Regina Resnik is one among a very few artists who has enjoyed two internationally successful singing careers, first as a soprano, and later as a mezzo-soprano. In both repertoires, she was noted for her outstanding musicianship and superb dramatic abilities.
She was born in 1922 in New York to Russian immigrant parents. Preparing herself for a singing career from an early age, she graduated from Hunter College in 1942. That same year, she made her operatic debut with the New Opera Company in New York, and immediately set off on a cross-country tour, performing a series of concerts under the auspices of Pryor Concert Management.
She won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1944, and made her Metropolitan debut that same season as Leonora in Il Trovatore, replacing an indisposed Zinka Milanov. She rapidly became established as a leading soprano both in the United States and Europe, with a remarkable repertoire ranging from Micaela and Butterfly to Aida and Sieglinde. She sang the role of Ellen Orford in the New York premiere of Britten's Peter Grimes.
By the mid-1950's, it became clear that her voice was taking on the darker, richer sound of a mezzo-soprano. By 1957, she had learned a new repertoire, and was making her highly successful debut at Covent Garden in the title role of Carmen. This was the beginning of a second career in Europe, with performances in Stuttgart, Berlin, Paris and Vienna. She returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Marina in Boris Godunov, and eventually completed thirty seasons with that company. Her roles included Mistress Quickly, Amneris, Eboli, Herodias, Fricka, Orlovsky, and the title role in Pique Dame.
In the 1970's, she began a third career as an opera director, and has directed productions with opera companies around the world. She also conducts master classes at the Metropolitan, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris, Venice, Treviso, and with the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School of Music.
Among her many awards, Mme. Resnik has received honorary doctorates from Hunter College and the New England Conservatory. She has served as a member of the jury of the Peabody Awards for Radio and Television, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
|Regina Resnik, renowned opera
singer, stage director, filmmaker and master teacher, was catapulted
into operatic stardom on 24 hours’ notice in 1942, when she appeared as
Lady Macbeth with the New Opera Company of New York, conducted by Fritz
Busch. She repeated the same feat in her Metropolitan Opera debut in
1944, when she sang Leonora in Il
Trovatore. After 13 years as a leading dramatic soprano, she
began a highly esteemed second career as a mezzo-soprano in 1956,
becoming the only singer in operatic history to have sung the mezzo and
soprano leads in half her repertory. Her legendary musical
collaborators include Bernstein, Solti, Karajan, Bruno Walter,
Klemperer, Erich Kleiber, Reiner and Rostropovich. In a career spanning
60 years and more than 80 parts -- at the Met, San Francisco, Covent
Garden, Vienna, Salzburg, Paris, La Scala, Berlin and Hamburg -- Ms.
Resnik became synonymous with four roles. These are: Carmen, Mistress
Quickly in Falstaff,
Klytämnestra in Elektra,
and the Countess in The Queen of
Spades -- all of which she recorded and which have become the
standard of comparison.
With her late husband, the artist Arbit Blatas, as scenic designer, Ms. Resnik directed in such international opera houses as San Francisco, Hamburg, Venice, Sydney, Vancouver and Lisbon from 1971 to 1983. That year she also wrote, produced and directed the prize-winning documentary The Historic Ghetto of Venice. In 1987, her musical theater début as Fraülein Schneider in Cabaret earned her a Tony Nomination, and, in 1990, her Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music brought her a Drama Desk Nomination. In 1992, the 50th anniversary of her operatic début was honored in New York, Vienna and Venice. In 2004, The Metropolitan Opera Guild celebrated the 60th anniversary of her Met debut at Lincoln Center, while London Records released a two-CD retrospective of her recordings, entitled Regina Resnik: Dramatic Scenes and Arias.
Ms. Resnik is also renowned as a master teacher in the world’s leading young artist programs. In New York, she just completed her eighth year as Master Teacher-in-Residence at the Mannes College at the New School of Music. The opera was Falstaff, prepared for the spring 2011 production at the Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College. In 2009, the New School honored Ms. Resnik with her fourth Honorary Doctorate.
From 1993 to 2010, she directed four different programs in Treviso, Italy. Ms. Resnik has also enjoyed prestigious affiliations with the Metropolitan Opera, the Juilliard School, the San Francisco Opera and L'Opéra de la Bastille, among many others.
Since 1997, Ms. Resnik has directed and narrated the concert series Regina Resnik Presents, co-founded and co-produced with her son, Michael Philip Davis, both on City University of New York (CUNY) TV and in concerts nationwide.
--Biography prepared for her 90th birthday, August 30, 2012
This interview was recorded at her hotel in Chicago on March 16, 1987. Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB two weeks later and again later that year, as well as in 1990 and 1992. This transcription was made and posted on this website in 2012.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been
transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.