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Matzenauer, Margaret (1881–1963)

Matzenauer, Margaret (1881–1963)

Hungarian contralto, soprano and mezzo-soprano . Name variations: Margarete. Born on June 1, 1881, in Temeszvar, Hungary; died on May 19, 1963, in Van Nuys, California; studied in Graz with Januschowsky;studied in Berlin with Mielke and Franz Emerich, and in Munich with Ernst Preuses; married three times.

Debuted in Strasbourg (1901); was a member of the Munich Court Opera (1904–11); made Metropolitan Opera debut (1911), appearing for 19 seasons until 1930; made Covent Garden debut (1914); retired and became a teacher (after 1938).

Possessed of a stupendous contralto voice, Margaret Matzenauer was born in Temeszvar, Hungary, in 1881, and she made her opera debut as Puck in Weber's Oberon at the Strasbourg Stadttheater in 1901. For seven years, from 1904 to 1911, she was featured in Wagnerian soprano roles with the Hofoper in Munich. She was then invited to participate in the Bayreuth Festival.

On November 13, 1911, Matzenauer opened the season at the New York Metropolitan Opera as Amneris in Aïda, with Toscanini conducting. Wrote one New York critic: "It is possible to praise not only the natural beauty of her voice, but the care and the intelligence evidenced

in her singing." Matzenauer would be featured at the Metropolitan for the next 18 years, during which she successfully portrayed Leonore, the three Brünhildes, Kundry, Isolde, Donna Elvira, Selika, Orfeo, Carmen, and Delilah.

Matzenauer sang roles for mezzo-soprano or soprano as well. Although unsurpassed in the mezzo range, she was not content with limiting herself and in the process compromised her voice. By the time she was 40, the glory of her lower voice had been dulled by hard usage. Although she was accepted in Wagnerian roles, critics were less forgiving when she performed Mozart. But she was successful on the concert as well as the opera stage, and despite her attempts to succeed at all roles and the subsequent strain on her vocal cords, Matzenauer was a popular singer.

She was also an accomplished pianist who learned new and difficult music very quickly. After leaving the Met in 1930, Matzenauer moved to Los Angeles and devoted herself more and more to teaching.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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