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Lisa Della Casa (1919 - 2012)

Lisa della Casa was born into a family of Italian, Swiss and German extraction; her father was a doctor. She began to study singing when she was fifteen years old at the Zürich Conservatory with Margarete Haeser, her only vocal teacher, and made her operatic debut in the title role of Madama Butterfly at the Municipal Theatre of Solothurn-Biel in 1941. Two years later, already active as an actress and a concert singer, she joined the ensemble of the Zürich Opera House, remaining with this company until 1950. Here her roles included Mimì / La Bohème and the Queen of the Night / Die Zauberflöte, as well as Serena / Porgy and Bess and the Young Woman in the world premiere of Willy Burkhard’s Die schwarze Spinne.

In 1946 della Casa sang Zdenka in Richard Strauss’s opera Arabella opposite the soprano Maria Cebotari in the title role. Impressed, Cebotari recommended her to the Salzburg Festival, where she repeated the same role in 1947, this time opposite Maria Reining and Hans Hotter. After hearing her performance, Richard Strauss himself prophetically commented, ‘That girl will be the Arabella someday!’ In the same year della Casa married the Yugoslav author Dragan Debeljevic and made her debut at the Vienna State Opera as Gilda / Rigoletto. She quickly became a member of this distinguished company, where her early roles included Sophie / Der Rosenkavalier and Nedda / Pagliacci, as well as Mimì and Butterfly.




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