Born: March 1, 1927
This American soprano was said to have been underutilized in the late '70s and 1980s, well after such legendary singers as Zinka Milanov, Maria Callas, and Renata Tebaldi had retired. Her sensuous instrument, though originally a lyric in size, had by then grown large enough to cope admirably with more demanding roles in the spinto repertory and she had advanced in histrionic ability as well. Although she had sung hundreds of performances at the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere, she was not called upon to assume the big roles she was then ready to fill. Fellow artists took note and expressed curiosity and disappointment that Amara was all but shut out of her career when she, still in excellent voice, was passed over and inferior singers from Europe were engaged to fill the void that then existed. Born Lucine Armaganian, Amara studied with Stella Eisner-Eyn in San Francisco before joining the chorus of the San Francisco Opera in 1945. She was noticed when she made her solo debut as the out of sight Celestial Voice in the acclaimed 1950 Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi's Don Carlo (new Met manager Rudolf Bing's calling card). Amara's opportunities quickly widened at the New York house, though most complimentary reviews centered about her voice rather than her presence on-stage. She was invited to England's Glyndebourne Festival for several seasons in the 1950s. After her 1954 debut in Ariadne auf Naxos, where her prima donna in the prologue played opposite Sena Jurinac as the composer, she sang the same role when the production traveled to the Edinburgh Festival in August. The following year, Amara was engaged for Donna Elvira and when, in 1957 and 1958, Ariadne was revived, Amara once again sang the title role. Meanwhile, Amara had increasing numbers of performances at the Metropolitan Opera, although frequently in second-string casts. During the 1952 - 1953 season, she was still being assigned such supporting roles as Frasquita, Countess Ceprano and the second orphan in Der Rosenkavalier while enjoying several outings as Micaëla and Nedda and singing a Mimi in the company's poorly received English-language La Bohème. The 1953 - 1954 Metropolitan season found Amara singing a well-regarded Donna Elvira as well as several Italian-language performances of Mimi. An Eva during the 1956 - 1957 season attracted attention for its beautiful sound, less so for dramatic aptness. During the 1958 - 1959 Metropolitan season, Amara's Antonia in Les contes d'Hoffmann was deemed both splendidly sung and stylish. Histrionic improvements were found in her Nedda, while her vocal accomplishment remained as fine as ever. Other roles at her home company included Tatiana, the Trovatore Leonora and Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes. Amara made several noteworthy recordings, beginning with her Musetta in the legendary La Bohème conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. Produced in New York, with Victoria de Los Angeles and Jussi Björling as Mimi and Rodolfo, the recording has remained in the catalog since the 1950s and is still regarded by many as the finest Bohème ever put on disc. Amara's Elsa for RCA suffers from foursquare conducting and dramatic inertness from the singer herself, but is nonetheless estimable. Her Nedda for EMI, cast by recording producer Walter Legge with the Canio of Franco Corelli and the Tonio of Tito Gobbi, remains a smoldering, provocative interpretation that is very well-sung. Her appearance as the soprano soloist in the Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra recording of the Verdi Requiem also displays her voice at its finest.