Obituary: Distinguished Brazilian Soprano Laura de Souza Dies at Age 64

By Ching Chang

Brazilian soprano Laura de Souza passed away Saturday, July 30 at the age of 64, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

One of the most renowned dramatic sopranos Brazil has ever produced, de Souza excelled in Verdi and Puccini heroines, several Wagnerian roles, and was also acclaimed for her portrayal of the title role in Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

De Souza’s career was largely centered in Europe. Her early musical training in Brazil was as a pianist, but after winning several regional singing competitions in Brazil and Europe, she moved to Germany for further professional training, and was soon offered artistic residencies with the Staatstheater Kassel and the Deutsches Nationaltheater und Staatskapelle Weimar.

De Souza then made important debuts at major houses and festivals in the cities of Hamburg, Munich, Mannheim, Cologne, the Bolshoi Theater in Minsk, and at Aalborg Theater in Denmark. Though she was much beloved by her Brazilian colleagues, many of her international triumphs went unnoticed and did not have a great repercussion with the Brazilian public, having happened at a time when the internet did not have a wide penetration in Brazil. Though she often felt under appreciated in her own country, she nevertheless sang frequently in many important performances at major theaters in large Brazilian cities, including a superb Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser at Rio’s Theatro Municipal, in a production created and directed by the legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog.

In recent years,  de Souza returned to her native state of Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil, where she was actively teaching and founded the Companhia de Ópera Do Rio Grande do Sul, a fledging regional opera ensemble in her hometown of Porto Alegre. A victim of an aggressive cancer of the stomach, her sudden passing surprised many of her colleagues and admirers, since she had concealed her condition from much of the public since it was diagnosed.

Here is a clip of Ariadne auf Naxos in Weimar, Germany.