The glamorous and beloved mezzo-soprano died yesterday. She was 99.
She sang Octavian (with Steber, Berger, and List) the night I was born.
Sadly, I didn’t see my first operas until a couple of years after she had retired, so I knew her only from recordings and television appearances.
Like many others my “introduction” to the wonderful Rise Stevens was the highlights recording of Samson & Delilah with del Monaco. She truly was a very versatile artist but in opera terms one very significant thing she did was to cement forever the star diva mezzo. Until she came along mezzos although respected were never considered to be in the same class as star sopranos. It also has to be said that her husband was a very savvy manager- and understood the power of good publicity -- insuring her voice for $1m with Lloyds of London in 1945. He played a very big part early in her career by positioning her to advantage opportunities as they came along. RIP dear Miss Stevens -- you were one of a kind.
“Until she came along mezzos although respected were never considered to be in the same class as star sopranos.”
Maybe not at the Met, but wasn’t Sigrid Onegin the highest paid singer in Europe for a while in the 20s or 30s? And Pauline Viardot-Garcia, Ernestine Schumann-Heink and Conchita Supervia certainly didn’t take back seats to much of anyone.
rather surprised the met has not published more of a tribute to rise stevens. perhaps they are planning something for a future date but i would have thought that at least a photo spread of her career at the met would have appeared on their web site by now. surely something will be done on one of the saturday matinee intervals. surely levine must have some thoughts (even though i suppose her singing career was well over before his entry to the met) -- would be nice (as well as appropriate) to hear from him…he still is the artistic director, yes?
May I just mention Risë Stevens wonderfully sung, beautiful and refulgent Mignon, in passing and as tribute to her superior skill as singer. It was her debut role at the Met and she had sung it before in Europe, so a very important one for her. The recording from 1945-46 is available from the Met Opera Shop and I highly recommend it.
For me it is a marvel to own this recording, since I had heard about her performances in this role for decades and never hoped to be able to finally listen to it!
Also starring Ezio Pinza, Mimi Benzell and James Melton.
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