Claire Watson

Biography

Born: February 3, 1927; New York, NY   Died: July 16, 1986; Utling, Germany  
Born Claire McLamore in New York City, this lyric/dramatic soprano achieved her greatest successes in Europe, particularly in Munich where she was a revered presence even after retirement. In building a career, she had to battle opposition from her first husband, a doctor of biophysics, who was uncomfortable with her pursuit of engagements away from her home in Rochester, NY. A contract in Frankfurt, where she worked with Georg Solti, led to Read more numerous other Continental bookings, however, and her success was assured.

Following initial studies at the Eastman School of Music, Watson traveled to New York in 1948 to work with Elisabeth Schumann and Sergius Kagen. Schumann informed her that, although she was not wrong to study Lieder, her voice really suited her to the lyric stage and suggested that she begin study of Octavian (Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier). After a successful audition with Otto Klemperer, the young soprano accompanied the conductor to Europe to benefit from his coaching. At a party in Vienna, Watson was heard by bass Emmanuel List, who invited her to travel to Graz where he knew the director. Watson was engaged and asked to open the season in six weeks as Desdemona. The frantic singer flew back to the United States where she approached Schumann for some rush-order coaching. Her debut having been successful, she was given a contract for three more roles, but a demand from her husband that she return home put a temporary halt to her European activities. After the birth of a fourth child, Watson realized that her life belonged to the stage and auditioned successfully for the role of Elettra in a Juilliard production of Idomeneo. She hired an agent who then arranged three auditions for European houses. All three produced offers of contracts and Watson chose Frankfurt.

Under Solti, her first year at Frankfurt offered her 11 roles, ranging from Aida to Tatyana in Eugene Onegin. In 1958, Watson was chosen to sing Mozart's Countess for the reopening of Munich's exquisite Cuvillies Theatre. Her triumph in the role was so complete that she elected to begin residing in Munich, remaining there for the rest of her career and beyond.

Vienna had called her in 1957, and she appeared there as Aida, beginning a long association with that city. Appearances at other theaters came quickly thereafter. London saw her Marschallin in 1958, Glyndebourne in 1960 (alternating in the role with Régine Crespin). Her Italian career took her to Venice, Rome, Florence, and Milan's La Scala, frequently in Wagner roles. Watson's American career was more limited, taking her to San Francisco (Elisabeth in Don Carlo and Mozart's Countess), Chicago (Donna Anna and Pamina), New Orleans (Ariadne, Arabella, and Elsa), Pittsburgh (Elisabeth and Senta) and a concert performance of Ariadne auf Naxos with the Boston Symphony. She was unable to agree with the Metropolitan Opera on repertory and never sang there.

Aided by her association with Solti, Watson made a number of significant recordings. Peter Grimes, under the composer's direction, has not left the catalog since its initial release in 1958. Solti used her in his landmark recording of Wagner's Ring and Klemperer engaged her for his recording of Don Giovanni. An overly-prominent vibrato keeps these examples of her work from entering the top-most level, but one is always conscious of a discriminating and musical mind informing her singing. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 31 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Wagner: Lohengrin / Bohm, Watson, Thomas, Ludwig, Wachter
    Label: Orfeo   Catalog: 862133 Release Date: 06/25/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Claire Watson,  Martti Talvela,  Christa Ludwig,  Walter Berry  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Opera Orchestra,  Vienna Opera Chorus
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  • 2.
    Mozart: Operas / Otto Klemperer [11-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 43782 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Margaret Price,  Yvonne Minton,  Sir Geraint Evans,  Luigi Alva  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  John Alldis Choir,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Chorus  ... 
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  • 3.
    Richard Wagner - Great Recordings
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 543504 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 40
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Ben Heppner,  Deborah Voigt,  Jan-Hendrik Rootering,  Birgitta Svendén  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Marek Janowski,  Joseph Keilberth  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 4.
    Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen / Solti, Vienna Philharmonic [Deluxe 19-Disc Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001745502 Release Date: 11/06/2012   Number of Discs: 19
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Hans Hotter,  Birgit Nilsson,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
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  • 5.
    Mozart: Don Giovanni / Klemperer, Ghiaurov, Gedda, Watson, Freni, Ludwig
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 4483 Release Date: 10/22/2012   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Walter Berry,  Mirella Freni,  Nicolai Gedda,  Christa Ludwig  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Chorus
    CD: $18.99
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  • 6.
    Solti Conducts The Wagner Operas [36-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001746302 Release Date: 10/16/2012   Number of Discs: 36
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  René Kollo,  Werner Krenn,  Isola Jones,  Janis Martin  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 7.
    Die Stimme Mit Herz
    Label: Acanta/Pilz   Catalog: 233354 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Werner Bochmann,  Robert Stolz,  Karl Blume,  Eduard Künneke  ... 
    Performer:  Heinz [Tenor Vocal] Hoppe,  Ingeborg [Soprano Vocals] Hallstein,  Anny Schlemm,  Rita Bartos  ... 
    Conductor:  Erich Becht,  Robert Stolz,  Franz Marszalek,  Wilhelm Stephan  ... 
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  • 8.
    Mozart At Salzburg Festival - Le Nozze Di Figaro, Die Zauberflote, La Clemenza Di Tito
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 107521 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Elina Garanca,  Michael Schade,  Barbara Bonney,  Vesselina Kasarova  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  James Levine,  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus Konzertvereinigung,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
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  • 9.
    Peter Pears - An Anniversary Tribute
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001437802 Release Date: 06/22/2010   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  John Ireland,  Richard Rodney Bennett,  Frank Bridge,  Alan Bush  ... 
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Pears,  Joan Dickson,  Viola Tunnard  ... 
    Conductor:  Witold Lutoslawski,  Sir Colin Davis,  Benjamin Britten,  Eugen Jochum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zorian Quartet,  London Sinfonietta,  Goldsborough Orchestra  ... 
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  • 10.
    Britten: Peter Grimes / Pears, Watson, Britten
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 2008 Release Date: 01/26/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Jean Watson,  James Pease,  Peter Pears,  Claire Watson  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
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  • 11.
    Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro / Berry, Grist, Bohm
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 107057 Release Date: 08/25/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Alfred Pfeifel,  Edith Mathis,  Zoltan Kélémén,  Walter Berry  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 12.
    Heritage Masters - Wagner: Das Rheingold / Solti, Flagstad
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001268402 Release Date: 03/31/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Kurt Böhme,  Eberhard Wächter,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Claire Watson  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $13.99
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  • 13.
    Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier / Watson, Popp, Kleiber
    Label: Orfeo D'or   Catalog: 581083 Release Date: 02/24/2009   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Karl Ridderbusch,  Anneliese Waas,  David Thaw,  Peter Albrecht  ... 
    Conductor:  Carlos Kleiber
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  • 14.
    Wagner: Das Rheingold / Solti, Flagstad, London, Et Al
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 478038 Release Date: 06/02/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Ira Malaniuk,  Kirsten Flagstad,  George London,  Gustav Neidlinger  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 15.
    Christa Ludwig - Arias & Scenes - Live Recordings 1955-1994
    Label: Orfeo D'or   Catalog: 758083 Release Date: 04/29/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Gioachino Rossini,  Richard Wagner,  Hans Pfitzner  ... 
    Performer:  Christa Ludwig,  Emmy Loose,  Karl Dönch,  Waldemar Kmentt  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm,  Alberto Erede,  Herbert von Karajan,  Georges Prêtre  ... 
    CD: $54.49
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  • 16.
    Weber: Der Freischütz / Matacic, Watson, Schock, Schädle
    Label: Eurodisc   Catalog: 7791 Release Date: 04/07/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Maria von Weber
    Performer:  Gottlob Frick,  Claudio Nicolai,  Kurt Böhme,  Fritz Ollendorf  ... 
    Conductor:  Lovro von Matacic
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra,  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus
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  • 17.
    Grand Tier - Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier / Kleiber, Watson, Fassbaender
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 7046 Release Date: 11/13/2007   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Claire Watson,  Brigitte Fassbaender,  Karl Ridderbusch,  Hilda De Groote  ... 
    Conductor:  Carlos Kleiber
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Chorus
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  • 18.
    Opera Obsession! Act IV - Opera d'Oro's Greatest Hits
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 1004 Release Date: 09/04/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Antonín Dvorák  ... 
    Performer:  Mirella Freni,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Jon Vickers,  Oralia Dominguez  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers,  Jean Fournet,  Horst Stein,  Bohumil Gregor  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Netherlands Radio Symphony,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $8.99
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  • 19.
    Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier / Kleiber, Watson, Fassbaender
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 1466 Release Date: 11/14/2006   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Karl Ridderbusch,  Brigitte Fassbaender,  Claire Watson
    Conductor:  Carlos Kleiber
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Chorus,  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra
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    On sale! $27.98
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  • 20.
    Originals - Britten: Peter Grimes / Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000747802 Release Date: 10/10/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Iris Kells,  Claire Watson,  Jean Watson,  Raymond Nilsson  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
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  • 21.
    Strauss: Ariadne Auf Naxos / Leinsdorf, Sills, Watson, Et Al
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4363 Release Date: 05/30/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  John Reardon,  Beverly Sills,  Claire Watson
    Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
    DVD: $33.99
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  • 22.
    Classic Library - Wagner: Arias & Scenes
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 76228 Release Date: 03/28/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Waltraud Meier,  Sherrill Milnes,  Ben Heppner,  Jan-Hendrik Rootering  ... 
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Anton Guadagno,  Sir Colin Davis,  Joseph Keilberth  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Chorus  ... 
    CD: $8.99
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  • 23.
    Britten Conducts Britten Operas Vol 1
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000321302 Release Date: 10/12/2004   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  James Pease,  Raymond Nilsson,  David [bass baritone] Kelly,  Lauris Elms  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $63.98
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  • 24.
    Knappertsbusch - Vienna Festival 1963 (Die Walküre Act 1) / Watson, Uhl, Greindl
    Label: Tdk   Catalog: CLHK63 Release Date: 02/17/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Josef Greindl,  Claire Watson,  Fritz Uhl
    Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 25.
    Wagner: Die Walküre Act 3 / Solti, Flagstad, Et Al
    Label: London/Decca Legends   Catalog: 467124 Release Date: 10/10/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad,  Marianne Schech,  Otto Edelmann,  Oda Balsborg  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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