This is a tribute to the great Regina Resnik, the greatest American Soprano and Mezzo-Soprano of international opera who recently passed away on August of this year. She was 90.
Regina Resnik sang more than 300 performances at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Let me say that she was unique because Regina Resnik made the shift from soprano to mezzo-soprano in the middle of her career. She was one of the most versatile stars of the Opera, just like in these days Plácido Domingo.
Resnik’s debut at the Metropolian Opera House was doubly dramatic – on one day’s notice she substituted for Zinka Milanov as Leonora in Il trovatore eliciting acclaim from the public, the critics noting that all the vocal “virtuosity” and her stage presence as an actress were very impressive.
During the next decade, she offered twenty heroines: Donna Elvira and Donna Anna in Mozart’s”Don Giovanni”, Fidelio in Beethoven’s “Fidelio”, Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre, Gutrune in Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung”, Chrysothemis in Richard Strauss’s “Elektra”, Rosalinda and Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlos, Aida in Verdi’s “Aida”, Alice Ford in Verdi’s “Falstaff”, Tosca in Puccini’s “Tosca”, Madama Butterfly in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and Musetta in Puccini’s “La bohème”.
She was the Met’s first Ellen Orford in Britten’s “Peter Grimes” and created Delilah in the world premiere of Bernard Rogers’ The Warrior. She then also began a long association with the San Francisco Opera.
As for the voice, it was a dramatic soprano which invited comparison with Rosa Ponselle. During these years, her teacher was Rosalie Miller and her life began with the legendary conductors Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter, George Szell, Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg and Erich Leinsdorf.
In 1953, while singing Sieglinde in Bayreuth, the conductor Clemens Krauss was to forecast her future, suggesting her voice was actually a mezzo-soprano. Despite her great success as a soprano, she realized that her entire voice was constantly darkening in color.
In 1955 she began a year of restudy with the celebrated baritone Giuseppe Danise. Her first two roles were Amneris in “Aida” and Laura in “La Gioconda”.
On February 15, 1956, she debuted as a mezzo-soprano at the Metropolitan in a brilliant portrayal of Marina in Mussorgsky’s”Boris Godunov” under Dimitri Mitropoulos. October, 1957, was the beginning of a long career in London at the Royal Opera House. Her debut as Carmen was a success and, in time, she was heard as Amneris (Aida), Marina (Boris Godunov), Ulrica (Un ballo in maschera), the Nurse in Die Frau ohne Schatten and the Old Prioress in Dialogues of the Carmelites.
In the Zeffirelli–Giulini production of Falstaff, her Mistress Quickly became the model for this role. Carmen, Klytemnestra (Elektra), Mistress Quickly and the Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) became her signature parts.
From the French Press – “Hers was the most skillfully inflected Carmen with every nuance of the role and every syllable of her French set forth in a masterly manner. It was also the most beautifully sung performance of the role. From the dramatic standpoint, this was the ideal Carmen – ferocious, sultry, unpredictable; never banal, never vulgar.”
But with Klytemnestra, Miss Resnik met her greatest challenge – “a dramatic conception that is unforgettable and a vocal prowess without limit.”
Surely among the happiest memories are three comic masterpieces – her Orlovsky in Johann Strauss Jr’s “Die Fledermaus”, the Marquise in Donizetti’s “La fille du régiment” (with Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti) and her Mistress Quickly in the Bernstein–Zeffirelli Falstaff of 1964.
Fluent, singing in six languages, her multifaceted talent crossed stylistic lines from the classic to the romantic, the Wagnerian to the modern.
As the years passed, Resnik developed a steady network of international performances: La Scala, the Paris Opéra (hailed as Carmen), Salzburg, Naples, Vienna, Lisbon, Mexico City, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Marseilles, Stuttgart, Hamburg and a return to Bayreuth.
The Met, however, remained her base and among her triumphs there, was the new Elektra (with Birgit Nilsson and Leonie Rysanek) and The Queen of Spades. Outside the Met, she appeared in works by Poulenc (an unforgettable portrait of the Old Prioress in Dialogues of the Carmelites), Menotti (The Medium), Gottfried von Einem (The Visit of the Old Lady), Walton (The Bear), Weill (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), Britten (The Rape of Lucretia – both Female Chorus and Lucretia) and Barber (her Baroness in Vanessa)
She has recorded all her great signature roles: Carmen (Thomas Schippers), Klytemnestra (Georg Solti), Mistress Quickly (Leonard Bernstein), Orlovsky (Herbert von Karajan), “Pique Dame” Countess (Mstislav Rostropovich) and Sieglinde (Clemens Krauss), among many others.
She became the only singer in operatic history to have sung both the soprano and mezzo leads in much of her repertory.
In the United States and Canada she has also appeared in countless regional companies.
From 1971-81, she distinguished herself as a stage director with Arbit Blatas, the renowned Lithuanian-born painter and sculptor, as designer. Carmen (Hamburg; which became the film The Dream and the Destiny), Falstaff (Venice, Warsaw, Madrid, Lisbon), The Queen of Spades (Vancouver, Sydney), The Medium and The Bear (Lisbon), Elektra (Venice, Strasbourg, Lisbon) and Salome (Lisbon, Graz).
In 1987, Resnik made a transition to the American musical theatre as a singing actress. Her Mrs. Schneider in Cabaret on Broadway earned her a Tony nomination and her Mme. Armfeldt (A Little Night Music) at Lincoln Center brought her a Drama Desk nomination in 1991.
She was a master class teacher at the Metropolitan Opera, for ten years, at the Mozarteum (Salzburg), the Canadian Opera (Toronto), the San Francisco Opera, the Opera Studio of Opéra Bastille in Paris, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School.
She is Master Teacher-in-Residence in the Opera Department of the Mannes College of Music, and has been responsible for the preparation of La Bohème, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Il tabarro, Gianni Schicchi, The Marriage of Figaro and The Dialalogue of the Carmelites.
In Italy, she is Master Teacher of Vocal Studies at the Ca’Zenobio Master Campus in Treviso, and Musical Director of Eurobottega, a unique program for young singers. of the European Union, with headquarters in Venice and Treviso. The now renowned concert series “Regina Resnik Presents” has become part of the American musical scene.
Its most recent production has been a major three-part portrait of the Jewish musical experience, entitled “Colors of the Diaspora.” Conceived by her son, Michael Philip Davis, and directed by Miss Resnik, this “kaleidescope of Jewish classical song” features Miss Resnik as narrator and has been televised and shown on CUNY TV; all three concerts were also released on DVD in September 2011 by vaimusic.com (VAI 4540).
Awards and Honors:
Celebrations of her career began in New York City when “Regina Resnik Day” was proclaimed. She received the Lawrence Tibbett Award from the American Guild of Musical Artists and a special tribute from Lincoln Center.
The city of Venice honored her 50th anniversary in a special event. The 60th anniversary of her career was celebrated by the Metropolitan Opera Guild at Lincoln Center in New York.
Hunter College invested her with an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters and, in 2007, the New England Conservatory honored her with a Doctorate of Music. She served as a trustee of the Hunter Foundation and as a member of the jury of the Peabody Awards for Radio and Television. She also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Board of Advisors of CUNY TV.
Regina Resnik, you will be missed. Rest in peace.