Opera Scotland

Rita Hunter Suggest updates

Born Wallasey, 15 August 1933.
Died Sydney, 29 April 2001.

English soprano.

Rita Hunter developed under the coaching of Reginald Goodall into one of the leading Wagner interpreters of her generation, while still preserving a sweetness and flexibility in her tone that permitted her to sing a range of rather different works.

Hunter studied with Edwin Francis in Liverpool, and later with Eva Turner and Redvers Llewellyn. After appearing in the choruses of musical comedies, she joined the Sadler’s Wells Chorus in 1954, and stayed there for two years, occasionally performing small parts.

Hunter moved to Carl Rosa 1956-8 taking parts such as Inez and Frasquita. On returning to Sadler’s Wells as soloist 1959-66 she frequently sang Berta, Marcellina and the mother (Gertrude) in Hansel and Gretel. She later added major roles such as Senta, Santuzza and Odabella. From 1968 she sang Leonora, Donna Anna, Brünnhilde, Amelia (A Masked Ball), Elettra (Idomeneo), and Elisabeth de Valois.

There were only a handful of Covent Garden appearances – in 1963 as 3rd Norn, later as Senta (at short notice). With WNO she sang Turandot. Her only Edinburgh Festival appearance came in 1974, when she was a highly successful last minute replacement in a Verdi Requiem, joining Cossotto and Pavarotti for a performance led by Giulini. Her operatic appearances in Scotland were all, apart from her 1958 tour, with the Sadler's Wells company.

Hunter worked several times at the New York Met from 1972 as Brünnhilde, Norma, Aïda and Santuzza, and also sang Norma in San Francisco in 1975. Subsequently she moved to Australia, where she sang a range of roles including Leonora, Brünnhilde and Isolde.

Her autobiography Wait till the sun shines, Nellie was published in 1986.


The Sadler's Wells production of Hansel and Gretel, in which she sings Gertrude, was recorded in 1964. Her later recordings include Brünnhilde in the SWO/ENO Ring under Goodall and Eglantine in a very good version of Weber's Euryanthe, in which her villainness is teamed with Jessye Norman, Nicolaï Gedda and Tom Krause, conducted by Marek Janowski.

The BBC recorded the little-known original 1847 version of Verdi's Macbeth in 1979, and this was later released by Opera Rara. The cast, conducted by John Matheson, includes Hunter as Lady Macbeth, with Peter Glossop, John Tomlinson and Kenneth Collins as Macbeth, Banquo and Macduff.

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