Regina Resnik, Mezzo-Soprano and Director, Dies at 90

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Regina Resnik, the Bronx-born mezzo-soprano who later built a solid career as an opera director and teacher of master classes, died on Thursday in New York. She was 90.

Her death was confirmed by her son, Michael Philip Davis. The cause was not given.

Resnik, who started her career as a soprano before switching to mezzo roles in the mid-1950s, was long known for her vibrant upper register and subtle acting skills. She sang nearly 80 roles by one account, and had a 30-year career at the Metropolitan Opera.

Born on August 30, 1922 of Russian parentage, Resnik studied at Hunter College, before making her debut as Lady Macbeth with the now-defunct New York Opera Company in 1942. After a season with the New York City Opera, she won auditions for the Met. But before she could make her scheduled debut (as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana), she stepped in on a day's notice to replace an ailing Zinka Milanov in Verdi's Il Trovatore.

In 1955, Resnik's voice grew darker and she began to concentrate on the mezzo repertory. She was known for her portrayals of the title role in Bizet's Carmen, Klytemnestra in Strauss's Elektra and Herodias in Salome. She created the Baroness in Barber’s Vanessa in 1958. Until her retirement in 1983, Resnik appeared at Bayreuth, Covent Garden, Salzburg, as well as many leading American houses.

During the 1970s and '80s, Resnik collaborated with her second husband, the painter and sculptor Arbit Blatas, on a number of operatic productions, she directing, he designing. Blatas died in 1999.

After her retirement from the opera stage Resnik appeared in musical comedy, including a 1987 Broadway revival of "Cabaret," which earned her a Tony nomination, and "A Little Night Music" at Lincoln Center, which brought her a Drama Desk nomination in 1991.

Resnik also gave master classes at major opera houses and conservatories well into her retirement.

An appreciation by Operavore's Fred Plotkin will be posted next week.