YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Natalie Bodanya, 98; operatic soprano also performed popular music, taught

March 15, 2007|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Natalie Bodanya, an American soprano who sang with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City at the start of her career and later gave voice lessons at her studio in Santa Barbara, has died. She was 98.

Bodanya, who changed her name from Bodanskaya for professional reasons, died March 4 of natural causes at the Buena Vista Care Center in Santa Barbara, her son, Paul Gorman, said Tuesday.

Bodanya was born Aug. 23, 1908, in New York City and showed unusual musical talent as a girl growing up in a tenement.

She captured the attention of Marcella Sembrich, a revered soprano with the Met until she retired in 1909.

With Sembrich's help, Bodanya attended the elite Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

After graduating, she returned to New York and auditioned for the Met. That led to her debut, singing the role of Micaela, the jilted lover, in a 1936 production of Bizet's "Carmen."

Bodanya sang in a number of operas with the company in that decade, including Puccini's "La Boheme" and Wagner's "Parsifal." She also toured Europe.

In the late 1930s she married William Gorman, a philosophy professor and editor. They had one son, Paul. Bodanya is survived by her son and a granddaughter. Her husband died in 1981.

In 1939 she sang the role of Gretel in "Hansel and Gretel" by Engelbert Humperdinck at the Hollywood Bowl. "She has a resonant, well placed voice and sings with taste," a Times reviewer wrote.

Through most of her career Bodanya also performed popular music, often in nightclubs. "My mother was a street kid and an opera singer who loved American music," her son said.

She and her family moved to Santa Barbara in the early 1960s, and her husband joined the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, a think tank. She began working with the Assn. of American Colleges, teaching music seminars on campuses around the country.

She also gave private lessons to voice students and became a mentor to some of them who were talented and in need of financial assistance, as she had been at their age.

She continued teaching through the 1990s.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road, Santa Barbara.

Los Angeles Times Articles