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Resnik, Regina (1922—)

Resnik, Regina (1922—)

American soprano, mezzo-soprano, and stage director. Born on August 30, 1922, in the Bronx, New York; daughter of Sam Resnik (a leather manufacturer) and Ruth (Seidler) Resnik, both immigrated from the Ukraine; Hunter College, B.A., 1942; studied with Rosalie Miller and Giuseppe Danise; married Harry W. Davis (an attorney), on July 16, 1946; children: Michael Philip Davis (b. 1952).

Made concert debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (1942); made operatic debut at the New Opera Company (1942), Metropolitan (1944), Bayreuth (1953), Covent Garden (1957); became an opera producer (1971).

Regina Resnik made her operatic debut inadvertently, when the singer for whom she was understudying as Lady Macbeth was suddenly taken ill before the opera's final performance at the New Opera Company in 1942. She won good reviews and a guest appearance with the Opera Nacional in Mexico City, where she performed the following year. Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1944 was similarly unintended; she had been scheduled to sing Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana on a Saturday night, several days after the company performed Il Trovatore. Early in the week, the soprano who was to sing Leonora in Il Trovatore came down with laryngitis, and Resnik, with only 24 hours' notice and one rehearsal, found herself debuting as Leonora. Reviews were positive for both her voice and her courage, and the following year she sang the lead role of Leonore in Fidelio, in the Met's first English-language version of that Beethoven opera. Over the next years, she sang such roles as Tosca, Aïda, Butterfly, Donna Anna, and Donna Elvira. She also sang in the American premiers of Benjamin Britten's Rape of Lucretia (as the Chorus, 1947) and Peter Grimes (1948). Her voice was a shining instrument which coped easily with top notes. She sang at the Wagner festival in Bayreuth for the first time in 1953, as Sieglinde in Die Walküre. In 1955, she switched from soprano to mezzo-soprano roles, for which she has been especially remembered. Among these were Marina in Boris Godunoff, Amneris in Aïda, Ortrud in Lohen-grin, Giulietta in Tales of Hoffmann, and Lucretia in Rape of Lucretia. Resnik was a dramatic performer, and this ability combined with her powerful voice made her interpretations memorable. (In 1945, she noted, "I'm not interested in straight singing parts. To me opera is theater, using a singing voice instead of a speaking voice, not just standing around like a singing cow.") Records preserve only some of her work, and some recordings are less than ideal as a demonstration of her artistry. Bernstein's superb recording of Falstaff probably best demonstrates her abilities. After Resnik retired from opera, she appeared in a number of concerts as well as musicals. She also achieved considerable success as a director of opera, with productions of Carmen in Hamburg, Elektra in Venice, and Falstaff in Warsaw.

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