Artist Profile: Irene Dalis, A Mezzo Beloved By All

By David Salazar

Irene Dalis is one of those artists that has a strong career, but often flies under the radar during conversations about all-time greats.

The mezzo-soprano, born on Oct. 8, 1925, grew up in California. After her studies, she earned a Fulbright scholarship and went to Europe to develop her singing career.

Her career took off when she was offered a contract in Oldenburg and eventually made her professional debut there as Eboli in “Don Carlo.” From there, she started making appearances in Berlin, eventually garnering the attention of the Metropolitan Opera.

She made her Met debut in 1957 and remained with the company for 20 years in close to 300 performances.

She also made history in 1961 when she became the first American to ever sing the role of Kundry in “Parsifal” at the Bayreuth Festival.

After her voice career, she started Opera San Jose and the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition. She also won the San Francisco Opera Medal, the Richard Wagner MEdallion, the Award of Merit from the People of the City of San Francisco, and the Career Award from the National Opera America Center, among many others.

She died at age 89 in December of 2014. It has been cited on many occasions that she was beloved by the people around her and her colleagues.

Signature Roles

The role of Eboli won her great acclaim in her Met debut and she was a major proponent of the Verdi role. However, the opera that she performed most often at the Met was that of Amneris in “Aida.” She appeared in the role 69 times throughout her 20-year tenure with the company.

Watch and Listen

Here she is in some of her signature Verdi repertoire.


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