Obituary: Contralto Gwendolyn Killebrew Passes at 80

By Nicolas Quiroga
(Credit; Beth Bergmann /

American contralto Gwendolyn Killebrew, passed away on Dec. 24, 2021 in Düsseldorf, Germany. She was 80.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Killebrew graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia, becoming a music teacher and music therapist. From there, she pursued performance studies at New York’s Juilliard School of Music.

She made her Metropolitan Opera debut at 26 as Waltraute in”Die Walküre.” From there she would go on to perform at such renowned organizations as the Bayreuth Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Opera Company of Boston, San Francisco Opera, La Monnaie, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Kennedy Center,  the Salzburg Easter and Summer Festival, and the London Festival, The Night of the Dances, among others. She was a member of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein from 1976 through 2006 and was part of the world premiere of Klebe’s “Gervaise Macquart.”

“We have lost an important singer, a wonderful member of the group and a popular colleague among all, of whom we will keep very great memories,” said Christoph Meyer, General Director of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, in an official statement.

After her performance career, she dedicated herself to music education, giving masterclasses and teaching privately.

She left a few recordings including a 1970 rendition of Händel’s “Tamerlano.” She also performed in a recording of “Rusalka” and Mahler’s Third Symphony.