Obituary: American Soprano Ellen Chickering Dies, Aged 77

By Logan Martell

American soprano Ellen Chickering passed away on April 19, 2020, due to abdominal cancer.

Born on January 26, 1943, in Miami, Florida, Chickering learned piano from a young age and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in music education at Syracuse University. Studying with renowned soprano Eleanor Steber, in 1973 Chickering made her debut at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, and later sang at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. After marrying, Chickering moved to Maine and joined the University of Southern Maine in 1983, where she would garner a reputation as an kindhearted and effective vocal teacher.

Megan Marino, who recently appeared as Flora in the Metropolitan Opera’s “La Traviata,” credits Chickering with her success, saying: “She had a really special way of teaching everybody individually. She was so good at helping to guide and mentor and teach the individual, and she knew how to play to your strengths and knew when to talk about your weaknesses, and she was always very honest.”

Prominent roles included the title roles in “Tosca,” “Vanessa,” “Arabella,” and “Anna Bolena,” as well as Minnie in “La Fanciulla del West,” Leonora in “La Forza del Destino,” Elizabetta in “Maria Stuarda,” and Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera.”  As a soloist, Chickering sang with the Portland Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Colorado Springs Symphony, the Civic Symphony of Boston, the Boston Philharmonic; she has also made four concert tours of Japan, singing with the Shinsei Nihon Symphony, the Telemann Chamber Orchesta, and more.

One notable recording of Chickering is her singing the title role in Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa” with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, done in 2003.