Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Fine Arts

Department

Music

First Advisor

Dr. Everett McCorvey

Abstract

American mezzo-soprano, Beverly Wolff has not received the credit or respect that she deserves in operatic history. Her career began in 1952 and flourished until her retirement from the stage in 1981. Her intense characterizations, innate musicianship, and intelligence made her one of the most sought-after performers from the 1950s to the 1970s. For thirty years, she worked with some of the operatic world’s finest musicians, including Leonard Bernstein, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Samuel Barber, Ned Rorem, Beverly Sills, Norman Triegle, Placido Domingo, among others.

She was represented by Columbia Artists Management Inc (CAMI), one of New York’s oldest and most prestigious management companies, and maintained an active performance schedule that often included operatic, concert, and recital performances in the same week. She trained at the American Vocal Academy in Philadelphia and was inducted into its Hall of Fame. She performed in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New Orleans, and Atlanta and was an active member of the New York City Opera, Handel Society, Tanglewood, and the Handel Society of Washington, D.C.

Wolff is credited with over sixty recordings. She also appeared on several of NBC’s live operatic programs, which brought opera to the masses. Perhaps most importantly, she created and debuted several important roles in American opera. Few have heard of her; the purpose of this document is to fill in this gap in operatic history, and to clarify and correct misinformation about her. In this document, I will answer the following questions: What determines a performer’s worth? What secures a performer’s place in history? Finally, and more specifically, what imprints did Beverly Wolff leave for posterity?

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