Born: December 24, 1927 in New Hartford, Connecticut, and died July 17, 2007 in Vienna
The exacting American soprano Teresa Stich-Randall, died in Vienna aged 79, made most of her career in central Europe and was specifically well known for her Mozart and Bach. Her pure, sweet voice won wide praise.
Born in New Hartford, Connecticut, she studied at the Hartford School of Music and Columbia University, New York, where in 1947 she created the role of Gertrude Stein in The Mother of Us All by Virgil Thomson.
Her big break came when Toscanini called her “the find of the century” and engaged her for a series of performances with his NBC Symphony Orchestra. The first role she sang was the high priestess in Toscanini’s broadcast and recording of Aida, and she added to that a delightful Nannetta in his Falstaff (1950). She also sang regularly for him in his last years, as a soprano soloist in many choral works.
In 1951 she won the Lausanne Competition and began her European career. She made her European debut at Florence that same year as the Mermaid in Weber’s Oberon.
After a season at Basel, she was engaged by the Vienna State Opera, where her first role was Violetta, in La Traviata. She performed there regularly for the next two decades, and in 1963 the Austrian government conferred on her the honorary title of Kammersängerin, a relic of the “chamber singer” rank bestowed at the court of the former Austrian emperors; she was the first American to be so honored.
Perhaps the peak of her career came when she began to appear at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1953. During her distinguished period at the festival, Stich-Randall was renowned for all her interpretations of the major Mozart roles. Another notable achievement was her performance in the premiere of Frank Martin’s The Mystery of the Nativity at the Salzburg Festival in 1960.
Her American career was slighter: she sang Gilda in Rigoletto at Chicago in 1955, and made her Metropolitan debut as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte in 1961. During the 1960s, Stich-Randall regularly appeared throughout Italy in her Mozart roles and as Strauss’s Ariadne.
She began to wind down her career during the 1970s, although she appeared as Norma at Trier in Germany in 1971. From then on she was renowned as a strict teacher.
Stich-Randall has left many noted recordings, of which the most important are her appearances in Hanz Rosbaud’s Mozart cycle from Aix. Karajan chose her for his Sophie in his famous recording of Der Rosenkavalier in the late 1950s. She also was noted as Euridice in Gluck’s Orfeo under Charles Mackerras.
Bach was her other success in the studios, particularly a recording of the Cantata No 51, Jauchzet Gott, with the trumpeter Maurice André. Such works required the clean line and vibrato-less singing in which she specialised; she could thus be seen as a forerunner of the period-performance movement of more recent times. Her 1966 Vanguard recording of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with alto Elisabeth Höngen has a great reputation.It might even be suggested that Stich-Randall was born about 20 years too early. Nonetheless, in a 1983 interview she spoke positively of her career: “I was lucky – fate smiled on me in so many ways.” Later on she lived in Vienna, driving an Alpha Romeo sports car that she called “the red devil”.