Regina Resnik is often cited as one of the great American mezzos of the 20th century. Born on August 30, she managed an international career that spanned a whopping five decades and became a house favorite with such companies as La Scala, the Paris Opera, the Royal Opera, the Vienna State Opera, and of course, the Metropolitan Opera, where she had a 40-year career.
And while she was a famous mezzo, her career actually started as a soprano with Resnik making the switch in 1953 under the advice of conductor Clemens Krauss. By 1956, a decade into her career, her soprano repertoire was completely gone. That said, she became one of the few, if only singers, to take on the lead soprano and mezzo roles in her major repertory.
So in light of that, let’s take a look at some of the soprano roles she did take on.
Lady Macbeth – Macbeth
One of the first roles she ever sang was the role of the villainous Verdi character, which she sang at the Broadway Theatre 1942 under the direction of Fritz Busch. The performance came just two months after her professional singing debut at the age of 22 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Michaëla – Carmen
Resnik would go on to become a famous Carmen interpreter, performing the role 24 times at the Met starting in 1958, but she also took on the soprano role early in her career singing it at the Palacio de Bellas Artes under Erich Kleiber in 1943.
Leonore – Fidelio
Alongside her Michaëla under Kleiber, Resnik also took on the famed role in Beethoven’s single opera. She would also perform the role seven times at the Metropolitan Opera, her final performance coming on Feb. 19, 1946.
Leonora – Il Trovatore
The role for her Metropolitan Opera debut, Resnik famously had to step in for Zinka Milanov. She drew tremendous rave reviews and sang the role five more times at the Met, her final performance as the heroine coming in 1949.
Alice Ford – Falstaff
Yet another Verdi heroine that Resnik interpreted, she sang the role in the comic opera three times at the Met before taking on the mezzo role of Dame Quickly another 28 times at the house.
Amneris was one of the first mezzo roles that Resnik took on, but prior to that, she was an interpreter of the title role, which she performed just once at the Metropolitan Opera.
A consummate actress, it is no surprise that Resnik took on the famed diva “Tosca” at some point in her career. She sang it four times at the Met. She also sang the role of “Madama Butterfly” and even portrayed Musetta 10 times at the Met in 1953.
Donna Anna & Donna Elvira – Don Giovanni
Resnik first performed the Mozart heroine in 1947, and her performance earned lukewarm reviews from Philadelphia Evening Bulletin’s Max de Schauensee, who was quick to point out that her high notes were not quite right for the opera. She also took on Donna Elvira at select moments during her early career.
Ellen Orford – Peter Grimes
Resnik was the first-ever interpreter of the famed role at the Met, appearing in its house premiere on Feb. 12, 1948. She took it on three times total at the famous house.
Santuzza – Cavalleria Rusticana
It isn’t rare to hear a mezzo take on this role, but all in all the tessitura pushes rather high and it is essentially a soprano role. Resnik sang it 15 times at the Met, but once she jumped into mezzo territory, she stopped singing it altogether.
Gutrune and Sieglinde – Die Walküre & Götterdämmerung
Resnik took on the secondary role in the final installment of the Ring Cycle six times between 1951 and 1952. She also took on the role of Sieglinde in the second installment of the Ring Cycle.