Kerstin Meyer


Born: April 3, 1928
Swedish mezzo-soprano Kerstin Meyer enjoyed a full and rewarding career through great intelligence and with a voice of good, if not quite first-rate, quality. Her instrument, not huge but somewhat dark in coloration, was sometimes betrayed by an uneven and pronounced vibrato. Yet her stage presence was riveting enough to make that issue all but disappear, especially in leading roles of dramatic stature. Meyer was also a persuasive recitalist.

Meyer's studies were extensive, first in Stockholm with Andreyeva von Skoldonz and Arne Sunnegaardh, and later in Salzburg, Rome, Siena, and Vienna. Upon her 1952 debut as Azucena at Stockholm's Royal Opera, she joined the permanent company. When Wieland Wagner's 1959 Hamburg production of Carmen created a stir in the world press, it was as much for Meyer's intellectually dangerous protagonist as for Wagner's innovations. Her attractive, slender appearance and histrionic gifts led to several leading roles in world premieres. In three successive years beginning in 1966, she sang Mrs. Claiborne in Gunther Schuller's The Visitation, Alice in Alexander Goehr's Arden Must Die, and Gertrude in Humphrey Searle's Hamlet, all in the dramatically progressive Hamburg company. Meyer's Dido at Covent Garden in 1960 had been less successful: histrionically, it was compelling, but vocally it was short of poised, classical singing. Still, her career brought even more premieres and growing appreciation among leading conductors. In 1961, Meyer had made herself welcome at the Glyndebourne Festival as Carolina in Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers. She subsequently appeared in roles ranging from Octavia in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea to Clairon in Strauss' Capriccio. In 1966, Meyer was Agave in the world premiere of Henze's The Bassarids at Salzburg. She was chosen for Elisabeth in the 1970 premiere of Nicholas Maw's The Rising of the Moon at Glyndebourne, and in 1973, she sang for Glyndebourne a memorable Old Woman title role in the first English production of Einem's Der Besuch der alten Dame. In the early '60s, Meyer appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, which offered her less dramatically appropriate fare. Her Orfeo, like her London Dido, was found wanting in vocal polish. From 1962 to 1965, she was a regular at the Bayreuth Festival. Meyer's 1962 San Francisco Octavian (to Schwarzkopf's Marschallin) was both well sung and ardently acted.