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Frederica von Stade

Frederica von Stade“Flicka” to her legions of fans, this American mezzo-soprano has had a storied singing career, which extended over an extraordinary four decades.

Born: Born: June 1, 1945 in Somerville, New Jersey

Career highlights

  • 1970: She makes her debut at the Metropolitan Opera.
  • 1971: She sings her first professional Cherubino in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, at Santa Fe Opera. Making her American debut in the same production, as Countess Almaviva, was Kiri Te Kanawa. She debuts at the San Francisco Opera as Sextus in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito.
  • 1983: She is honored at the White House by President Ronald Reagan. She sings the premiere of Dominick Argento's song cycle Casa Guidi, based on the letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It appears frequently on von Stade recitals. The CD era begins for the diva, as London Records releases its 1982 Le Nozze di Figaro on compact discs with von Stade in her familiar role as Cherubino.
  • 1987: She originates the role of Tina in the world premiere of Argento's The Aspern Papers at Dallas Opera.
  • 1994: Playing against type, von Stade sings the role of Madame de Merteuil in Conrad Susa's The Dangerous Liaisons.
  • 1995: The Metropolitan Opera celebrates von Stade's 25 years with the company with a new production of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande.
  • 1998: She is awarded the Ordre des Artes et des Lettres, France's highest award in the arts. She premieres composer Richard Danielpour's Elegies, based on the letters of her father, who was killed in the waning days of World War II.
  • 2000: She sings the role of Mrs. De Rocher in the world premiere of Jake Heggie and Terence McNally's Dead Man Walking.
  • 2002: She is a featured performer at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
  • 2008: She creates the role of Madeline in Jake Heggie's Last Acts at Houston Grand Opera (later titled Three Decembers).

Fun Facts

  • Frederica von Stade as Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
    Charity: von Stade's record of charitable activities is astonishing and lengthy. She often will donate her entire recital fee to the Young Musicians Program at UC Berkeley, and the St. Martin de Porres School in Oakland, where she has helped inaugurate and staff the music programs. She has also worked for a long time with the Sophia Project, which helps single mothers with children.
  • Overnight Success: von Stade had only been studying voice seriously for a short time when she was hired by Sir Rudolf Bing at a Metropolitan Opera tryout in 1969. “I was totally green, stagestruck and nervous about being wrong, and I wasn't really a trained musician,” she admitted in an interview with Brian Kellow in Opera News in 1995.
  • It's a travesty!: Early in her career, von Stade was known for the boy characters she played – trouser roles (or en travesti in French). She also took part in the Rossini revival in the 1970s, singing Cinderella, Rosina, and making an important recording of Rossini's Otello.
  • French fan: Because of her excellent childhood training in French, roles in the often-neglected French opera repertory became a specialty.
  • Broadway dreams: von Stade's family was well-off, and she spent many weekends going to New York and seeing Broadway shows. As a girl, she dreamed of being a Broadway star. In 1988, she starred in a landmark recording of the complete score of Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat, which used the original 1927 vocal arrangements and orchestrations. She's also recorded The Sound of Music and was a hit in the 1995 Houston Grand Opera production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music, in which she played Desireé and sang “Send in the Clowns.”

SFCV Articles Featuring Frederica von Stade

April 4, 2011

Flicka Brings It Back Home

Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade needs no introduction: Copious documents of her 41-year career proclaim her greatness, most recently on priceless CD reissues from Sony/ArkivMusic and EMI. In preparation for her April 12 master class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, she reflects on her new career path and the triumphs of the past.

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June 8, 2010

Flicka’s Farewell Opens Doors

Frederica von Stade, the beloved mezzo-soprano, is saying good-bye to her fans. She is in the middle of a series of farewell appearances, winding down a 40-year, Cinderella-like career in opera that began in 1970, when she unexpectedly won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and received a contract from Metropolitan Opera General Manager Rudolf Bing.

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March 11, 2008

A Window on a Richly Operatic Life

If Pauline Viardot hadn’t actually lived, some opera composer might have invented her. The life of the 19th-century French singer-composer is the stuff of drama, and nearly a century after her death, she remains one of the more intriguing figures of European musical history.

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