The ravishing, crystal-clear, lyric voice of Arleen Auger was stilled on June 10, 1993, when she succumbed to brain cancer. The revered American soprano was 53 years old.
Ms. Auger had been diagnosed with a mass in the right parietal lobe of her brain in February of 1992. After surgery, the growth was identified as a giant cell glial blastoma, a highly malignant tumor. Ms. Auger then underwent an aggressive program of focalRead more radiation at the tumor site.
In August, Ms. Auger was given four to six months to live. Continuing her valiant fight, she survived two subsequent brain surgeries. By late March of 1993, Ms. Auger's condition began to decline steadily until she slipped into a coma on May 30th. She never regained consciousness.
A resident of Hartsdale, New York, Joyce Arleen Auger was born on September 13, 1939 in southern California. She sang from the age of two months, long before she would talk. As a child, she began her formal music training in piano and violin. All through elementary and high school she performed as soloist in countless school, community, and church events, and distinguished herself as concertmaster of her high school orchestra.
Ms. Auger earned a BA in Education from California State University at Long Beach in 1963, and worked as a kindergarten and first grade teacher after graduation. From 1965 to 1967, she studied voice with tenor Ralph Errolle in Evanston, Illinois. Ms. Auger returned to California and won first place at the Viktor Fuchs Vocal Competition of Los Angeles in 1967. This prize included airfare to Vienna, Austria, and several modest singing engagements.
Equipped with only two coloratura arias and not knowing a word of German, Arleen Auger was "discovered" and immediately signed by the prestigious Vienna Staatsoper within weeks of her arrival. She made her debut as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, with Josef Krips conducting. Although she remained under contract there for seven years, Ms. Auger sang extensively throughout Europe, always devoting a large portion of her performance schedule to her beloved song recital work.
In 1969, Ms. Auger made her American operatic debut, also as Queen of the Night, with the New York City Opera. Her universally acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut soon followed as Marzelline in Beethoven's Fidelio, conducted by Karl Böhm.
A teacher of exceptional talent and commitment, Arleen Auger always made time for voice students. Beginning in 1971, she taught voice at the renowned Göthe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, a position (unheard of for an American) which she held until 1977. It was extremely important to her to always schedule teaching and master classes into her demanding schedule.
During her illustrious career, Arleen Auger appeared in over 60 major music festivals in Europe, North America, and Asia. Her devotion to sacred music is legendary in the music world. Countless cherished memories were formed in sublime performances with her very special friend, Blanche Moose, at The New England Bach Festival of Vermont, in Eugene, Oregon with Rilling, and the almost mystical collaborations with Greg Funfgeld, Music Director of Bethlehem Bach Festival of Pennsylvania, will never be forgotten.
She made 13 worldwide recital tours in all. Her collaborations with conductors such as Abode, Bernstein, Böhm, Chailly, Haitink, Hogwood, Maazel, Masur, Muti, Ozawa, Pinnock, Rattle, Rilling, Solti and Tennstedt; composers Alfred Heller, Richard Hundley, Ned Rorem, Libby Larsen and Judith Zaimont; and pianists Dalton Baldwin, Steven Blier, Irwin Gage, Murray Perahia, Roger Vignoles and Brian Zeger have been lauded for the pure "luminous quality" of her voice and her "sublimely intelligent musicianship."
"This is a singer who loves to sing, and for all the right reasons," Bernard Holland noted in the New York Times on September 14, 1986. Arleen Auger was a welcome and familiar figure in the world's most prestigious concert halls and opera houses, appearing at the bastions of the music world: La Scala di Milano, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Vienna Staatsoper, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Le Châtelet in Paris, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, Wigmore and Royal Festival Hall in London. The list goes on and on.
Arleen Auger stands securely as one of the most recorded voices of all time. Her discography, ranging from all the soprano cantatas of Bach to the works of Schoenberg, numbers over 200 recordings, excluding reissues! Over the years, Ms. Auger's recordings have been distinguished by dozens of awards and honors including the Orphée d'Or, the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Mumms Champagne Ovation Award, several Edison Prizes and a posthumous Grammy.
Flawlessly performing her signature piece, Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate, Arleen Auger's emotionally communicative voice and impeccable artistry were enjoyed by over 700 million TV viewers as the first American to sing at a British Royal Wedding, in 1986.
In 1990, Ms. Auger collaborated with long time admirer Leonard Bernstein in live televised performances, and video and audio recordings, of Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate and the Great Mass in c-minor for Deutsche Grammophon. Continuing through the Mozart Bicentennial year of 1991, Arleen Auger's skills as the quintessential Mozart interpreter of her time were much in demand with such musical luminaries as Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Loren Maazel and the Pittsburgh, the Detroit Symphony under Raymond Leppard, Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic and Maestro Chailly with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in a command performance for Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. That memorable year also found Arleen Auger as "guest star" in all-Mozart programs with Murray Perahia New York, Chicago, Vienna, Paris, and London.
Coming full circle, on December 5, 1991, the anniversary day of Mozart's death, Arleen Auger sang in a worldwide televised performance of Mozart's Requiem Mass with her young colleague and "fan" Cecilia Bartoli and the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Sir Georg Solti in St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna. Already stricken by the brain tumor that took her life, it was the last Mozart she would ever sing.
In the words of music critic Tim Page, Arleen Auger will always be remembered as "the sort of artist whose work not only provided pleasure for her audience but also instruction for her colleagues ... by any standards, hers was an exemplary career ... She sang beautifully for more than a quarter century, she sang great music, and she never bowed or pandered to public taste. She was an artist, steady and serious to the end." Read less
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