Friday, January 9, 2009


Deborah Riedel died yesteday, January 8, in Sydney, from cancer which had been diagnosed 10 years ago. She was 50.

Within a year of joining The Australian Opera chorus in 1983 as a mezzo, she was recognised by Richard Bonynge, promoted to principal, and soon her soprano and coloratura potential was unleashed. It was her wide range, rich middle voice, upper extension and flexibility that saw her go on to a world career in an enormously wide range of roles including Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Offenbach, yes the four Hoffman heroines, Strauss, Britten and Wagner, as well as an wide concert repertoire, working with conductors of the standing of Mackerras, Elder, and Colin Davis. She recorded for Melba Records with Richard Bonynge.

Not interested in being a new someone-else-already-famous, she simply wanted to be the first Deborah Riedel.

I can't think about Deborah Riedel without thinking about the 2004 Adelaide Ring, and I can't think about the Adelaide Ring without thinking of Deborah Riedel's Sieglinde. It was one of those nights. Gesamtkunstwerk they were exclaiming in the foyers. But it was even more; it was that unlikely combination of the unexpected and the overwhelming. I have just played Act 1 and for all the passion and power, and there's no lack of it, there is a disarming sense of the intensely personal between the Walsung lovers, brother and sister. The diction is so clear, and the emotion so real, and the singing so beautiful, it actually sounds like we are eavesdropping, intruding, into a relationship beyond our understanding and of which we can only surmise the depth by the intensity of this realisation.

Deborah Riedel was married to tenor Paul Ferris, with two step children. The world is lesser again for the loss of another great artist, the girl from Carlingford. She was somehow always there, and now she's not.

addit : January 13, The Australian, Obituary:

"OBITUARY: Deborah Riedel, soprano. Born Sydney, July 31, 1958. Died Sydney, January 8, aged 50.

DEBORAH Riedel's death has come as a shock and source of great sadness for the international opera community. Few knew of her decade-long struggle with cancer, as there was no significant break or diminution in her career until her health began declining in September.

Riedel reached the highest international operatic echelons yet remained firmly grounded and committed to the Australian audiences and companies that helped foster her career. Vocally agile and comfortable with diverse repertoire, she had an extensive natural range, a rich, elegantly rounded tone, outstanding expressive capacity and great power, sensitively applied.

Dramatically, she demonstrated genuine emotional connection in her characterisations and developed an increasingly compelling stage presence with economy of gesture. Best known for roles in which her lirico-spinto characteristics were given expression, Riedel also had an impressive coloratura facility. More recently, she had taken more dramatic, heavier soprano roles.

Riedel grew up in north-west Sydney in a hard-working, musical household. Her mother was a pianist and Riedel took lessons from an early age. It was only in her final high school term that she began formal vocal study. Admitted to the Sydney Conservatorium with piano as her main instrument, Riedel completed her Diploma of Music Education with diligence and distinction.

Riedel subsequently taught music at Riverstone High School in western Sydney for three years while developing as a mezzo soprano. She auditioned for what was then the Australian Opera chorus and, in Christmas 1982 was hired as a casual. Immediately enamoured, she accepted a full-time chorus position in 1983.

Conductor Richard Bonynge was impressed. Hearing the effortless high E in her range, he immediately questioned Riedel's mezzo classification, as did distinguished agent and former soprano Jenifer Eddy, who took on Riedel's management. Together they guided Riedel towards the soprano repertoire, cleverly managing the transition between 1986 and 1988 with a gradual progression from low soprano roles to lyric roles splashed with coloratura passages.

It was, however, as a mezzo, that Riedel won the Australian regional finals of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, the Dame Sister Mary Leo Scholarship, Dame Mabel Brookes Fellowship and 1986 Sydney Sun Aria. Riedel used her prizemoney to study in London with leading pedagogues Audrey Langford and Paul Hamburger, the former describing Riedel as "the perfect pupil". In Australia, she impressed in her Victoria State Opera debut as Enrichetta in I Puritani and the mezzo title role in West Australian Opera's production of Hansel and Gretel.

In the late 1980s she added roles such as Leila in Pearlfishers, Mimi (La boheme) Countess Maritza and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) to her repertoire, which helped showcase Riedel's diverse soprano credentials to a national audience.

In 1989 Riedel undertook a demanding audition tour of Europe and America. In a two-week period she completed 11 important auditions and caused a sensation. The Covent Garden panel described Riedel's voice as one of the best they had heard.

In the '90s Riedel debuted with leading houses and companies, including Royal Opera House Covent Garden, The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Rome Opera, Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera. Her US debut as Amina in San Diego Opera's 1994 production of La Sonnambula courageously demonstrated her lyric coloratura capacity in a role associated with such greats as Tetrazzini, Callas, Scotto and Sutherland. Notoriously harsh Los Angeles Times critic Martin Bernheimer wrote: "a flamboyant yet poignant talent. Deborah Riedel. Remember the name!"

Riedel won respect within the opera community for her dignified professional conduct, unflappable positive demeanour, down-to-earth nature, and gentle, self-effacing warmth. She was renowned for her meticulous preparation, reliability, commitment and adaptability; traits which saw companies keen to re-employ her and that brought many requests for last-minute roles following the indisposition of often high-profile artists.

A woman of principle, Riedel turned down work with The Metropolitan Opera in 1994 because of existing commitments with the VSO. She counted the words of one of her mentors, Tony Legge, as her best early career advice: "Don't sit in the green room and gossip." By all accounts, she was successful.

In the past decade Riedel came to own the role of Tosca, while a stunning performance as Sieglinde in State Opera of South Australia's 2004 Ring cycle earned her a Helpmann Award and demonstrated Wagnerian soprano potential. She also debuted in the roles of Norma and Turandot for Opera Australia. Riedel longed to sing Aida and felt she had reached her best singing years.

Her passion saw Riedel continue to perform through illness, minor and major, and many close colleagues believe performance remained a source of strength and comfort until the end.

She is survived by her husband, Paul Ferris, and her two step-children."

This is an indicative, if not necessarily complete, list of her repertoire, from the Deborah Riedel Homepage, and it surely speaks for itself.

Opera Australia

* Pamina (Die Zauberflöte)
* Micaela (Carmen)
* Zerlina (Don Giovanni)
* Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni)
* Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro)
* Julliette (Roméo et Julliette)
* Violetta ( La Traviatta)
* Marguerite ( Faust)
* Floria Tosca (Tosca)
* Four Heroines (Les Contes d'Hoffmann)
* Maria Stuarda (Maria Stuarda)
* Leonora (Il Trovatore)
* Elettra (Idomeneo)
* Princess (The Gipsy Princess)

* Mimi (La Bohème) ; West Australian Opera
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Lyric Opera of Queensland
* Marguerite (Faust) ; Victorian State Opera
* Marguerite (Faust) ; Lyric Opera of Queensland
* Siegline (die Walküre) ; South Australian Opera
* Leila (Les pêcheurs de perles) ; Victorian State Opera
* Micaela (Carmen) ; Victorian State Opera

Other Companies

* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; San Fransisco
* Freia (Das Rheingold); Royal Opera Covent Garden London
* Teresa (Benvenuto Cellini) ; Geneva Opera
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Bordeaux
* Teresa (Benvenuto Cellini) ; Rome Opera
* Leonore (Fidelio) ; Tours
* Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) ; Royal Opera Covent Garden London
* Mimi (La Bohème) ; Royal Opera Covent Garden London
* Amina (La Sonnabula) ; San Diego
* First Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro ) ; Opéra de Montpellier
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Munich
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Vienna
* Marguerite (Faust) ; Geneva Opera
* Mimi (La Bohème) ; Israel
* Violetta (La Traviatta) ; San Diego
* Adina (L'Elisir d'amore) ; San Diego
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Metropolitan Opera New York
* Violetta (La Traviatta) ; The Netherlands Opera
* Alice Ford (Falstaff) ; San Diego
* Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) ; San Fransisco
* Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier) ; Welsh National Opera
* Floria Tosca (Tosca) ; Welsh National Opera
* Teresa (Benvenuto Cellini) ; Opéra National de Paris


Deborah Riedel has performed with all the Australian symphony orchestras, aswell:

* The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
* Orchestre Philharmonique de Montpellier
* The Proms in London's Royal Albert Hall
* Spoleto
* Melbourne Festival
* Aix-en-provence festivals
* New York Philharminic
* Bach's B-minor Mass
* Shubert's Lazarus
* Britten's War Requiem
* Tippett's A Child of Our Time
* Beethoven's Missa Solemnis
* Mahler's Eighth Symphony
* Dvorak's Stabat Mater
* Chant's d'Auvergne for the Australian Chamber Orchestra
* beethoven's "Oh perfido!"
* Messiaen's Poéme pour Mi
* Tobias's Jonah's Mission
* Handel's Athalia

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