Thursday, June 17, 2010

Maureen Forrester (1930-2010)

Maureen Forrester, the esteemed Canadian mezzo-soprano, has died at the age of 79.

Famed for joshingly complaining that mezzos in opera were consigned to portraying "mothers, maids, witches and bitches," Forrester nonetheless made the most of roles such as Marcellina in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," Erda in Wagner's "Ring" cycle and the Countess in Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades."

She was best-known, though, as a concert artist. In 1957 Bruno Walter selected the young, little-known Forrester to sing on his recording of Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony with the New York Philharmonic; that, and her 1959 recording of "Das Lied von der Erde" with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, established Forrester as one of the most authoritative voices in Mahler's symphonies and song cycles. She was also the mezzo/contralto of choice in a wide range of oratorio and art-song literature. Her legacy includes more than 150 recordings.

An obituary by Ken Winters in The Globe and Mail of Toronto: