen;

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Maartje Offers (27 February 1891, Koudekerk (aan den Rijn) – 28 January 1944, Tholen) was a Dutch contralto classical singer.

Recordings
Het Puik van zoete kelen (The Cream of Glorious Voices) Philips Dutch Masters 464 385-2 Songs include “Where Corals Lie” from Elgar’s Sea Pictures.
Lebendige Vergangenheit Preiser Records 2916777
Maartje Offers, contralto cd1: The Opera Recordings 1923-1927 – DDR 0703
Maartje Offers, contralto cd2: The Lied & Song recordings, 1926-1930 – DDR 0704

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Posted by on June 26, 2018 in Contraltos

 
 
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