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Leonie Rysanek (1926 - 1998)

The Austrian soprano Leonie Rysanek (1926-1998) was born in Vienna, where she studied with Alfred Jerger and Rudolf Grossmann, whom she later married. Making her début as Agathe in Der Freischütz in Innsbruck in 1949, she joined the Saarbrücken Opera the following year for a three-year period, singing Arabella, Donna Anna, Senta, Leonora (La forza del destino) and Sieglinde. She sang the last rôle at the 1951 Bayreuth Festival, to where she would return in 1958 as Elsa, in 1964 as Elisabeth and 1982 as Kundry. In 1952 she joined the Munich Company for a period of three years and sang at Covent Garden as a member of this company in 1953. Her first American appearance was as Senta in September 1956 in San Francisco. Her New York début was in February 1959 as Lady Macbeth, replacing an ailing Maria Callas. She would eventually sing over 200 performances with this company over a period of 35 years. She also appeared in Paris, Milan, Berlin, at the Salzburg Festival, and in 1984 appeared in Japan. She continued to sing until the mid-1990s. Although her repertoire embraced a vast range of Italian roles, Rysanek was hugely admired in the operas of Richard Strauss and Wagner. Her voice, which in its prime had an alluring tonal bloom and size, was allied to a striking stage presence and vivid acting ability.



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