When did you start singing?
Maybe at 5.
Why did you start singing?
I always loved to sing anywhere, anytime.
Which singer inspired you most when you were young?
Gwen Verdon, Julie Andrews.
Which singer do you most admire?
It’s hard to choose… favourites are Janet Baker, Susan Graham, Richard Stilwell, Joyce DiDonato, Kiri Te Kanawa.
What’s your favourite role?
What role have you never played but would have liked to?
What’s your favourite opera to watch?
Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie.
Who is your favourite composer?
Who is your favourite writer?
Who is your favourite theatre or film director?
Who is your favourite actor?
Who is your favourite dancer?
What is your favourite film?
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
Which is your favourite city?
What do you like most about yourself?
What was your proudest moment?
Having my granddaughter have my name.
When and where were you happiest?
With my family.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My two girls.
What is your greatest fear?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My daughters and granddaughters.
If you hadn’t been a singer what would you have liked to be?
What quality do you most value in a friend?
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Which living person do you most admire?
What do you most dislike?
What talent would you most like to have?
To be able to draw.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Days with my family.
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?
If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans!
Frederica von Stade – a biography
Described by the New York Times as “one of America’s finest artists and singers”, Frederica von Stade continues to be extolled as one of the music world’s most beloved figures. Known to family, friends, and fans by her nickname “Flicka,” the mezzo-soprano has enriched the world of classical music for three decades.
Miss von Stade’s career has taken her to the stages of the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. She began at the top, when she received a contract from Sir Rudolf Bing during the Metropolitan Opera auditions, and since her debut in 1970 she has sung nearly all of her great roles with that company. In January 2000, the company celebrated the 30th anniversary of her debut with a new production of The Merry Widow specifically for her, and in 1995, as a celebration of her 25th anniversary, the Metropolitan Opera created for her a new production of Pelléas et Mélisande. In addition, Miss von Stade has appeared with every leading American opera company, including San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Los Angeles Opera. Her career in Europe has been no less spectacular, with new productions mounted for her at Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, and the Paris Opera. She is invited regularly by the finest conductors, among them Claudio Abbado, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Leonard Slatkin, and Michael Tilson Thomas, to appear in concert with the world’s leading orchestras, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, Washington’s National Symphony, and the Orchestra of La Scala.
With impressive versatility, she effortlessly traversed an ever-broadening spectrum of musical styles and dramatic characterisations. A noted bel canto specialist, she excelled as the heroines of Rossini’s La cenerentola and Il barbiere di Siviglia and Bellini’s La sonnambula. She was an unmatched stylist in the French repertoire: a delectable Mignon or Périchole, a regal Marguerite in Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, and, in one critic’s words, “the Mélisande of one’s dreams”. Her elegant figure and keen imagination made her the world’s favourite interpreter of the great trouser roles, from Strauss’ Octavian and Composer to Mozart’s Sesto, Idamante and – magically, indelibly – Cherubino. Miss von Stade’s artistry inspired the revival of neglected works such as Massenet’s Cherubin, Thomas’s Mignon, Rameau’s Dardanus, and Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. Her ability as a singing actress allowed her to portray wonderful works in operetta and musical theater including the title role in The Merry Widow and Desirée Armfeldt in A Little Night Music. She created the role of Tina in Dallas Opera’s world premiere production of Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers (a work written for her) as well as the role of Madame de Merteuil in Conrad Susa’s Dangerous Liaisons and Mrs. Patrick De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, both for San Francisco Opera.
In 2005, Los Angeles audiences saw her first-ever performances of the title role in La Grand Duchesse de Gerolstein in a new production directed by famed movie director Garry Marshall for Los Angeles Opera. Later that season, she gave her first performances as Ottavia in L’Incoronazione di Poppea with Houston Grand Opera, a role she reprised for Los Angeles Opera in the 2006-07 season.
Frederica von Stade’s orchestral repertoire was equally broad, embracing works from the Baroque to those of today’s composers. She garnered critical and popular acclaim in her vast French repertoire as one of the world’s finest interpreters of Ravel’s Shéhérazade, Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, and Canteloube’s Les chants d’Auvergne as well as the orchestrated songs of Debussy and Duparc. She was continually in demand for the symphonic works of the great Austrian and German composers including Mozart and Mahler, as well as the new works of American composers.
It was the American composer Richard Danielpour who in 1998 helped Frederica von Stade to realize an artistic and personal dream when he wrote Elegies. The work, scored for orchestra, mezzo-soprano and baritone, is a tribute to Miss von Stade’s father, Charles von Stade, who was killed in the final days of World War II, and is based on the text of letters Mr von Stade sent to his wife during the war. It is through these letters that Frederica von Stade came to know her father, who died two months before her birth. In January 1998 the Jacksonville Symphony, led by Roger Nierenberg, offered the world premiere of Elegies with performances in Florida and in New York’s Carnegie Hall. Elegies is available on SONY Classical and has been performed throughout North America and Europe.
Unparalleled in her artistry as a recitalist, Miss von Stade combined her expressive vocalism and exceptional musicianship with a rare gift for communication, enriching audiences throughout the world. Here, too, her repertoire encompassed a rich variety, from the classical style of Mozart and Haydn to the popular songs of Broadway’s greatest musicals; from Italian “Arie antiche” to the songs of contemporary composers – who compose especially for her – such as Dominick Argento and Jake Heggie.
She has made over seventy recordings with every major label, including complete operas, aria albums, symphonic works, solo recital programs, and popular crossover albums. Her recordings have garnered six Grammy nominations, two Grand Prix du Disc awards, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Italy’s Premio della Critica Discografica, and “Best of the Year” citations by Stereo Review and Opera News. She has enjoyed the distinction of holding simultaneously the first and second places on national sales charts for Angel/EMI’s Show Boat and Telarc’s The Sound of Music.
Miss von Stade appears regularly on television, through numerous PBS and other broadcasts. In 2002 she was seen on national television in a concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as part of the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. In 2001 she participated in the opening of Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts performing in a concert together with Sir Elton John, Andre Watts, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Other highlights of more recent television appearances include a gala concert with the San Francisco Symphony to open the 1998-99 season at New York’s Carnegie Hall and a “Live from Lincoln Center” television event opening the 1999 season of the Mostly Mozart Festival, both broadcast throughout North America. She can be seen in “Live from the Met” performances as Cherubino, Hansel, and Idamante, and through PBS broadcasts of her celebration of the art of American song with Thomas Hampson, Marilyn Horne, Dawn Upshaw and Jerry Hadley in a program at New York’s Town Hall titled I Hear America Singing, as well as a program with Tyne Daly which included arias, art songs and popular crossover material. Also seen on PBS were a holiday special, Christmas with Flicka, shot on location in Salzburg, A Carnegie Hall Christmas with Kathleen Battle, and an evening of operatic and musical theater selections with Samuel Ramey and Jerry Hadley titled Flicka and Friends. Her recent portrayals in Dangerous Liaisons and The Aspern Papers were broadcast throughout North America. She can also be seen in the Unitel film of the classic Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production of La cenerentola.
Frederica von Stade is the holder of honorary doctorates from Yale University, Boston University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (which holds a Frederica von Stade Distinguished Chair in Voice), the Georgetown University School of Medicine, and her alma mater, the Mannes School of Music. In 1998 Miss von Stade was awarded France’s highest honor in the Arts when she was appointed as an officer of L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1983 she was honored with an award given at The White House by President Reagan in recognition of her significant contribution to the arts.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.