Born: November 5, 1911 Died: April 27, 1999
Blessed with a silvery lyric soprano, true in timbre and beautifully trained, Maria Stader was unable to enjoy the opera career she deserved. Only 4'9" in height, she was deemed too diminutive to be a viable figure on-stage. Thus, she was confined to recording congenial opera roles and to making concert appearances. Despite what some might have regarded as a setback, she achieved genuine celebrity and became an artist favored by many first-rank conductors. Orphaned in Hungary during WWI, Stader was brought by the International Red Cross to Switzerland, where she was adopted by fisherman Hans Stader. She began her music training near her home on the shores of Lake Constance. Later, she studied with Hans Keller in Karlsruhe, Germany, with the famous dramatic soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi in Milan and with Therese Schnabel in New York. She attracted international attention when she won first prize for singing in the Concourse International d'Execution Musicale in Geneva in 1939. After WWII, Stader taught at the Musikacademie in Zurich while at the same time launching a concert career. Recognized as an exemplary Mozart singer, she was heard in other parts of Europe, Africa and the Far East, and eventually, in the United States. A rare opera appearance presented her as the Queen of the Night at Covent Garden during the 1949-1950 season. One of four sopranos to sing the role in that production, Stader did not attract sufficient attention to bring about reengagement. Her first American appearances took place in 1954 when she sang with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1956, she sang a series of concert performances in Israel of both Lucia di Lammermoor and Judas Maccabaeus under conductor Ferenc Fricsay. Among Stader's recordings, her Konstanze, Pamina, and Marzelline are attractive realizations. In the concert repertory, recordings of the Dvorák Requiem, several Mozart masses, and Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate are worthy examples of her art. Before her retirement in 1969, Stader published a text on the performance of Bach arias. During her career, she was honored with several awards, among them the Lilli Lehmann Medal, the Silver Mozart Medal (City of Salzburg), and the Austrian Order of Merit.