Born: August 30, 1922 Died: August 8, 2013
A mezzo-soprano of such power and authority that she became a dominant figure in opera through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Regina Resnik began her career as a soprano. At the Metropolitan Opera, short on dramatic singers during WWII, Resnik was drafted for assignments no young singer should ever be asked to undertake. She survived, but as the high tessitura of these heavy soprano roles placed increasing strain on her constantly darkening voice, she stepped into the dramatic mezzo-soprano repertory in the mid-'50s with revelatory results. Her acuity as an actress enabled her to create formidable portraits as Amneris, Carmen, Marina, and Ortrud. Resnik began voice lessons with Rosalie Miller while still in high school. After graduating from Hunter College in 1942, she made her debut in concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Engaged as an understudy for the New Opera Company, she was called upon to replace an ailing soprano as Lady Macbeth in December 1942. After singing Leonore and Micaëla for Mexico's Opera Nacional, she won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1944, and by December of that year, she had replaced Zinka Milanov as Leonora in Il trovatore (after also having appeared at the New York City Opera as Santuzza). Although critics questioned the advisability of one so young assuming such demanding roles, Resnik impressed them and the public with her sound musicianship and thorough preparation. She continued in soprano roles during the ensuing decade and after much consideration, made the switch to mezzo roles. Her Sieglinde at the 1953 Bayreuth Festival proved a transitional role. In 1955, she sang Amneris at the Cincinnati Zoo Opera and, in February 1956, she re-appeared at the Metropolitan as Marina in Boris Godunov, eventually completing 30 seasons in the house. Her transition met with approval as critics hailed the deep, potent sound of her new vocal persona. From that point until her retirement, she conjured a memorable gallery of personalities, embracing nearly all of the big parts in the dramatic mezzo fach in theaters ranging from San Francisco to Salzburg. Her Klytemnästra, Herodias, Carmen, Eboli, and Dame Quickly were celebrated, her Wagner performances hailed as among the best of her time. Resnik's histrionic authority made her welcome as a stage director as well.