Muriel Costa-Greenspon

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Muriel Costa-Greenspon
Muriel Costa-Greenspon.jpg
Born(1937-12-01)December 1, 1937
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died December 26, 2005(2005-12-26) (aged 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Singer

Muriel Costa-Greenspon (December 1, 1937 – December 26, 2005) was an American mezzo-soprano who had a lengthy career at the New York City Opera from 1963-93.

A mezzo-soprano or mezzo (, ; Italian: [ˈmɛddzo soˈpraːno] meaning "half soprano") is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types. The mezzo-soprano's vocal range usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3–A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4; 220–880 Hz). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C (F3, 175 Hz) and as high as "high C" (C6, 1047 Hz). The mezzo-soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.

New York City Opera American opera company based in New York City

The New York City Opera (NYCO) is an American opera company located in Manhattan in New York City. The company has been active from 1943 through 2013, and again since 2016 when it was revived.


She portrayed a gallery of character roles that extended from twentieth-century works by Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Carlisle Floyd, Lee Hoiby, Arthur Honegger, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Douglas Moore, to the contralto heroines of Gilbert and Sullivan, and comic scene-stealers by Puccini, Mozart, and Donizetti.

Leonard Bernstein American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist

Leonard Bernstein was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the US to receive worldwide acclaim. According to music critic Donal Henahan, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history."

Benjamin Britten English composer, conductor, and pianist

Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral showpiece The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1945).

Carlisle Floyd American composer

Carlisle Floyd is an American opera composer. The son of a Methodist minister, he has based many of his works on themes from the South. His best known opera, Susannah (1955), is based on a story from the Biblical Apocrypha, transferred to contemporary, rural Tennessee, and is set in a Southern dialect.


Born Muriel Greenspon in Detroit to deaf parents, she attended Cass Technical High School and later to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she earned bachelor's (1959) and master's (1960) degrees in vocal performance. She studied voice under Joseph Blatt at the University of Michigan and later with Sam Morgenstern in New York City.

Cass Technical High School American public high school

Cass Technical High School, commonly referred to as Cass Tech, is a four-year university preparatory high school in Midtown Detroit, United States. The school is named in honor of Lewis Cass, an American military officer and politician who served as governor of the Michigan Territory from 1813 until 1831. The school is a part of Detroit Public Schools.

She made her professional debut with the Detroit Grand Opera Association at the Detroit Opera House as Miss Todd in The Old Maid and the Thief in 1960. Over the next decade she appeared with numerous opera companies around the United States, including performances at the Baltimore Opera Company, the Opera Company of Boston, the Connecticut Opera, the Dallas Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company, and the San Antonio Grand Opera Festival among others.

Detroit Opera House opera house and former movie theater in Detroit, Michigan, United States

The Detroit Opera House is an ornate opera house located at 1526 Broadway Street in Downtown Detroit, Michigan, within the Grand Circus Park Historic District. The 2,700-seat venue is the home of productions of the Michigan Opera Theatre and a variety of other events. The theatre was originally designed by C. Howard Crane, who created other prominent theatres in Detroit including The Fillmore Detroit, the Fox Theater and the Detroit Symphony's Orchestra Hall. It opened on January 22, 1922.

<i>The Old Maid and the Thief</i> opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

The Old Maid and the Thief is a radio opera in one act by Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The work uses an English language libretto by the composer which tells a twisted tale of morals and evil womanly power. Menotti writes in the libretto "The devil couldn't do what a woman can- Make a thief out of an honest man."

Baltimore Opera Company

The Baltimore Opera Company (BOC) was an opera company in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A., based at the Baltimore Lyric Opera House.

In 1963 Greenspon joined the roster at the New York City Opera, beginning her tenure with the company portraying Olga Olsen in Kurt Weill's Street Scene . Her repertoire with the company eventually encompassed a total of forty-five roles. She participated in some of the company’s landmark productions of the 1960s and 1970s, including Frank Corsaro's La traviata (as Flora Bervoix, with Patricia Brooks), as well as Tito Capobianco's production of Le coq d'or (as Amelfa) and Corsaro's Faust (as Marthe), both opposite Beverly Sills and Norman Treigle. Also in her repertoire were Geneviève in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande , Dame Quickly in Sarah Caldwell's production of Verdi's Falstaff , Frau von Luber in Weill's Der Silbersee , and the name part in Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein .

Kurt Weill German composer

Kurt Julian Weill was a German Jewish composer, active from the 1920s in his native country, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht. With Brecht, he developed productions such as his best-known work The Threepenny Opera, which included the ballad "Mack the Knife". Weill held the ideal of writing music that served a socially useful purpose. He also wrote several works for the concert hall. He became a United States citizen on August 27, 1943.

<i>Street Scene</i> (opera) music theater piece by Kurt Weill

Street Scene is an American opera by Kurt Weill (music), Langston Hughes (lyrics), and Elmer Rice (book). Written in 1946 and premiered in Philadelphia that year, Street Scene is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Rice.

Frank Corsaro was one of America's foremost stage directors of opera and theatre. His Broadway productions include The Night of the Iguana (1961).

Costa-Greenspon took on leading roles for NYCO in the American premieres of Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel (1965) and von Einem's Dantons Tod (1966), and the 1964 world-premiere of Hoiby's Natalia Petrovna ( A Month in the Country ). She portrayed Katisha in The Mikado "with the right mixture of menace and pathos." [1] Her last performance with the company was as Grand Duchess Anastasia in The Student Prince (1993).

<i>The Fiery Angel</i> (opera) opera by Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev's opera, The Fiery Angel, Op. 37, could be considered one of the composer’s largest challenges. Writing, production, and location were all factors in the piece’s progress. The journey to completion was not truly over until after Prokofiev’s time, when the piece was first presented in a full performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 25 November 1954, and was first premiered at the Venice Festival in 1955.

<i>A Month in the Country</i> (play) play by Ivan Turgenev

A Month in the Country is a play in five acts by Ivan Turgenev, his only well-known work for the theatre. Originally titled The Student, it was written in France between 1848 and 1850 and first published in 1855 as Two Women. The play was not staged until 1872, when it was given as A Month in the Country at a benefit performance for the Moscow actress Ekaterina Vasilyeva (1829–1877), who was keen to play the leading role of Natalya Petrovna.

<i>The Mikado</i> Comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan

The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations. It opened on 14 March 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, which was the second-longest run for any work of musical theatre and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Before the end of 1885, it was estimated that, in Europe and America, at least 150 companies were producing the opera.

Aside from her work with the New York City Opera, she occasionally traveled to perform with other opera companies. In 1970 she sang Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at the New Orleans Opera with Plácido Domingo and Cornell MacNeil. That same year she made her debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago portraying Zita in Gianni Schicchi and returned to the Opera Company of Boston to sing the Fisherman's Wife in the world premiere of Gunther Schuller's The Fisherman and His Wife .

In 1973 she sang the role of La marquise de Berkenfield in La fille du régiment at the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company with Beverly Sills as Marie and Enrico di Giuseppe as Tonio. [2]

Another notable production that year was of The Medium in Detroit. Costa-Greenspon portrayed Madame Flora, and Sal Mineo both directed and took the part of the mute, Toby. Menotti, who was an admirer of Costa-Greenspon, later invited her to sing Madame Flora at the Spoleto Festival in 1975.

In 1983 Costa-Greenspon and her husband Giorgio Costa, a carpenter for the Metropolitan Opera, enjoyed a brief burst of extra-musical fame when they won $1.7 million in the state lottery. [3] The winnings did not cause her to abandon City Opera, however; she continued to perform with the company through 1993 when she retired from singing. In 1995, Costa-Greenspon made her only appearance at the Metropolitan Opera, as the Duchesse of Krakentorp, a speaking role, in La fille du régiment with June Anderson as Marie and Luciano Pavarotti as Tonio. [4]

Last years and death

After retiring from the stage, Costa-Greenspon served on the faculty of the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. She died on December 26, 2005, aged 68, in New York City. Her death was due to natural causes, according to her son, Stefano Costa, who, along with her husband, Giorgio, were her immediate survivors. [3]


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  1. Page, Tim. City Opera: New 'Mikado', The New York Times, September 14, 1985; accessed March 24, 2016.
  2. Muriel Costa-Greenspon in an excerpt from La fille du régiment, with Sills (1974) on YouTube
  3. 1 2 Anne Midgette (January 8, 2006). "Muriel Costa-Greenspon, City Opera Mezzo for 30 Years, Is Dead at 68". The New York Times .
  4. Muriel Costa-Greenspon biography,; accessed October 31, 2014.