Obituary: Brenda Lewis, Opera and Broadway Soprano, Dies at 96

By Logan Martell

Opera and musical theatre star Brenda Lewis has passed away in her home at Westport, Connecticut on Saturday, September 16th, as confirmed by her son Michael Asen.

Lewis was noted for the adaptability which allowed her to swiftly learn new roles, making her professional debut less than two years after beginning voice lessons during her years in college.  On the stage she fully embodied her characters; Howard Taubmann, famed critic of the New York Times described her performance in the title role of ‘Salome’ as follows:  “She sang the music so well that you forgot it was difficult, and she acted Salome so believably that singing and action merged into a characterization that had passion and even a touch of pity.”

Among her contributions to the stage, Lewis originated two roles in opera:  that of Birdie Hubbard in Marc Blitzstein’s ‘Regina’, and the title role in Jack Beeson’s ‘Lizzie Borden’. She debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1952 in the role of Musetta in ‘La Boheme’, going on to sing as Donna Elvira in ‘Don Giovanni’, and Marie in ‘Wozzeck’, among other roles. As a guest artist she sang with San Francisco Opera, the Zurich Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and the Vienna Volksoper, among others. She sang for a decade with the Metropolitan Opera and for two decades with New York City Opera.

A student of Pennsylvania State University, she originally studied pre-med before she received a scholarship with the Curtis institute of Music in Philadelphia, under the tutelage of Marion Freschl. Not long after she made her debut in ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ with the Philadelphia Opera, and the rest is history.

Brenda Lewis is survived by her two sons, Leo and Michael Asen, as well as her daughter Edith Cooper, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.