Eleanor Steber

Last updated
Eleanor Steber
Eleanor Steber 1952.jpg
Steber in 1952.
Background information
BornJuly 17, 1914
Wheeling, West Virginia, U.S.
DiedOctober 3, 1990(1990-10-03) (aged 76)
Langhorne, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation(s) Soprano
Instruments vocals
Years active1940–1990
Labels RCA Victor, Columbia Records, VAI

Eleanor Steber (July 17, 1914 [1]  October 3, 1990) was an American operatic soprano. Steber is noted as one of the first major opera stars to have achieved the highest success with training and a career based in the United States.

Contents

Biography

Eleanor Steber was born in Wheeling, West Virginia on July 17, 1914. She was the daughter of William Charles Steber, Sr. (1888–1966) and Ida Amelia (née Nolte) Steber (1885–1985). She had two younger siblings – William Charles Steber, Jr. (1917–2002) and Lucile Steber Leslie (1918–1999). She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1940 and was one of its leading artists through 1961. She was known for her large, flexible silvery voice, particularly in the high-lying soprano roles of Richard Strauss. She was equally well known for her lyrical portrayals of Mozart's heroines, many in collaboration with conductor Bruno Walter. Beyond Mozart and Strauss her repertoire was quite varied.

She was noted for success in the music of Wagner, Alban Berg, Giacomo Puccini and also in French opera. Steber sang the lead in the world premiere of the American opera Vanessa by Samuel Barber. She was also featured in a number of Metropolitan Opera premieres, including Strauss's Arabella , Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail , and Berg's Wozzeck .

Outside the Metropolitan her career included a 1953 engagement at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival, where her performance as Elsa in Lohengrin was highly acclaimed and recorded by Decca Records. She sang with Arturo Toscanini in his 1944 NBC Symphony broadcast of Beethoven's Fidelio . In 1954 at the Florence May Festival she sang a celebrated performance of Minnie in Puccini's La fanciulla del West with conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos. With Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra she sang the world premiere in 1948 of Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 , a work which she commissioned.

Beyond the opera, Steber was popular with radio and television audiences in frequent appearances on The Voice of Firestone , The Bell Telephone Hour and other programs. Her extensive recording output included many popular ballads and operetta tunes in addition to arias, art songs and complete operas.

In 1973 she recorded a live album of arias and songs for RCA Red Seal at the Continental Baths in New York City where a young Bette Midler was then a regular performer. At the same time she was still heard in recital at Carnegie Hall and sang a noted late-career performance of Strauss's Four Last Songs with James Levine and the Cleveland Orchestra.

While she was known as an artist of the highest standards, some critics observed that her reportedly tempestuous personal life eventually took a toll on her voice. In a well-known story, following a brilliant success in 1946 as the Countess in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Edinburgh Festival, HMV Records engaged her to record some Mozart and other popular arias. By the account of Walter Susskind, the conductor of both the Edinburgh performances and the proposed recordings, she arrived at the Abbey Road Studios not feeling well, having been up most of the night. She could not sing her standard arias, saying "I don't feel like singing that." Susskind, trying to save the recording session, asked, "What do you feel like singing?". Steber thought for a moment and said, "Let's try 'Depuis le jour'" (from Louise ). Orchestra parts were found and the disc was cut in one take. It became a famous recording of the aria, revealing a superb lyrical vocal line and an eloquent interpretation.

Upon retiring from singing, she taught on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Juilliard School and maintained a private voice studio. A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music (1938), she also coached a limited number of students (vocal performance majors) there in a "master class" format at least in the years 1975-1977. She established the Eleanor Steber Vocal Foundation with an annual contest to assist young singers in launching their careers. Her many recordings are still available, as are audio and visual tapes of her radio and television broadcasts for The Voice of Firestone . Her papers are held by Houghton Library at Harvard University.

Personal life

Steber struggled at times with asthma and alcoholism. [2] She was married twice. Her first husband was pianist Edwin Lee Bilby. Her second husband was Colonel Gordon Andrews, whom she married in 1958, at the time she created the role of Vanessa at the Metropolitan Opera. Andrews managed her career and started the STAND record company, a joint venture that produced numerous recordings of Steber's performances. They were married for nine years. She had three stepchildren: Marsha Andrews, an opera singer who studied with her at the Cleveland Institute of Music and in New York and who also sang at the Metropolitan Opera for 12 seasons; Gordon Andrews Jr., retiree from GM, now deceased; and Michelle Andrews Oesterle, a choral conductor, singer and founder of the very successful Manhattan Girls Chorus.[ citation needed ]

Death

She died on October 3, 1990, in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, following heart valve surgery and is interred at Greenwood Cemetery, Wheeling, West Virginia. [2]

Selected discography

Related Research Articles

Mario Del Monaco

Mario Del Monaco was an Italian operatic tenor.

Renata Tebaldi Italian opera singer

Renata Tebaldi was an Italian lirico-spinto soprano popular in the post-war period and was especially prominent as one of the stars of La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera. Among the greatest and most beloved opera singers, she has been said to have possessed one of the most beautiful voices of the 20th century, a voice that was focused primarily on the verismo roles of the lyric and dramatic repertoires. Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini praised Tebaldi's voice as "la voce d'angelo", while La Scala music director Riccardo Muti summed up Tebaldi as "one of the greatest performers with one of the most extraordinary voices in the field of opera."

Kiri Te Kanawa New Zealand opera singer

Dame Kiri Jeanette Claire Te Kanawa is a New Zealand opera singer. She had a full lyric soprano voice, which has been described as "mellow yet vibrant, warm, ample and unforced". Te Kanawa had three top 40 albums in Australia in the mid-1980s.

Leontyne Price American soprano (born 1927)

Mary Violet Leontyne Price is an American soprano who was the first African American soprano to receive international acclaim. From 1961 she began a long association with the Metropolitan Opera, where she was the first African American to be a leading performer. She regularly appeared at the world's major opera houses, the Royal Opera House, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and La Scala, the latter of which she was also the first African American to sing a leading role. She was particularly renowned for her performances of the title role in Verdi's Aida.

Renée Fleming American opera soprano

Renée Lynn Fleming is an American operatic soprano, known for performances in opera, concerts, recordings, theater, film, and at major public occasions. Fleming has a full lyric soprano voice. She has performed coloratura, lyric, and lighter spinto soprano operatic roles in Italian, German, French, Czech, and Russian, aside from her native English. Her signature roles include Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, the title role in Dvořák's Rusalka, the title role in Massenet's Manon, the title role in Massenet's Thaïs, Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, the title role in Richard Strauss's Arabella, the Marschallin in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, the Countess in Strauss's Capriccio, and Blanche DuBois in André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire.

Kathleen Battle American operatic soprano (born 1948)

Kathleen Deanna Battle is an American operatic soprano known for her distinctive vocal range and tone. Born in Portsmouth, Ohio, Battle initially became known for her work within the concert repertoire through performances with major orchestras during the early and mid-1970s. She made her opera debut in 1975. Battle expanded her repertoire into lyric soprano and coloratura soprano roles during the 1980s and early 1990s, until her eventual dismissal from the Metropolitan Opera in 1994. She later has focused on recording and the concert stage. After a 22-year absence from the Met, Battle performed a concert of spirituals at the Metropolitan Opera House in November 2016.

Edda Moser German operatic soprano

Edda Moser is a German operatic soprano. She was particularly well known for her interpretations of music by Mozart. Her 1973 recital LP Virtuose Arien von W.A. Mozart received the Grand Prix du Disque.

Sumi Jo South Korean operatic soprano

Sumi Jo, OSI is a South Korean lyric coloratura soprano known for her Grammy award-winning interpretations of the bel canto repertoire.

Júlia Várady is a Hungarian-born German soprano who started out as a mezzo-soprano.

Ljuba Welitsch

Lyuba Welitsch was an operatic soprano. She was born in Borisovo, Bulgaria, studied in Sofia and Vienna, and sang in opera houses in Austria and Germany in the late 1930s and early and mid-1940s. In 1946 she became an Austrian citizen.

Judith Blegen is an American soprano, particularly associated with light lyric roles of the French, Italian and German repertories.

Inese Galante Latvian soprano opera singer (born 1954)

Inese Galante is a Latvian soprano opera singer. Galante is known for a great beauty of tone, nuanced pianissimos and sensitive command of dynamics and colour. Her performance of Vavilov's Ave Maria, from her "Debut" album 1995 started spreading worldwide interest in the piece.

Teresa Żylis-Gara Polish operatic soprano (born 1935)

Teresa Żylis-Gara is a Polish operatic soprano who had a major international career during the 1950s through the 1990s. She was a long-time member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, known for her portrayals in operas by Mozart, Puccini and Verdi. She performed a broad repertoire both on stage as in concert and recital, singing works by Bach, Handel, Brahms, Faure, Chopin and Szymanowski, among others. She is known for the stylistic security and flexibility of her unique voice.

Alessandra Marc, born Judith Borden is an American dramatic soprano who has appeared at many of the world's opera houses and orchestras. Marc is particularly known for her interpretations of the works of Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, music of the Second Viennese School, and the title role in Puccini's Turandot.

Joyce DiDonato American mezzo-soprano

Joyce DiDonato is an American lyric-coloratura mezzo-soprano. She is notable for her interpretations of operas and concert works in the 19th-century romantic era in addition to works by Handel and Mozart.

William L. Lewis is an American operatic tenor and academic.

Lee Venora is an American operatic soprano and musical theater actress. She was highly active with the New York City Opera between 1957 and 1967 and a regular performer at the San Francisco Opera between 1961 and 1966. She also appeared in a few Broadway musicals, Lincoln Center revivals, and national tours of musicals during her career. Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein was an admirer of her voice, and she performed with him and the New York Philharmonic on a number of occasions during the late 1950s and early 1960s. She also sang with the orchestra on a couple of recordings and appears on a few musical recordings as well.

Florence Kirk was an American dramatic soprano who had an active international performance career in operas and concerts from 1937 to 1954. Born in Philadelphia and trained at the Curtis Institute of Music by Elisabeth Schumann, she was particularly associated with the roles of Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni and the title heroine in Verdi's Aida. Her repertoire included other Verdi heroines like Leonora and Lady Macbeth, Santuzza from Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, Minnie in Puccini's La fanciulla del West and the title role in Tosca, and several roles from Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle.

Geraldine McMillian is an American soprano who has had an active career in concerts and operas since the mid-1980s.

Roberta Alexander American operatic soprano

Roberta Alexander is an American operatic soprano. She began her career as a lyric soprano in 1975 and spent the next three decades performing principal roles with opera houses internationally. Particularly celebrated for her performances of Mozart heroines, she was a leading soprano at the Metropolitan Opera from 1983-1991. In addition to principal Mozart roles like Countess Almaviva, Elettra, Fiordiliggi, and Donna Elvira, she had particular success with the parts of Mimì in Puccini's La bohème and the title role in Janáček's Jenůfa. More recently she has performed secondary character roles on stage, including performances at the Grand Théâtre de Provence in 2013, La Scala in 2014, and La Monnaie in 2015. She performed the 5th maid in Strauss's Elektra at the Met in 2016 and Curra in Verdi's La forza del destino at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 2019.

References

  1. Note that the New Grove Dictionary of Opera lists her as being born in 1916
  2. 1 2 Steber profile, cantabile-subito.de; accessed July 18, 2015.

Sources