Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Birthday: Lisa Della Casa

"Waldseligkeit" R. Strauss
Soprano Lisa Della Casa was born February 2, 1919, an Italian-Swiss father Francesco della Casa (an ophthalmologist and theatre man) and Bavarian-born mother, Margarete Mueller, (restauranter) in Burgdorf, Switzerland, she studied singing, beginning at age 15, under Margarete Haeser at Zurich Conservatory and made her operatic debut as the title role in Puccini's Madama Butterfly at Solothurn-Biel Municipal Theater in 1940. She joined the ensemble of Zurich Municipal Opera House in 1943 (staying there until 1950) and sang various parts, from the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte to Dorabella in Così fan tutte. Later, she would of course sing Fiordiligi. After a first marriage to a man who did not share her passion for music, she married, in 1949,

Vilja Lied from Lehár's The Merry Widow
Yugoslavian-born journalist and violinist Dragan Debeljevic, with whom she had a daughter, Vesna Debeljevic. She was famous for singing the music of Mozart and Strauss in opera houses around the world including Zurich, Munich, Vienna, La Scala, Glyndebourne, Bayreuth, Salzburg and the Metropolitan Opera. The title role in Arabella became her signature role in life. She sang it for the first time at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich in 1951. Later in her career
she focused on roles like Tosca and Desdemona, but returned to Strauss roles like the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier. In 1970, her daughter Vesna, then 20, suffered an aneurysm and needed surgery which resulted in complications. Della Casa bought a house in Spain where the family could gather undisturbed. Her last performance was in 1973 as Arabella at the Salzburg

"Von ewiger Liebe" Brahms
Festival. She also smoked during her career with defiance: "Warum nicht?" In a much earlier BBC television interview conducted in English (BBC, 1963) when the soprano was in mid-career, she was asked if smoking were not bad for her health. Smilingly she replied: "You know, while in Vienna, I went to a special singers' doctor and asked him...., and he answered....'it is the singing which is more dangerous than the smoking,' and I smoke longer than I sing." Her discography includes Le Nozze di Figaro (Erich Kleiber), Arabella (Georg Solti), Richard Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder (Karl Böhm), Don Giovanni (Furtwängler), Die Zauberflöte and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (Fritz Reiner), Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and The Merry Widow (highlights) in English seconded by one of the great Don Giovannis of the time, Eberhard Waechter, as well as other lieder albums, most of which are available today on CD. [Source]

Della Casa and Dietrich Fischer Dieskau in Arabella 1960

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