Monday, November 23, 2009

In Memoriam: Elisabeth Söderström 1927-2009

I understand that I am a little late in reporting this, but I couldn't let it go by without so much as a mention.

Soprano Elisabeth Söderström, one of the most versatile and loved operatic singers to come out of Sweden, died on November 20th. Ms. Söderström was 82 years old.

It is said that she was a superb actress, who brought to life a wide range of roles, including the Countess in Tchaikovksy's The Queen of Spades, the Marschallin in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier and Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio and another Countess in Strauss's Capriccio.

But, perhaps one of the most valued qualities of Ms. Söderström was not what she did on stage, but what she did off stage. You see, Ms. Söderström was a family gal. The put it this way:
A British television profile, also in 1969, showed her leading a normal family life, preparing a meal in her kitchen. Indeed, family was so important to Elisabeth Söderström that she found it difficult to understand why Rudolf Bing (General Manager at the Met) demanded that, in the seventh month of her third pregnancy, she appear as Musetta (with Renata Tebaldi as Mimi) in La Bohème. "I almost had my baby on stage," she recalled with horror.

In 1964, after six seasons in New York, she took her young family back to Sweden for their schooling, not returning until 1983 when she sang at the Met's centenary gala with Kathleen Battle and Fredrica von Stade under James Levine. Meanwhile Bing, who chastised her by saying that other singers would sell their souls for a contract at the Met, barely mentioned her in his memoirs.
For more on the life of soprano Elisabeth Söderström including her incredible sense of humor and her wide ranging and tireless efforts on the behalf of opera, please be sure to read her obituary at the Telegraph.

[Photo - INTERMEZZO by Richard Strauss, Glyndebourne Festival Opera 1976, Elisabeth Soderstrom as Christine. Photo appears courtesy of: Guy Gravett Collection / ArenaPAL.]

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