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Soprano Lisa della Casa, an opera beauty, dies at 93

December 11, 2012|By Sherry Stern

Lisa della Casa, a Swiss-born soprano known for her sweet voice and exquisite elegance, has died at 93, the Vienna Opera announced Tuesday.

The late English music critic Sir Neville Cardus reportedly once said of Della Casa that one should go to her concerts twice: once to listen, once to look.

The soprano "possessed an instrument of crystalline purity," a Times reviewer wrote about her landmark recording of Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs."

Della Casa was born Feb. 2, 1919, in Burgdorf, Switzerland, and trained in Zurich. The young singer's first performance came in 1941 for Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" in the Swiss town of Solothurn-Biel. She remained in neutral Switzerland during World War II.

After the war she went on to sing on the world's other great opera stages, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House and La Scala. She was a member of the Vienna State Opera, where she appeared 411 times.

Della Casa went on to perform many of the great roles, including in such operas as "La Boheme" and "Rigoletto." 

But she was especially known for her interpretations of Strauss and Mozart, notably in Strauss' "Arabella," "Der Rosenkavalier" and "Ariadne of Naxos," and in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Magic Flute."

She often returned to the role of the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro," which she sang regularly in Europe and at The Met. Critics loved her serene voice and audiences were said to respond as well to her acting style and her radiance.

Della Casa even once sang in a production of "Porgy and Bess" in Zurich, where  the Gershwin opera wasn't always cast with black performers.

The singer retired unexpectedly in 1974. She disdained the dishonorable aspects of the music business, and according to the "All Music Guide to Classical Music" she "loathed the intrigues, jealousies, and cabals that often infested the operatic world."

Della Casa died on Monday in the Swiss town of Muensterlingen, according to the Vienna Opera announcement.

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