Opera Scotland

Patricia Kern Suggest updates

Born Swansea, 4 July 1927.

Died Toronto, 19 October 2015.

Welsh mezzo-soprano.

Patricia Kern had a successful international career as a coloratura mezzo.  In Britain she was particularly associated with two opera companies, Sadler's Wells and Scottish Opera, appearing frequently in prominent roles with each during a period in excess of twenty years.

She studied in London at the Guildhall under Parry Jones.  Her professional debut, touring with Opera for All, came in 1952, and she continued to tour with them until 1955.  She also worked with both Welsh National and Dublin Grand.

She sang on several occasions with the Handel Opera Society in London, her final role in 1976 being a majestic interpretation of the title role in Ariodante.

Her debut with Sadler's Wells in 1959 was as the witch Ježibaba in Rusalka. Other roles there ranged through Monteverdi (Messenger Orfeo);  Gluck (Euridice);  Mozart (Cherubino, Dorabella);  Offenbach (Orestes La belle Hélène); J Strauss (Orlofsky); Sullivan (Iolanthe, Pitti-Sing); German (Jill-all-alone Merrie England);  Humperdinck (Hansel).

Kern had a particular reputation for leading Rossini roles in stagings mounted between 1959 and 1968.  These included Cinderella,  Rosina,  Isolier (Count Ory), Pippo (Theving Magpie) and Isabella (Italian Girl).  She created the part of Josephine in The Violins of Saint-Jacques (Williamson 1966).  With the Sadler's Wells company she visited Scotland regularly through the 1960s, singing in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

Her appearances with the Royal Opera from 1967 included Zerlina, Suzuki and Cherubino, this last being the legendary 1971 production that brought Kiri Te Kanawa's Countess to fame.

Among Kern's London concert performances was one for Opera Rara in the highly demanding role of Armando in the first modern revival of Meyerbeer's extremely Rossinian Il crociato in Egitto, conducted by Roderick Brydon.

She also worked at Spoleto,  Dallas,  Washington DC,  New York City Opera,  Chicago and in Canada.

She did not reach Scottish Opera until she sang Cinderella in 1969, but she returned regularly thereafter, as Hermia, Ottavia, Rosina, Lucretia, Mrs Grose and Geneviève.  She created Aurelia in The Catiline Conspiracy (Hamilton 1974) and Kirstie in Hermiston (Orr 1975).  During this time she appeared with the company in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Perth and Stirling.

As a teacher, she worked extensively at the University of Toronto, where her students included a particularly fine group of baritones - Russell Braun, Gidon Saks, Brett Polegato and James Westman.


Kern's recordings sadly do not include any of her great Rossini roles.  However she can be seen on DVD late in her career (1985) as Mrs Herring in Peter Hall's definitive Glyndebourne production of Albert Herring.  Kern can be heard as Jill-All-Alone in a 1960 recording of Merrie England.  At Sadler's Wells she made studio recordings of Pitti-Sing (1962), Iolanthe (excerpts 1962), and Hansel (1964).

She later appeared in a group of operas, recorded in London during the 1970s, where she supports the leading American soprano Beverly Sills, with whom she worked at New York City Opera.  These include Donizetti (Smeton Anna Bolena,  Anna Maria Stuarda,  Alisa Lucia di Lammermoor);  Offenbach (Antonia's Mother Contes d'Hoffmann) and Massenet (Rosette Manon, Albine Thaïs).


Her family have established a website as a memorial - www.patriciakern.com

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