American soprano Brenda Lewis died on September 16 2017 in Westport, Connecticut, aged 96. Born Birdie Solomon in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on 2 March 1921, Lewis studied at the Curtis Institute and began her career with the Philadelphia Opera Company as a Peasant Girl in Le nozze di Figaro (1939) and Esmeralda in The Bartered Bride, before tackling the Marschallin, Giulietta in Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Dorabella. On Broadway she alternated Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia with Patricia Neway (1948) and created the role of Birdie in Marc Blitzstein’s Regina (1949). She performed in Kiss Me, Kate and Annie Get Your Gun at the Vienna Volksoper and in Zurich. Lewis joined New York City Opera to sing Santuzza in 1945, remaining a potent force with the company until 1967. Other roles included Marguerite, Marenka, Salome, Elvira, Marie and the title role in Regina (which she recorded splendidly in 1958). Premieres at NYCO included Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden (1965, recorded).
At San Francisco Opera (1950-2) she sang Cherubino (to Tebaldi’s Countess). Met roles (1952-65) included Musetta, Rosalinde, Venus, Carmen, Marina and Vanessa. She sang Salome (1955) in the inaugural performance at Houston Grand Opera, and Chicago cast her for its first Wozzeck (1965). She appeared in Dallas, Seattle, Montreal and Rio de Janeiro.
From 1963, Lewis directed and taught in New Haven and Hartford. David Shengold (mit freundlicher Genehmigung und Dank von Opera, der internationalen englischen Opernzeitschrift/ „the worlds leading opera magazine“/ Foto oben: Brenda Lewis/ Foto Met Opera Archive)