James Bennett II is a staff writer for WQXR.
Remembering Roberta Peters, a Soprano with Wide Appeal
Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 03:51 PM
On Thursday, the world received news of the death of coloratura soprano Roberta Peters at the age of 86.
Peters' career was notable for its longevity — she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera at age 20, and it was the first of more than 500 performances over a 35 year period. But it was that first performance in the autumn of 1950 that has proved to be a story worth telling time and again.
After Peters' standout audition for then-Met Opera General Manager Rudolf Bing, she was offered the role of Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. But a few months before her scheduled debut, she was asked at the last minute to stand in for an ailing Nadine Connor as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Peters was still a virtual unknown at that point and there’s no question the audience wondered if their expectations would be met.
They were. Years of rigorous training paid off and Peters’ premature debut on one of opera’s biggest stages was nothing short of a complete success.
In addition to opera, Peters was popular with television audiences and the theater crowd. She appeared 65 times on The Ed Sullivan Show, in addition to appearances on The Tonight Show and The Mike Douglas Show. She also took on roles in musicals including The King and I and The Sound of Music.
Her voice and presence will be missed by many.