Sunday, October 18, 2009

Risë Stevens--First posted June 13, 2009, her birthday

I give you Risë Stevens, the Carmen of the 40s and 50s, who turns 96 today!

Risë Stevens (born June 11, 1913, New York City) is a retired American mezzo-soprano who captured a wide popular audience at the height of her career (1940 - 1960).

She studied at New York’s Juilliard School of Music for three years. She went to Vienna, where she was trained by Marie Gutheil-Schoder and Herbert Graf. She made her début as Mignon in Prague in 1936 and stayed there until 1938, also appearing in guest appearances at the Vienna State Opera. Her Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier was one of her finest and most accomplished roles. She was engaged at the Teatro Colón in 1938 (again as Octavian) and was invited to the Glyndebourne Festival in 1939 where she was heard as Dorabella and Cherubino. In 1938 she made her début at the Metropolitan Opera as Mignon. Three days later, she sang Octavian opposite Lotte Lehmann. The singer’s beautiful voice and attractive appearance led the film industry in Hollywood to produce several films with her, including "The Chocolate Soldier" (1941) with Nelson Eddy and "Going My Way" (1944) with Bing Crosby.

For over two decades (until 1961) Stevens was the Met’s leading mezzo-soprano and the only mezzo to command the top billing (and commensurate fees) normally awarded only to star sopranos and tenors. Her most successful roles there included Cherubino, Octavian, Dalila, Laura, Hänsel and Marina. She was especially celebrated for her Carmen, which she both performed and recorded several times. Stevens virtually owned the role during her tenure. Her combination of scrupulous artistry, rich vocal color and movie-star glamour earned her the adulation of a wide public beyond the Met's stage, and she frequently appeared on the nascent medium of television. She also appeared in Paris, London, at La Scala and at the Glyndebourne. She sang her last performance, as Carmen, at the Met in 1961. In 1962, she recorded the voice of Glinda for "Journey Back to Oz", but the film was not released until the early 1970s. After her retirement from the opera stage, Stevens served as General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera Touring Company until 1966 and later coached the new generation of singers at the Met.

In honor of Stevens' vast influence on American vocal music, on October 22, 1977 she was awarded the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit[1]. Beginning in 1964, this award "established to bring a declaration of appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may find valid expression."

She is the mother of the actor Nicolas Surovy.

(Bio from Wikipedia.)

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