Artist Profile: From Soprano to Mezzo, Regina Resnik’s Prodigious Career

By David Salazar

Regina Resnik is one of those rare singers that had a successful career in two vocal FACHs.

Born on August 30, 1922, the New York native was so brilliant at a young age that she skipped several school grades, had graduated from high school at age 16 and was already a college graduate at age 20.

In 1942, she made her professional debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Vocal Arts, followed that same year by a debut with Fritz Busch’s New Opera Company as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s opera. In 1944, at the age of 22, she won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air and from there she was a fixture with the company enjoying a numerous major roles, including that of Ellen Orford in “Peter Grimes;” she was the first soprano to sing the role with the company. In sum, she sang over 20 soprano roles during this time, but her life was about to change in 1953.

She was at Bayreuth and conductor Clemens Krauss told her she was a mezzo. She started retraining her voice as such, debuting as a mezzo in 1956 at the Met. With six languages under her belt, she enjoyed a stunning international career at a number of major cities including Milan, Paris, New York, Santiago, Edinburgh, Chicago, Stuttgart, Salzburg, Naples, Vienna, Lisbon, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Marseilles, and Bayreuth, among others.

In 1987, she made a transition to American musical theater. She would earn a Tony Award nomination and Drama Desk nomination.

She would also become a prominent teacher in her later years at a number of organizations including the Curtis Institute of Music, Met Opera, Juilliard School, and the Opera Studio of Opéra Bastille in Paris, among others. She also won a number of Honorary Doctorates.

She died at 90 from a stroke.

Signature Roles 

The title role in “Carmen” was among her most iconic, earning her this rave review from the French Press: “”Hers was the most skillfully inflected Carmen with every nuance of the role and every syllable of her French set forth in a masterly manner. It was also the most beautifully sung performance of the role. From the dramatic standpoint, this was the ideal Carmen – ferocious, sultry, unpredictable; never banal, never vulgar.”

She was also a renowned Klytemnestra in “Elektra” and Orlovsky in “Die Fledermaus” as well. Her Mistress Quickly was also often noted as a benchmark interpretation.

Read More on Resnik

 Her soprano roles

Watch and Listen

Here she is in “Samson et Dalila”

And here she is in “Carmen.”


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