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Nicholas Tochka

(b Brockton, MA, USA, Nov 4, 1925). Albanian tenor and pedagogue. Born in the large Albanian immigrant colony in New England (USA), Athanasi returned as a child to his parents’ hometown of Korça, where he participated in its vibrant prewar choral, theatre, and sports scenes. During World War II, he performed with resistance groups singing patriotic and partisan songs and, in 1948, he was selected as a soloist in the newly formed National Army Ensemble by director Gaqo Avrazi. Athanasi was among a handful of young men in this ensemble to receive a scholarship to study in the Soviet Union, and following the completion of his degree in vocal performance at the Moscow State Conservatory in 1958, he was appointed soloist at Tirana’s Theatre of Opera and Ballet. He performed leading roles in premières of Albanian operas, and was active as a recitalist, performing a broad range of art music works from the Western European and Albanian repertories as well as arranged folk songs into the 1980s. In ...

Article

Trudi Ann Wright

(b Baltimore, MD, Aug 9, 1912; d Oslo, Norway, March 13, 2009). American soprano. Born to a music-loving mother and prominent physician father whose grandparents were slaves, Brown premiered the role of Bess in the original production of Porgy and Bess (1935). She studied music, first at Morgan State College and then the Juilliard School, where she was the first African American to win the Margaret McGill scholarship. Brown learned of Gershwin’s new opera, then titled Porgy, while at Juilliard, and immediately requested an audition. She sang for Gershwin a few days later and left their meeting as Bess. Gershwin frequently invited Brown to his apartment to sing parts of the opera as he composed. As a result, Bess grew from a secondary character into one of the opera’s leading roles.

After the original Broadway run and tour of Porgy and Bess ended in 1936, Brown continued with her career in the DuBose Heyward musicals ...

Article

John Koegel

[Francisco Rafael ]

(b San Antonio, TX, May 16, 1883; d New York, NY, Dec 12, 1943). American operatic tenor and recitalist of Mexican and German heritage. He was the most prominent Mexican American opera singer of his day, although perhaps to advance his career he used the Italian-sounding first name “Rafaelo,” and press reports sometimes identified him as Spanish instead of Mexican American or Mexican. Díaz attended the German-English School and the West Texas Military Academy (now Texas Military Institute) in San Antonio. He studied piano with Amalia Hander, a local music teacher, and at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. After vocal studies with Vincenzo Sabatini in Milan, he returned to the United States and in 1911 began appearing in small roles with the Boston Grand Opera Company, quickly moving up to more prominent assignments. He accompanied the soprano Luisa Tetrazzini on a tour in 1913 and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Massenet’s ...

Article

(b Ottawa, ON, Sept 20, 1885; d New York, NY, Dec 26, 1958). American mezzo-soprano. She began her vocal training with Frank Buels in Ottawa at the age of 13, then continued her studies in Europe with, among others, Auguste-Jean Dubulle, Jacques Bouhy, William Shakespeare, Carlo Carignani, and Anna Schoen-René. After her professional debut as a contralto at the Ottawa Basilica (1902), she toured with Emma Albani in Britain and Canada (1906) and made her stage debut as Micaëla in Pavia (1909). In 1910, after her contracts with Covent Garden to sing Yniold (in Pelléas et Mélisande) and Mallika (in Léo Delibes’s Lakmé) had not led to performances, she left London to join her future husband, a plantation manager, in Java, and began to study the traditional songs of Southeast Asia.

After concert tours in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, Gauthier settled in New York, where from ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Sigourney, IA). American mezzo-soprano. She took voice lessons from Jocelyn Reiter at the University of Iowa, where she received her bachelor’s degree. She continued her studies with Paul von Schilhawsky at the Salzburg Mozarteum, focusing on German lieder. She has appeared widely on the concert stage and with the world’s premiere opera troupes, including the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera. Her Metropolitan debut was in 2002 as the wardrobe mistress/schoolboy in Berg’s Lulu. She has also appeared there as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Ascanio in Benvenuto Cellini, Nicklausse in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette, and the Page of Herodias in Salome. Her many appearances at the New York City Opera have garnered her both the Betty Allen and Diva awards; with the company, she has performed the roles of Erika in Vanessa, Suzuki in ...

Article

James Wierzbicki

revised by Jonas Westover

(Ann )

(b Canby, MN, Jan 4, 1947). American soprano. After studying at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota (BM 1969), and with marion Freschel at the Juilliard School, she won first prizes in the Concert Artists Guild competition in 1970 and the Rockefeller and Minna Kaufmann Ruud competitions in 1972. She has appeared as a soloist with most of the major American orchestras, including the Baltimore SO, with which she toured East Germany, and the New York PO, with which she gave the premiere (under Pierre Boulez) of George Crumb’s Star-child (1977), a work commissioned for her by the Ford Foundation as a result of her winning its performance competition in 1971. She has also sung in Europe, with such orchestras as the Stuttgart RO and the Bavarian RO. In 1980 she won the Naumburg International Voice Competition, and the following year she made her opera debut as Mimì with Opera St. Paul (Minnesota), in addition to giving her first recitals at Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center; since then she has been increasingly active as a recitalist. Gubrud’s wide expressive range and sure technique allow her to meet the demands of music from all periods. She has recorded widely on a variety of labels and has been a regular participant in the Aspen, Blossom, and Meadowbrook festivals. Gubrud’s role as a teacher has been a key facet of her career. She taught at Washington University, St. Louis (...

Article

Peter Mondelli

(b Washburn, IL, Nov 20, 1959). American bass-baritone. He studied at Millikin University and Wichita State University under Richard Cross and George Gibson. In 1986, he made his debut with Central City Opera in Denver as Colline in La Bohème. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1989 as Mr. Redburn in Billy Budd. He has since been heard with many major companies, including those in Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Vienna, Salzburg, London, Paris, and Milan. He is a winner of the Birgit Nilsson Prize. His rich-hued, powerful voice is especially well suited to the operas of Wagner and Strauss, including such roles as Wotan, Kurwenal, the Dutchman, Jochanaan, and Orestes. He has also been successful in such dramatically demanding roles as Wozzeck in in comic roles such as Leporello and the Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann. As a concert soloist, he has performed with the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Paris Orchestra, and the Kirov Opera Orchestra. His recordings include Donner in Wagner’s ...

Article

Thor Eckert Jr.

revised by Beth McGinnis

(b Ojai, CA, Dec 27, 1939). American tenor. He studied at the Music Academy of the West, UCLA with martial Singher and from 1963 to 1972 at the Juilliard School with Jennie Tourel. He began his professional career as Francesco Cavalli’s Ormindo with the Opera Society of Washington (1969) and as Tonio in a concert performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s La fille du régiment with Beverly Sills at Carnegie Hall (1970, recorded on the Adagio Classics label). Shortly thereafter he made his New York City Opera debut in Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and went on to sing with opera companies in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, France, Switzerland, and England. His repertoire of more than seventy roles includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Ferrando, Belmonte, and Tamino, Charles Gounod’s Faust and Roméo, Georges Bizet’s Don José, and Claude Debussy’s Pelléas. He has appeared regularly with major American orchestras, choral societies, and music festivals and has performed Franz Schubert’s song cycles with fortepiano. Known for his versatility and acute attention to style, he has sung in the premieres of works by Leonard Bernstein, Jack Beeson, Thomas Pasatieri, Alberto Ginastera (...

Article

Charles Jahant

revised by Jonas Westover

(b Norfolk, VA, Dec 27, 1909; d Amsterdam, Holland, Nov 7, 1987). American tenor. He began singing at the age of 14, studied with May Hamaker Henley, and in the 1930s sang with Benny Carter and Fletcher Henderson’s jazz bands. He appeared in Marc Connelly’s drama Green Pastures and the film Hullabaloo (1941), and had a 13-week concert program on NBC radio. He then became a pupil of Georges Le Pyre, an assistant to Bruno Walter, in Hollywood, California. He moved to New York, where he studied with Clyde Burrows and performed in Jeb (1948), Hall Johnson’s Run Little Chillun’, Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts, and the premiere of Blitzstein’s The Airborne. Holland felt that he was unable to make a life for himself as a respected singer in the United States due to racial prejudice, and thereafter decided to make his home in Europe. After settling in France in ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b United States). American baritone. One of his earliest professional performances took place at the Lake George Opera Festival, where he performed as Damis in Kirke Mechem’s Tartuffe in 1982. He appeared there again as Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, one of his signature roles. His voice, while not overpowering, is full of nuance and carries a light brilliance. A sought after performer, he has served as a principal singer with Glimmerglass Opera, Virginia Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, New York Grand Opera, El Paso Opera, and the Natchez Opera Festival. By the early 2010s, he had performed nearly 150 different roles in a variety of theatrical productions, including bel canto opera, musical theater, and, especially, light opera. During more than a quarter century singing with the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, he has performed in each opera and in more than 20 roles. His international reputation as a premiere interpreter of this repertoire has been built on more than 500 Gilbert and Sullivan performances. Other notable works he has performed in New York include Carlisle Floyd’s ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b New York, NY, March 30, 1858; d Kansas City, MO, Sept 23, 1935). American bass and comedian. He was expected to follow his family tradition and become a lawyer, but after his father’s death he abandoned his studies and used his inheritance to form his own acting company. The company failed, partly because, being exceptionally tall, Hopper towered comically above the rest of his troupe. He then studied singing (he had a fine bass voice), and struck huge success in 1884 when John McCaull cast him in John Philip Sousa’s Désirée. He solidified his reputation in The Begum (1887) and The Lady or the Tiger? (1888). He then played leading roles in several shows opposite the diminutive Della Fox, where the disparity in their height was deliberately exploited for its comic effect; productions included Castles in the Air (1890), Wang (...

Article

Patrick O’Connor

[Yarborough, Katherine ]

(b Wilmington, NC, July 24, 1903; d New York, NY, Aug 13, 1986). American soprano. After leaving school she went to New York in 1916. She began her stage career singing and playing the trombone in all-black musical comedies, Sissle and Blake’s Shuffle Along (1921) and James P. Johnson’s Runnin’ Wild (1923). She subsequently went to study in Europe (late 1920s) and made her debut in Milan at the Teatro Puccini as Aida (1930–31). She sang in France, Poland, and Switzerland, adding the title roles of Gounod’s La reine de Saba and Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine to her repertory before returning to the United States, where she sang Aida in Chicago and New York (at the Hippodrome, with Jules Bledsoe as Amonasro). After several further years in Europe, based in Belgium, she eventually settled in New York, where she gave her first recital at Town Hall (...

Article

Nadia Turbide

(b Cleveland, OH, Aug 13, 1907; d New York, NY, March 13, 2002). American soprano, music publisher, and concert manager. She studied singing with Ruth Thayer Burnham while attending Abbot Academy, Andover, and later at Wellesley College (BA 1929). After two years as an actress at the Cleveland Playhouse, she sang in Gabriel Pierné’s La croisade des enfants with the Cleveland Orchestra (1932). She was then coached by Eva Gauthier in New York and made her debut there in 1934 at Town Hall in the North American premiere of Handel’s solo cantata La Lucrezia. Three years later she sang Butterfly and Tosca with the Royal Flemish Opera in Antwerp. After meeting Sibelius in Finland, she returned to the United States and introduced a number of his songs in concert (1938). During World War II Johnson escorted a convoy of refugees from Paris to Spain and as a result of the ordeal lost her voice. She joined the staff of ...

Article

Anya Laurence

(b Akron, OH, Nov 10, 1954). American baritone and teacher. He received his vocal training at the University of Houston where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music. His teachers included Franco Corelli, Jean Preston, louis Quilico , and Michael Trimble. He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991 and has subsequently sung numerous roles there, including Germont (La traviata), Enrico (Lucia di Lammermoor), and Rigoletto (Rigoletto). In 2009 he appeared in the premiere of André Previn’s opera Brief Encounter with Houston Grand Opera and in 2010 the premiere of Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon with Opera Santa Barbara. In 2011 he performed William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge with the Rome Opera Theater. He has been recognized with awards from the William Sullivan–George London Foundation, the Loren L. Zachary Society, the Licia Albanese–Puccini Foundation, and the Bagby Foundation, and has also received a Bruce Yarnell Scholarship and a career grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation. He has also worked as associate professor of voice at the University of Oklahoma....

Article

Trudi Ann Wright

(b New York, NY, Jan 30, 1922). American mezzo-soprano. Kulhmann is best known for creating the role of the Mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors. After the start of World War II, Kuhlmann joined WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services), where she learned Morse Code to send messages to ships at sea. Her musical talent was recognized after she performed on radio programs promoting WAVES and soon had her own weekly show, Navy Serenade, where she sang popular songs of the period.

After the war, Kulhmann attended Juilliard on a full scholarship through the G.I. Bill, received her degree in 1950, and sang with Robert Shaw’s professional chorus. She then auditioned for Menotti’s The Consul, and earned the role of the Secretary. After performing in a revival of Music in the Air directed by Oscar Hammerstein, Kuhlmann landed the role of the Mother in Amahl...

Article

Max de Schauensee

revised by Karen M. Bryan

(b Norfolk, VA, Sept 3, 1910; d West Chester, PA, Feb 19, 1996). American soprano. She received her high school and college education at Hampton Institute, serving as soloist and touring with the choir. She later attended the Westminster Choir College (choral conducting, 1935), and studied in New York with William Klamroth and John Alan Haughton. During the 1939 Berkshire Festival at Tanglewood, she sang for Koussevitzky and was subsequently offered recording engagements with the Boston SO under his direction. She made her formal New York debut at Town Hall on 19 November 1939 and at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic in January 1940. She toured extensively in the 1940s and 50s, concertizing in the United States and abroad. Her repertory centered on art song, opera arias, and spiritual arrangements by R. Nathaniel Dett (who had first given her solos at Hampton). While she sang many operatic arias (and recorded Leonore in ...

Article

Michael Meckna

(b Albion, NY, Oct 23, 1928; d Ashland, OR, Aug 12, 2000). American composer and tenor. Born into a musical family, he toured as a youth, appearing both as a pianist and a boy soprano. After attending the Eastman Preparatory School (1941–4), he was a pupil of Vivian Major and William Willett at SUNY, Fredonia (BM 1950), then of Wolfgang Niederste-Schee while on a tour of military duty in Frankfurt (1950–2). During this period he gave organ and piano recitals, and was a clarinetist in the 4th Division Infantry Band. At the Eastman School (MM 1954, DMus 1958) he studied with wayne Barlow , bernard Rogers , and howard Hanson . After holding several teaching positions he was a member of the music faculty of San Francisco State University (1959–80) and a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii (1970–1). He was active for many years as a concert tenor....

Article

Kelley Rourke

(b Madison, WI, June 3, 1960). American soprano. She has done her most important work at the extremes of the opera timeline, winning acclaim for interpretations of both early and contemporary repertory. In 1988 she played the roles of Poppea, Fortune, and Minerva in Stephen Wadsworth’s Monteverdi cycle at Skylight Comic Opera. She went on to appear in works by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Handel in venues around the world, including Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera (Cooperstown, NY), Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona, Spain), and the International Handel Festival (Göttingen, Germany). Saffer has collaborated frequently with the composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, beginning with performances of Hans Werner Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers in 1988 at Tanglewood. She has been celebrated for her interpretation of Marie in Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten, a role she has performed at Opéra Bastille, New York City Opera, and the English National Opera. As the title character in Alban Berg’s ...

Article

Sonovox  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

Sound-effects device developed by the fiction writer and radio operator Gilbert M. Wright in Los Angeles in 1939 and manufactured by Wright-Sonovox, which was affiliated with the radio station representatives Free & Peters in Chicago. A sound is transmitted to the larynx of a trained ‘articulator’ through two earphone-sized loudspeakers that are placed against the throat; the sound is modified by movements of the tongue and lips to produce speech-like articulations. The Sonovox was much used for radio drama and films, including Walt Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and Leith Stevens’s score for the film Destination Moon (1950). The voice of Casey the Train in Walt Disney’s Dumbo (1941) was created using the Sonovox. It was very popular for radio station identifications and advertising jingles. The rock band The Who used the Sonovox on their song ‘Radio London’ (1967), in which guitar chords seem to speak the days of the week. Later it was replaced by the more versatile vocoder....

Article

Roger C. Anderson

(b Brooklyn, NY, Aug 7, 1883; d Plattsburg, NY, Sept 13, 1953). American concert and radio baritone. His father, who emigrated from Denmark, and his mother were professional singers. He became the most popular and best known American-born baritone during the years immediately preceding World War I to the mid-1920s. He attended New York University, where he was a member of the Glee Club, and established a friendship with the future music critic Deems Taylor, graduating in 1905. He later studied with Percy Rector Stevens and French baritone Victor Maurel.

The concert stage and recital hall were the venues where he established and maintained his reputation and public acclaim, making numerous appearances at Carnegie Hall, and sometimes traveling to Europe. His repertoire included a wide range of popular songs and ballads, both American and European, opera arias, and sacred hymns. He was described as having excellent diction along with a voice pure in tone. He made a brief excursion into opera, debuting as Silvio in ...