(b Harrisburg, PA, March 2, 1921; d Westport, CT, Sept 16, 2017). American singing actress, producer, stage director, and teacher. Possessing a wide range of performing skills, she was known for undertaking challenging operatic roles such as Birdie and Regina in Mark Blitzstein’s Regina (1949, 1953, and 1958) and Lizzie in Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden (1965). She worked on Broadway, in light opera, on radio and television, and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Lewis attended Penn State University and was encouraged by its Glee Club director to audition for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she went on to study with Emilio de Gogorza. After her teacher suddenly left the Institute, Lewis auditioned and made her debut with the Philadelphia Opera Company at the age of 19 in the role of the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. A remarkably quick study, Lewis absorbed music and words in any language almost on the spot, a gift to which she attributed most of her early success. In ...
Bonnie E. Fleming
John C. MacInnis
(b London, England, Dec 27, 1911; d Batemans Bay, Australia, Oct 18, 2006). American English singer, comedienne, and musical parodist. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she aspired to a career as an opera singer. She performed in several opera productions in the UK and sang for the BBC in the 1930s. Initial successes as a musical parodist began in 1940 after Russell moved to Toronto, Canada, with her mother and especially after her famous recital at Town Hall, New York, in 1951.
Through the 1950s Russell performed and recorded extensively. She appeared in opera productions (e.g. New York City Opera, Hansel and Gretel, 1953) and on Broadway (e.g. Anna Russell’s Little Show, 1955). She often styled herself as a mock-music appreciation teacher; for example, she instructed audiences on “How to Write your own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera,” comically explained the plots of famous works like Wagner’s ...