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Berganza (Vargas), Teresa  

Harold Rosenthal

(b Madrid, March 16, 1935; d San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, May 13, 2022). Spanish mezzo-soprano. She studied in Madrid with Lola Rodriguez Aragon, a pupil of Elisabeth Schumann. She made her début in 1957 as Dorabella at Aix-en-Provence, returning as Rosina, Purcell’s Dido, Cherubino, Octavia (L’incoronazione di Poppea), and Ruggiero (Alcina). In 1958 she sang Isolier (Le comte Ory) at the Piccola Scala and Cherubino at Glyndebourne, and made her American début at Dallas as Isabella (L’italiana in Algeri). She first appeared at Covent Garden in 1960 as Rosina, then sang Cherubino and, during La Scala’s 1976 visit, the title role of La Cenerentola. She sang at Chicago, the Metropolitan (1967–8), Vienna, Paris, and Salzburg; her roles included Cesti’s Orontea, Mozart’s Sextus, and Cherubini’s Neris (Médée). Her rich creamy voice with its great agility, perfect for the Rossini mezzo-soprano roles, developed a heavier tone and a more dramatic style appropriate to Carmen, which she sang at Edinburgh (...

Article

Brambilla, Giuseppina  

Elizabeth Forbes

Member of Brambilla family

(b Cassano d’Adda, 1819; d Milan, 1903). Italian contralto, sister of Marietta Brambilla. She made her début in Trieste in 1841 and sang in Rome, Milan and Barcelona; then in 1846 she was engaged at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, where she appeared as Maffio Orsini, the part created by her eldest sister. In ...

Article

Brambilla, Marietta  

Elizabeth Forbes

Member of Brambilla family

(b Cassano d’Adda, June 6, 1807; d Milan, Nov 6, 1875). Italian contralto. After studying at the Milan Conservatory with Secchi, she made her début in 1827 at the King’s Theatre, London, as Arsace in Rossini’s Semiramide. During the season she sang two more travesty roles, Adriano (Meyerbeer’s Il crociato) and Romeo (Zingarelli’s Romeo e Giulietta), becoming a specialist in such parts. She sang Paolo at the first performance of Generali’s Francesca di Rimini in 1828 at La Fenice. At La Scala (1838) she sang Cherubino and Arsace (Semiramide). Donizetti composed two trouser roles for her, Maffio Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia, first given at La Scala in 1833, and Pierotto in Linda di Chamounix, which had its première at the Kärntnertortheater, Vienna, in 1842. He also adapted the second tenor role of Armando di Gondi in Maria di Rohan...

Article

Cernei, Elena  

Irina Boga

(b Bairamcea, nr Cetatea Albă, Romania, March 1, 1924; d Bucharest, Romania Nov 27, 2000). Romanian mezzo-soprano. She graduated from the Bucharest Conservatory (1948–52), studying under Constantin Stroescu (singing), Jean Rănzescu (opera), and Jean Bobescu (repertory). She made her début with the Bucharest Philharmonic, performing Mozart’s Requiem (1952), and the same year made her opera début, singing the role of Azucena (1952) at the Romanian National Opera. In 1973 she worked as librettist, director, and sang in the world première of Doamna Chiajna (‘Lady Chiajna’) by N. Buicliu at the Romanian Opera. She was a member of the vocal quartet of the Bucharest Philharmonic (1951–7) and a soloist at the Romanian Opera in Bucharest (1952–77), and her lyrical-dramatic repertory comprised some of the most important mezzo-soprano roles. Her career led her from Bucharest to the stages of the great theatres of the world, in tours with the Romanian Opera and personal tours (including La Scala, the Metropolitan, the inaugural show at the new headquarters of Lincoln Center, the Opéra National de Paris, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Bolshoi Theatre, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Théâtre de la Monnaie, and the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City). She undertook scientific research in phonation and vocal pedagogy. An active member of the New York Academy of Sciences, she held conferences and lectures on singing, medicine, mathematics, and sociology. She participated in international vocal juries, and edited, in her capacity as a musicologist, ...

Article

Corri [Corri-Paltoni], Frances  

Peter Ward Jones

revised by Rachel E. Cowgill

[Fanny]

Member of Corri family

(b Edinburgh, 1795/1801; d after 1833). Italian mezzo-soprano, daughter of Natale Corri. She was first taught singing by her father, but was soon taken to London and sent for lessons first to Braham, then to Angelica Catalani, with whom she toured the Continent in 1815–16. She made a promising début as the Countess in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at the King’s Theatre on 17 January 1818, singing regularly there and at Philharmonic Society concerts until 1821, when she left with her father and sisters Rosalie and Angelina for the Continent. She sang first in Munich, then in Italy, where she married the bass Giuseppe Paltoni and made her home. She sang at La Scala, Milan, in 1828–9 and undertook successful tours of Spain (1827) and Germany (1830). Her last recorded appearance was in a performance of Bellini’s ...

Article

Costa, Sebastião da  

Asta-Rose Alcaide

Member of Costa family (i)

(b Azeitão; d Lisbon, Aug 9, 1696). Portuguese composer and contralto singer. He was chamber musician to King João IV, mestre de capela during the reigns of Afonso VI and Pedro II, and a Knight of the Order of Christ. His works included several psalm settings and masses for eight voices, motets for four voices and villancicos, all of which were in João IV’s library which was destroyed in ...

Article

Gauthier, (Joséphine Phoebe) Eva  

Nadia Turbide

(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

Goeldner, Katharine  

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

Homer [née Beatty], Louise  

Herman Klein, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, and Katherine K. Preston

(Dilworth)

(b Pittsburgh, PA, 30 April 1871; d Winter Park, FL, 6 May 1947). American contralto.

She studied music at Philadelphia and Boston, then married the composer Sidney Homer in 1895 and went to Paris, where she studied singing and acting with Fidèle Koenig and Paul Lhérie, the first Don José. She made her operatic debut at Vichy in 1898, as Léonor in La favorite. At Covent Garden in 1899 she sang Lola and Amneris, returning in 1900 for Ortrud and Maddalena after a winter season at La Monnaie in Brussels. Her American debut (1900) was with the Metropolitan Opera on tour in San Francisco as Amneris, in which role she also made her first New York appearance. Homer began a long and successful Metropolitan career, singing chiefly in Italian and French opera, but she soon assumed leading Wagnerian roles; she was also a notable Orpheus in Arturo Toscanini’s ...

Article

Horne, Marilyn  

Alan Blyth

revised by Kathleen Sewright

(Berneice)

(b Bradford, PA, 16 Jan 1934). American mezzo-soprano.

The often-encountered birth year of 1929 is erroneous. She studied at the University of Southern California where she took part in Lotte Lehmann’s master classes. She sang the dubbed voice of Dorothy Dandridge in the film Carmen Jones in 1954, the year of her debut in Los Angeles (as Háta in The Bartered Bride), then spent three seasons at Gelsenkirchen (1956–9) where she sang soprano and mezzo roles. In 1960 she first appeared in San Francisco as Marie in Wozzeck, also the role of her Covent Garden debut in 1964. From 1960 to 1979 she was married to the conductor Henry Lewis. She began an association with Joan Sutherland in New York in 1961 with a concert performance of Beatrice di Tenda in which she sang Agnese. Being cast with Sutherland brought her many notable performances—as Arsace to Sutherland’s Semiramide (...

Article

Howells, Anne  

Alan Blyth

(b Southport, Jan 12, 1941; d Andover, May 18, 2022). English mezzo-soprano. She studied at the RMCM, singing Helen in the British première of Gluck’s Paride ed Elena (1963) while a student. She made her professional début in 1966 as Flora (La traviata) with the WNO. At Glyndebourne (1966–89), she created Cathleen in Maw’s Rising of the Moon (1970) and also sang Erisbe (Ormindo), Dorabella, the Composer, Diana (Calisto), Clairon, and Baba the Turk. She made her Covent Garden début in 1967 as Flora, created Lena in Bennett’s Victory (1970), and sang Hermia, Rosina, Cherubino, Siébel, Mélisande, Helen (King Priam), Olga, Thea (The Knot Garden), Despina, and Clairon (1991). She made her Chicago (1972), Metropolitan (1975), and San Francisco (1979) débuts as Dorabella. At Geneva she sang Octavian, Idamantes, Régine in the première of Liebermann’s ...

Article

Kuhlmann, Rosemary  

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

Laurenti, Antonia Maria  

Michael Talbot

revised by Enrico Careri

[Novelli‘La Coralli’‘Corallina’]

Member of Laurenti family

(fl 1714–41). Italian contralto, possibly the daughter of Bartolomeo Girolamo. She was one of the most celebrated opera singers of her day. Her earliest appearance in opera was in Padua in 1714, and she sang in many northern Italian theatres thereafter. In 1719 F.M. Veracini engaged her for the Dresden opera at the high salary of 2375 thalers. After her departure in 1720 we find her listed as ‘virtuosa di camera di S Maestà il re di Polonia’ (Friedrich August I of Saxony) for a Vivaldi opera staged at Venice in 1721. Under her nickname ‘La Coralli’ she is referred to obliquely in Benedetto Marcello's satire Il teatro alla moda (1720). Antonio Denzio invited her to Prague in 1726. There she married the tenor Felice Novelli on 8 March 1727. The pair returned to Italy and thereafter often performed in the same productions. Laurenti's last known appearance was at Ferrara in the pasticcio ...

Article

Ludwig, Christa  

Alan Blyth

(b Berlin, March 16, 1928; d Klosterneuberg, Austria, April 24, 2021). German mezzo-soprano. The daughter of the singers Anton Ludwig and Eugenia Besalle, she studied with her mother and Felice Hüni-Mihacsek, making her début in 1946 as Orlofsky at Frankfurt, where she sang until 1952. After engagements at Darmstadt and Hanover, she joined the Vienna Staatsoper in 1955 and remained there for more than 30 years, creating Miranda in Frank Martin’s Der Sturm (1956) and Claire Zachanassian in Einem’s Der Besuch der alten Dame (1971). Having first sung at Salzburg in 1954 as Cherubino, she took part in Liebermann’s Die Schule der Frauen (1957), sang the title role of Iphigénie en Aulide in 1962, and returned there until 1981, when she sang Mistress Quickly. Ludwig made her American début in Chicago in 1959 as Dorabella. At the Metropolitan (1959–90) her roles included Cherubino, the Dyer’s Wife, Dido in the first Metropolitan production of ...

Article

Moralt, Clementine  

Folker Göthel

Member of Moralt family

(b Munich, Oct 9, 1797; d Munich, July 7, 1845). German contralto, daughter of Adam Moralt. She was appointed a court singer in 1818 and from 1820 to 1843 was a contralto at the Munich Hofoper. In 1823 she married the highly esteemed bass Giulio Pellegrini (...

Article

Pixis, Francilla  

Gaynor G. Jones

revised by Lucian Schiwietz and Stephan D. Lindeman

[Franziska Helma Göhringer]

Member of Pixis family

(b Lichtenthal in Baden, May 15, 1816; d ?1888). German contralto, foster-daughter of Johann Peter Pixis. At the age of 15 she was placed by her family in the care of Johann Peter Pixis, who had recognized her vocal gifts. Pixis was her principal teacher, although she studied further with Josephine Fodor-Mainville, Henriette Sontag, Rossini and Paer. She made her concert début in London in 1833 and her stage début in Karlsruhe the following year, and she undertook extensive concert tours with her foster-father. She received exuberant praise from the Neue Zeitschrift and was particularly successful in Naples and Palermo. After her marriage to a Sicilian Count in 1843 she continued to give concerts, but after the birth of her son in 1844 and poor performances during the carnival operas of 1846 in Cremona, she withdrew from the stage. Her voice was powerful and sonorous, free from strain at louder dynamics and, when required, softly beautiful. Among her most renowned roles were Amina (...

Article

Primo musico  

John Rosselli

(It.: ‘first musician’)

In the 17th century, Musico meant a professional singer or musician of either sex; it later came to mean a castrato. With the decline and then the disappearance of the operatic castrato after 1800, the practice of assigning a leading male part (primo uomo) to a high voice continued from about 1800 to 1850 with a woman singing in breeches, described as primo musico (or simply musico). As with the older primo uomo part for castrato, the primo musico role was usually that of a lover or aristocratic friend (such as Tancredi in Rossini’s opera or Maffio Orsini in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia). A musico was often but not invariably a contralto or mezzo-soprano; Giulia Grisi had a contract as both prima donna and primo musico and demanded that it be rewritten to specify primo musico soprano (to Alessandro Lanari, 9 July 1830, I-Ms Coll. Casati 659)....

Article

Robinson, Miss [first name unknown]  

Winton Dean

Member of Robinson family (i)

(fl 1733–45). English mezzo-soprano, the daughter of John and Ann Turner Robinson. She was probably the Miss Robinson who sang and played the harpsichord, having ‘never appear’d before in Publick’, for her own benefit at the New Theatre in the Haymarket on 29 March 1733, and possibly the one ‘who never appeared on any stage before’ in the pantomime Harlequin Sorcerer at Tottenham Court on 4 August 1741. (She cannot have been either of the Miss Robinsons who sang and danced constantly as children at Drury Lane in the mid-1720s, a period when the London theatre was peculiarly rich in Robinsons.) Handel engaged her for his last oratorio season at the King’s Theatre in 1744–5, when she sang Barak in Deborah (October, one performance only), Ino in Semele (December), Dejanira in the first production of Hercules (5 January), Micah and an Israelite and Philistine Woman in ...

Article

Vestris, Lucia Elizabeth  

Ivor Guest

[Eliza Lucy][née Bartolozzi]

Member of Vestris family

(b London, 3 Jan or March 2, 1797; d London, Aug 8, 1856). French contralto, actress, and theatre manager. She was the daughter of Gaetano Stefano Bartolozzi and granddaughter of the celebrated engraver Francesco Bartolozzi and in 1813 married (Auguste-)Armand Vestris. She made her first public appearance at her husband’s benefit at the King’s Theatre (20 July 1815), in the title role of Winter’s Il ratto di Proserpina; this was highly successful although her acting and singing abilities were still limited. She made several appearances in 1816 but with less success, her faults becoming more apparent with familiarity. In the winter she appeared in Paris at the Théâtre-Italien and various other theatres, including the Théâtre-Français, where she played Camille in Les Horaces. About this time Vestris deserted her. She returned to London and on 19 February 1820 made her début at Drury Lane Theatre. Her success was immediate and she remained until her retirement in ...

Article

Work, Agnes Haynes