Artist Profile: Contralto Ewa Podles & Her Expansive Range

By David Salazar

Few singers had or have what Polish coloratura contralto Ewa Podles had – an expansive range.

A three-octave range to be exact.

Born on April 26, 1952 in Warsaw, Poland, Podles studied a the Warsaw Academy of Music and quickly established herself internationally at the age of 32 when she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of “Rinaldo.” While she didn’t end up with a lengthy Met career (she would return after 24 years in “La Gioconda”), she would go on to performance at a wide range of other opera houses, including La Scala, where she famously appeared as the Marquise de Berkenfield in “La Fille du Régiment.”

Other major houses that would feature her talents included Seattle Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Rossini Opera Festival, and Canadian Opera Company, among others.

She would go on to make a wide range of recordings that reflect her expansive repertoire.

Famous Roles

While Podles certainly championed the baroque repertoire, she was best-known for her work in Rossini’s operas. She is a recognized interpreter of “Tancredi,” but was beloved for the ability to balance out the dramatic and bravura styles demanded of her by the great composer from Pesaro (her professional debut came in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”).

Interestingly, she did possess a wide range of repertoire, singing works of the 20th century, such as “Elektra” and many of the major classics of the 19th century, including the role of Erda in Wagner’s “Ring.”

Watch and Listen

Here is a Rossini gala featuring the Polish contralto in repertoire suited perfectly for her voice.

Remember the mention of three-octave range? Here’s a video that emphasizes all the notes this incredible artist had.


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