Matzenauer, Margaret


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(b Temesvár [now Timişoara, Romania], 1 June 1881; d Van Nuys, CA, 19 May 1963). American contralto. Born of German parents who were musicians, she learnt to play the piano as a child and had already appeared in opera before studying in Graz with Georgine von Januschowsky-Neuendorff and in Berlin with Antonia Mielke and Franz Emerich. She made her début in Strasbourg as Puck in Oberon in 1901 and sang more than 15 roles in her first season there. She made guest appearances with many companies including those of Bayreuth in 1911 (Waltraute, Flosshilde and the First Norn). Later that year she made her American début at the Metropolitan Opera as Amneris under Arturo Toscanini. During her 19 seasons at the Metropolitan she took part in a great number of new productions and revivals, notably Fidelio, Samson et Dalila and Le prophète (both with Caruso), and Jenůfa. She appeared at Covent Garden in 1914, as both Kundry and Ortud. Enthusiastically praised for her acting, Matzenauer had a photographic memory (she performed Kundry at 24 hours’ notice having never sung the part before), and her musicianship was exceptional. Although her voice was a sumptuous contralto, she was often listed as a soprano and her repertory was vast. In a single season in the 1920s she sang Isolde, Brünnhilde, Delilah, Azucena and Amneris, and although her ventures into the soprano repertory took their toll on her voice, it retained its contralto richness. As a concert artist she is especially remembered for her performances of Das Lied von der Erde under Wilhelm Mengelberg, the American première of Oedipus rex under Sergey Koussevitzky and many Bach works under Artur Bodanzky. After leaving the Metropolitan she continued to give concerts and recitals, appeared occasionally in opera, and was active as a teacher. She is known to have made 85 recordings. With her second husband, the tenor Edoardo Ferrari-fontana, she performed Tristan and Isolde in 1912 with the Boston Opera Company.

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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