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

AUDIO: Regina Resnik on WNYC's 'Opera Topics' with Lorenzo Alvary in 1972

Friday, August 09, 2013 - 03:00 PM

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.

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Comments [5]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

REGINA RESNIK was a supreme artist as a soprano, as a mezzo, as a teacher and in her master classes. We who have had the good fortune to live in nearby New Jersey and have studied at universities and colleges in Manhattan have not missed the opportunity to witness firsthand her musical and actress chemistry in her roles at the MET. This year, 2013, has been a sad year for so many major artists have died. PATRICE CHEREAU accomplished more by his "capitalizing" on GEORGE BERNARD SHAW's "THE PERFECT WAGNERITE" view that the "RING" truly fit nicely into the schemata scenario of CAPITALISM with all its degenerate "dog eat dog" operating philosophy. Whatever one's own personal view of economics, Wagner himself had to contend with royalty to pay for the mounting of his music dramas and depend on Jewish merchants to finance what royalty did not. VLADIMIR JUROVSKI's conducting passion and skills top my most memorable operatic occasions this year. HE IS A HOLLYWOOD DREAM come true for what the ideal opera conductor should be !!! The passing of singers MARTA EGGERTH, REGINA RESNIK, EVELYN LEAR and DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU and composer MARVIN HAMLISCH and conductor WOLFGANG SAWALLISCH, musician RAVI SHANKAR and director PATRICE CHEREAU deserves considerable tributes to their own special talents and accomplishments. My own background with famous MET OPERA opera singer teachers [ FRIEDRICH SCHORR, ALEXANDER KIPNIS, MARGARETE MATZENAUER, FRIEDA HEMPEL, JOHN BROWNLEE, MACK HARRELL and MARTIAL SINGHER ] and acting teachers [ LEE STRASBERG and PHILIP BURTON ] and conductors [LASZLO HALASZ, FAUSTO CLEVA, GEORGE SCHICK and EDWIN MC ARTHUR ] and my own performances consort to evaluate so highly the value of the proper studied approach to singing, acting and composing. ] will sing the four song cycles that are most often performed in their orchestral garb: Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder," Mahler's "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen," Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" and Schoenberg's "Gurre-Lieder" at the New Life Expo at the Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC on Saturday March 22nd at 6 PM. I have sung four three-hour-long solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall including programming the Wagner and the first named Mahler song cycle. I am an opera composer, Wagnerian romantischer heldentenor and the director at the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute of Boonton, NJ. where I teach voice and train artists in all the Wagner and Shakespeare roles. One may download, free, my singing at CARNEGIE HALL by going to Recorded Selections on my websites www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com
www.wagneropera.com and www.shakespeareopera.com

Dec. 28 2013 06:52 PM

Resnik was a legend. And what a sense of humor! When she sang Fille opposite Corena, they improved jokes in French which were hilarious. I even have a 1963 recording of her Kundry from La Fenice. She was a fantastic artist. Just listen to her Butterfly from 1947 b'cast, or her Sieglinde's from Bayreuth & then her switch to mezzo. What an artist !!!

Aug. 11 2013 11:02 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

EYDIE GORME, one of the best of pop music's celebrities, BUT SHE LIKE KATE SMITH WITH A VOICE, died at age 84 yesterday. Her husband STEVE LAWRENCE at her side as she passed, had performed with the Guber Gross Ford Music tents many years ago. I was singing in MOST HAPPY FELLA and our troupes crossed at historic Valley Forge, NJ where wee were both performing. Steve played for me at pool side, at the company's Howard Johnson's stay while we performed locally, his Webster Chicago wire recording of his night club act. Steve had a good voice and respectable showmanship, but EYDIE HAD A REAL STIRRING SINGING VOICE !!!

Aug. 11 2013 10:49 AM
Paul Mack Somers from Mauricetown, NJ

Even after her "retirement", she would do the Old Baroness in Vanessa. I saw her do it in Princeton in the 1990s. She owned the stage when she was on it, not in an obnoxious stagey way, but by simply inhabiting the role.

Aug. 10 2013 11:19 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, boonton, NJ

Even at age 90, it is a loss to us that REGINA RESNIK has passed. I knew her personally and tremember fondly all her roles for well placed, well projected voice with its distinctive coloration, timbre,. and her subtle, but at the appropriate time, furious outpourings. She was truly unica, one of a kind. R.i.P. REGINA!

Aug. 10 2013 08:19 AM

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