An American Isolde has died, at 79

An American Isolde has died, at 79


norman lebrecht

March 27, 2017

We have been informed of the death of Roberta Knie, an American soprano who made a fine career in Europe before she was finally called to the Met in 1976.

Oklahoma born, Roberta Knie studied in London and was a member of the Vienna State Opera in the early 1970s.

She made her debut in Bayreuth as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre in 1974 and sang her first Isolde in a Wieland Wagner production in Ravenna the following year.

It became her signature role.

Knie (l.) with Jon Vickers and Maureen Forrester in a 1975 Montrea Tristan (Photo: Richard Bocking).


  • John says:

    She was a fine Isolde. Sorry to hear.

    • Richard Raub says:

      Please join friends, colleagues and loved ones in a memorial service for Roberta. Thursday, April 27th at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, 5:30-7:30. Music, food, photos and remembrances.

  • Raymond says:

    Her Chrysothemis was extraordinary. At the MET with Ursula Schröder-Feinen, conducted by Heinrich Hollreiser. Unforgettable.

  • Olassus says:

    I was in the Jones Hall audience for that fateful 1982 Turandot — horrendous experience for the artist … and the audience. It left me hating that opera, which of course is no rational response. Apparently she became a beloved teacher and coach and enjoyed the career.

    (This is one reason I sincerely hope Jonas Kaufmann pulls out of Otello.)

  • Olassus says:

    During the ugly “aria” In questa reggia, Knie’s vocal folds ripped, creating a momentary loud, alien, and no doubt painful shriek.

    October 14, 1982. Houston.

    She never sang again, afaik.

    Linda Kelm took over the run. Nicola Rescigno was conducting. Other cast members were Mariana Nicolesco (Liù), Ermanno Mauro (Calaf), William Dansby, Timothy Noble, (one of the brothers) Perry, (somebody) Cole, and Mark Thomsen.

    • Olassus says:


    • High Note Harry says:

      In January, 2005, Roberta Knie sang Kundry (3rd Act) with Eschenbach & Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (so probably also in Philadelphia). Per Bernard Holland’s review NY Times review “Roberta Knie wailed and shrieked as Kundry should”. In the early 1980’s, AGMA encouraged Knie to sue the Met for wrongful dismissal – I believe she did pursue the case, but she lost.