Obituary: Legendary Mezzo Mildred Miller Dies at 98

By Francisco Salazar


(Credit: Met Opera Archives)

Mezzo-soprano Mildred Miller has died at the age of 98.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she attended the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and graduated from West High School in 1942. She then studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory.

She also went on to study at the Tanglewood Music Center and in 1946, made her opera debut as one of the nieces in the United States premiere of Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes” at the Tanglewood Music Festival.

She went on to perform at the New England Opera Theater and following her graduation she left for Italy where she studied for several months. In 1949 she became an ensemble member of the Staatsoper Stuttgart and went on to make debuts at the Bavarian State Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Edinburgh Festival, and the Glyndebourne Festival.

While in Germany she caught the eye of Metropolitan Opera General Manager Rudolf Bing, who offered her a contract but Miller initially rejected it due to the roles he offered. However, he returned with a better offer and Miller eventually made her Met debut in 1951. She went on to perform 338 performances with the company from 1951 to 1974. She sang a total of 21 roles and was well known for her “pants roles.” She made her Met debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,” her most frequent role and one for which she holds the company record for the most performances, 67. She also sang Siébel in Gounod’s “Faust,” Nicklausse in Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” Octavian in Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier,” and the Composer in Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

Other roles included Suzuki, Lola, Rosina, and Carmen.

Outside of her Met career, the mezzo also performed at the Opern- und Schauspielhaus Frankfurt San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, San Antonio Grand Opera Festival, Pittsburgh Opera, Kansas City Opera, Fort Worth Opera, and Opera Pasadena. She also sang at Carnegie Hall and at the White House and appeared on The Bell Telephone Hour, The Voice of Firestone, and The Ed Sullivan Show.

Miller also founded the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and served as Artistic Director and a vocal coach for the company. In 199 she stepped down from her position but continued to be involved. She also taught at Carnegie Mellon and gave master classes all over the world.