Risë Stevens


Born: June 11, 1913; New York, NY   Died: March 20, 2013; New York, NY  
Mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens was one of the most prominent American opera stars during World War II and for nearly two decades afterwards. She was of Norwegian descent; her original name was Risë Steenberg. She showed early promise as a singer and studied with a teacher named Orry Prado. After graduating from high school, she landed a job with the New York Little Theater Opera Company. After that company went bankrupt, she became a dress Read more model.

Anna Schoen-René, a voice teacher at the Juilliard School, offered her free singing lessons. Risë received a tempting job offer from the Metropolitan Opera Company but judged she was not ready and declined it. Instead, she went to Europe to hone the various crafts of an opera singer. These included classes in stagecraft with Herbert Graf and continued voice training with Marie Gutheil-Schoder at the Salzburg Mozarteum.

In 1936 she accepted conductor Georg Szell's offer of a contract with the Prague Opera, where she was listed as a contralto. There she was coached in standard contralto and mezzo repertory by Herbert Graf, and appeared in Prague, Vienna, and in Cairo, Egypt (where she traveled as part of a Viennese-based opera group. She traveled to the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, continuing to mature and to draw increasing attention. She finally sang with the Met in one of its appearances in Philadelphia, as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, received a contract with the company, and made her New York Met debut on December 17, 1938, as Mignon.

In 1939, she married Walter Surovy, a Czech actor, who managed her career. She debuted at Glyndebourne in 1939, and in 1940 at the San Francisco Opera. In 1941 she sang opposite Nelson Eddy in the Hollywood film The Chocolate Soldier, and appeared in Bing Crosby's film Going My Way (1944), in which she sang the Habañera from Carmen. This led to her first actual stage performance as Carmen at the Met, December 28, 1945. For some time she virtually owned the role at the Met and sang it there 75 times. She debuted at Milan's La Scala in 1954.

Stevens retired from the Metropolitan in 1961, and retired altogether from singing in 1964. Shortly after her resignation from the Met, the company went through one of the worst crises in its history. General Director Rudolf Bing cancelled the entire 1961-1962 season after the company's major unions reached an impasse. Stevens sent a telegram to President John F. Kennedy outlining the importance of the Metropolitan to the United States and the world, and requested his intervention. The president honored her request, and personally persuaded the sides to accept the Secretary of Labor, Arthur Goldberg, to arbitrate their disputes. The season was saved.

Stevens' mezzo-voice quality was unusual: it was warm, light, and lyrical. This suited her to many of the important "trouser" roles. In addition to Octavian, she sang Mozart's Cherubino and Prince Orlovsky in Fledermaus. Other of her favorite roles were Dorabella, Delilah, Orpheus, Laura (La Gioconda), and Carmen, her most famous role.

After she retired from the Met stage, she became director of the company's new Metropolitan Opera National Company, a touring group providing opportunities for young singers and conductors, as well as designers and directors to participate in opera on a steady professional level. She was appointed to the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music in 1975, and was president of the Mannes College of Music in New York (1975-1978). She was again associated with the Metropolitan from 1980 to 1988 as director of its National Council Auditions. Read less
Browse 1-18 of 18 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Pierre Monteux: The Complete RCA Stereo Recordings
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 19075816342 Release Date: 05/25/2018   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Igor Stravinsky,  César Franck,  Léo Delibes  ... 
    Performer:  Leonid Kogan,  Henryk Szeryng,  Roberta Peters,  Risë Stevens  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Anna Moffo: The Complete RCA Recital Albums
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 503223 Release Date: 01/15/2016   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Charles Gounod,  Giacomo Puccini,  Giacomo Meyerbeer,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Anna Moffo,  Robert Kerns,  Giuseppe Di Stefano,  Alberta Alberti  ... 
    Conductor:  Tullio Serafin,  Leopold Stokowski,  René Leibowitz,  Fernando Previtali  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Orchestra,  American Symphony Orchestra,  RCA Italian Opera Orchestra  ... 
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  • 3.
    Fritz Reiner conducts Richard Strauss - The Complete RCA & Columbia Recordings
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 379055 Release Date: 05/19/2014   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Gustav Mahler
    Performer:  John Weicher,  Philip Farkas,  Inge Borkh,  Francis Yeend  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Lyric Theatre Chorus,  Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $39.99
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  • 4.
    Singers Of The Century - 40 Greats Of  The 20th Century
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 2078 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Puccini,  Pietro Mascagni,  Umberto Giordano  ... 
    Performer:  Ettore Bastianini,  Giuseppe Taddei,  Richard Tucker,  Mario Del Monaco  ... 
    CD: $21.99
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  • 5.
    Bizet: Carmen / Reiner, Stevens, Tucker, Silveri, Conner
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 7961892 Release Date: 11/01/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Georges Bizet
    Performer:  Risë Stevens,  Richard Tucker,  Paolo Silveri,  Nadine Conner
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
    CD: $18.99
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  • 6.
    Thomas: Mignon / Pelletier, Stevens, Pinza, Benzell, Melton
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 7961922 Release Date: 11/01/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ambroise Thomas
    Performer:  Ezio Pinza,  Risë Stevens,  James Melton,  Mimi Benzell
    Conductor:  Wilfrid Pelletier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
    CD: $18.99
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  • 7.
    John Raitt - Bell Telephone Hour, 1959-1966
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4542 Release Date: 09/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Various
    Performer:  John Raitt,  Risë Stevens
    DVD: $18.99
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  • 8.
    The Chocolate Soldier / Stevens, Merrill
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 81364 Release Date: 11/16/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Oscar Straus
    Performer:  Sadie Mccollum,  Jo Sullivan Loesser,  Robert Merrill,  Risë Stevens  ... 
    Conductor:  Lehman Engel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
    CD: $17.99
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  • 9.
    The King And I / 1964 Lincoln Center Cast Recording
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 50134 Release Date: 05/19/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Rodgers
    Performer:  Patrice Munsel,  Tony Martin,  Dinah Shore,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Franz Allers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Studio Orchestra
    CD: $17.99
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  • 10.
    San Francisco Opera Gems Volume 2 / Merola, Et Al
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2287/89 Release Date: 02/22/2005   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Richard Strauss,  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Umberto Giordano  ... 
    Performer:  Eleanor Steber,  Alessio De Paolis,  John Garris,  Mack Harrell  ... 
    Conductor:  Georges Sebastian,  Kurt Herbert Adler,  Gaetano Merola
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera Orchestra,  San Francisco Opera Chorus
    CD: $19.99
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  • 11.
    Producers' Showcase - Festival Of Music Volume 1
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4244 Release Date: 09/30/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Georges Bizet,  Various,  Carl Maria von Weber  ... 
    Performer:  Renata Tebaldi,  Jussi Björling,  Risë Stevens,  Marian Anderson  ... 
    Conductor:  Max Rudolf
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Showcase Symphony Orchestra
    DVD: $38.99
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  • 12.
    San Francisco Opera Gems Vol 1 - Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, Etc
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2238/40 Release Date: 08/26/2003   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Lotte Lehmann,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Lauritz Melchior,  Friedrich Schorr  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  Gennaro Papi,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Gaetano Merola
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  • 13.
    Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice / Monteux, Stevens, Della Casa
    Label: Rca Victor Living Stereo   Catalog: 63534 Release Date: 08/08/2000   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Christoph W. Gluck
    Performer:  Risë Stevens,  Lisa Della Casa,  Roberta Peters
    Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Chorus,  Rome Opera House Orchestra
    CD: $34.99
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  • 14.
    The Great Moments From Die Fledermaus /Moffo, Franchi, Et Al
    Label: Rca Red Seal Hp   Catalog: 63468A Release Date: 10/12/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.
    Performer:  Anna Moffo,  Jeanette Scovotti,  Richard Lewis,  John Hauxvell  ... 
    Conductor:  Oskar Danon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
    CD: $8.99
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  • 15.
    The Only Opera Cd You'll Ever Need
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 68823 Release Date: 10/14/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Engelbert Humperdinck,  Gioachino Rossini,  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Anna Moffo,  Helen Donath,  Roberta Peters,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Kurt Eichhorn,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Lorin Maazel,  Eugene Ormandy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $3.99
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  • 16.
    Weill: Lady In The Dark / Stevens, Kaye, Abravanel
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 62869 Release Date: 06/03/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kurt Weill
    Performer:  Danny Kaye,  Kenneth Bridges,  John Reardon,  Stephanie Augustine  ... 
    Conductor:  Maurice Abravanel,  Lehman Engel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chorus,  Orchestra
    CD: $17.99
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  • 17.
    New Orleans Opera Archives Vol 3 - Saint-Saens: Samson Et Dalila / Cellini, Vinay, Stevens, New Orleans Opera Orchestra
    Label: Vai Audio   Catalog: 1055 Release Date: 12/27/1994   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
    Performer:  Ramon Vinay,  Risë Stevens
    Conductor:  Renato Cellini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Orleans Opera Chorus,  New Orleans Opera Orchestra
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    CD: $30.99
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