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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Obituary: Regina Resnik, 1922-2013

From Bronx baby to international opera star.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A gypsy from the Bronx: Regina Resnik.
Regina Resnik, the opera singer who went from soprano roles to mezzo to a Tony-nominated career on Broadway, died today. She was 90.

Born in 1922 in the Bronx, Ms. Resnik studied drama and music at Hunter College. She vaulted to stardom on December 6, 1944, when she debuted at the Met. On just 24 hours notice, she stepped in for Zinka Milanov in Verdi's Il Trovatore. This launched a ten-year career playing opera heroines in works by Mozart Beethovem Wagner, Veri and uccini. She was the first singer to play Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes at the Met, and she created the role of Delilah in Bernard Rogers' now-forgotten opera The Warrior.

She then switched to mezzo repertory, conquering significant parts like the title role in Carmen and Azucena in Il trovatore. Her most famous role though was Klytaemnestra, the sleep-deprived, psychotic queen in Richard Strauss' Elektra. Her last staged performance at the opera house was in 1983, as the Marquise de Berkenfield in La fille du Regiment.

Outside the Met, she enjoyed an international career. The girl from the Bronx sang at La Scala, the Paris Opera, Covent Garden and elsewhere, embracing a wide variety of roles in six different languages. Her rise to fame coincided wit with the golden age of recorded opera, and her contributions are immortalized in recordings of Carmen (with Thomas Schippers) and Falstaff with Georg Solti opposite her old onstage sparring partner Geraint Evans.

Her most memorable recording was in Strauss' Elektra with Solti. The singer took the part of Klytamnestra, the insomniac Queen who is obsessed with preventing her own death at the hands of her vengeance-driven, axe-wielding children. (Her bone-chilling laugh and off-stage screams made this recording a thrilling, terrifying experience.) She also played "character" parts like the dowager Countess in The Queen of Spades and Mistress Quickly in Fastaff.

Four years after her last Met performance, Ms. Resnik shifted gears and enjoyed a successful career on Broadway. She was nominated for a Tony for her appeareance as Mrs. Schneider in Cabaret and received a Drama Desk nomination for playing Mme. Armfeldt in a 1991 Lincoln Center production of A Little Night Music.

Although she now appeared primarily on Broadway, Ms. Resnik's presence continued at the Met. In addition to her duties as a teacher and coach for young singers, she was represented by an Arbit Blatis portrait of herself as Klytemnestra, dripping bangle, baubles and charms, her eyes heavy-lidded and leaning on a staff. This painting hung opposite the Metropolitan Opera's coat check desk for many years. A Blatis portrait of Ms. Resnik as Carmen hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

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