Happy birthday Risë Stevens!

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Risë Stevens (June 11, 1913-March 20, 2013) was an American opera singer. She was the leading mezzo-soprano at the Metropolitan opera for over two decades throughout the 1940s and 1950s. She was particularly known for her interpretation of the title role in Carmen.

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Stevens was born Risë Steenberg in New York City to Sarah "Sadie" and Christian Steenberg. She attended the Juilliard School for three years and studied under Marie Gutheil-Schoder and Herbert Graf. She made her debut in Prague in 1936, playing the role of Mignon.

Stevens spent the next few years in Europe, also appearing with the Vienna State Opera. She then returned to the United States to appear with the Metropolitan Opera as Mignon in 1938. After a few more performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Hollywood took interest in her. After being recruited by Louis Mayer, the films The Chocolate Soldier (1941) and Going My Way (1944) were produced for Stevens. She went on to appear in several others throughout the 1950s.

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She specialized in playing male characters that were written to be performed by females, such as Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. She was virtually the only person ever to play the part of Octavian, the count who is a princess's young lover in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.

In 1939, she married Walter Surovy, an Austrian actor. He took on the role of her financial advisor and manager. Famously, he insured her voice for $1 million in 1945.

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She spent over two decades as the Met's main mezzo-soprano. She appeared in such roles as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, Octavian, Delilah in Samson and Delilah, Laura in La Gioconda, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, and Marina in Boris Godunov. Though she made countless performances in a variety of productions, her specialty was the title role in Carmen. Her RCA Victor recording of the opera was a bestseller in its prime and continues to sell. She made her farewell performance at the Met in Carmen in 1961. (Image source)

Stevens also appeared on Broadway and on television. She played the roles of Anna in The King and I and Lisa in Lady in the Dark. She was a guest-star on NBC's The Martha Raye Show.

In 1977, Stevens was awarded the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Wednesday, 11 June 2014
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