Opera Scotland

Arlene Saunders Suggest updates

Born Cleveland, 5 October 1930.

Died New York, 16 April 2020.

American soprano.

Arlene Saunders was one of many American singers who spent most of their careers in German opera houses.  Her repertoire ranged from Mozart to modern works, and she was particularly successful in the leading lyrical roles of Wagner and Strauss.

She trained at Baldwin-Wallace College before joining the National Opera, a touring company,where she made her debut (Rosalinde 1958).  She appeared at Cincinnati in 1961 (Donna Elvira) then joined New York City Opera, where roles from 1961-64 included Bizet (Micaëla);  Puccini (Mimì, Georgetta);  Charpentier (Louise);  Lehár (Hanna Glawari).

Moving to Europe, she joined the company at Hamburg as a contract artist (1964-77).  Other engagements in German houses included Berlin and Munich, and she appeared frequently at the Vienna State Opera. Roles elsewhere included Paris, Sydney and Buenos Aires.

She created the title role in Ginastera's Beatrix Cenci (Washington DC 1971).  New works she appeared in at Hamburg were Marianne Jacobowsky und der Oberst (Klebe 1965), Mme Euterpova Help, Help, the Globolinks! (Menotti 1968) and Ein Stern geht auf aus Jakob (Burkhard 1970).

She made one appearance at the New York Met (Eva 1976); and returned to New York for further appearances at NYCO (Beatrix Cenci 1973;  Minnie La fanciulla del West 1978).  Other US appearances were at San Francisco (Freia Das Rheingold, Marguerite Faust) and Boston (Natasha War and Peace).

Her appearances in Britain were few, though those five roles were central to her repertoire.  Her UK debut in 1966 was at Glyndebourne (Pamina).  She came to the 1968 Edinburgh Festival as a member of the Hamburg ensemble (Ariadne).  At Leeds in 1979 she was in the opening season of (English National) Opera North (Senta) and in 1980 made her only appearance with the Royal Opera (Minnie).  That year she sang the title role in a BBC studio recording of Strauss' Die Liebe der Danaë under Sir Charles Mackerras (with Norman Bailey as Jupiter - and Mackerras was for several years in charge at Hamburg).

After retirement from singing, in 1985, she returned to New York to teach and run a mobile educational company.

Her recordings include Mozart (Tamiri Il rè pastore) and Mendelssohn (Incidental music A Midsummer Night's Dream).  Some Hamburg productions have been made available on DVD.  It would be nice to think that excellent BBC recording of Danaë could be made available one day.

She died as a result of complications from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Roles in Scotland

Prima Donna Ariadne in the opera
Ariadne on Naxos 1968

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