Maestro’s soprano wife has died

We learn with sadness of the death on April 5 of the Australian soprano Elsie Morison, second wife of the Czech conductor Rafael Kubelik. Elsie was 91. After a ceremony in Prague, her remains will be flown for burial in her family tomb at Ballarat, Victoria.

Elsie was a staff soprano at Covent Garden in the 1950s when Kubelik, nursing a gravely ill wife, was the music director. They performed and recorded together until their marriage in 1963, after which Elsie decided that she would sing no more.

I met them both, separately and together. They shared a quietude and humility that is rare among great artists. Elsie, though she liked to laugh, was discretion itself. I last saw them together in Prague in 1990, on Rafael’s return after more than 40 years’ political exile.

Morrison-Elsie-04[Marzelline]

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  • Lovely singer. Pristine Audio has coincidentally just released the BBC April, 1962 broadcast of Delius’s Village Romeo and Juliet conducted by Meredith Davies. Morison sings Vrenchen.

  • Brian, yes, I was listening to Elsie Morison sing Vrenchen from that recording only yesterday: Her singing in the final scenes, especially, “This is the garden…,” is both beautiful and haunting.

  • She was selling 15 years ago Kubelik’s Mercedes to a Finnish car collector. I remember seeing the car that was brought form Switzerland, in excellent condition. Maybe still circulating somewhere in the Finnish country roads….

  • In 2008 my mother (now 100) spent a memorable afternoon with her distant relative, Elsie, at the home of Elsie’s oldest and dearest friend in London. Mum had met Elsie in the 1950s when she performed in Southampton, England and was thrilled at having met Elsie again. I had heard so much about our soprano relative and, perhaps, expected Elsie to be ‘full of airs and graces’. Not so, what a lovely friendly lady and so easy to chat to while recalling topics from the old ‘Australian letters’ written by Elsie’s mother to my grandmother. Mum has recently given me those letters which I cherish along with a photo Elsie sent me a few years ago of her and Rafael sitting at their piano.

  • Eight years ago my mother (now 100) spent a memorable afternoon with her distant relative, Elsie, at the home of Elsie’s oldest and dearest friend in London. Mum had previously met Elsie in the 1950s when she performed in Southampton, England and was thrilled at having met Elsie again. I had heard so much about our soprano relative and, perhaps, expected Elsie to be ‘full of airs and graces’. Not so, what a lovely friendly lady who was so easy to chat to while recalling topics from the old Australian letters written by Elsie’s mother to my grandmother. I now cherish those letters along with a photo I have of Elsie and Rafael sitting at their piano. Elsie’s passing brings sadness to all family, friends and those in the operatic world.

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