Death of a Met soprano, 96

Death of a Met soprano, 96


norman lebrecht

September 17, 2017

The death of Brenda Lewis is reported in the parish sheet.

Brenda sang 38 times at the Met from 1952 to 1965, and many times more at City Opera. She enjoyed a concurrent Broadway career in musical, something that would be frowned upon today.


She also appeared in Montreal, Rio, Vienna Volksoper and Zurich.


  • John says:

    Opera and Broadway careers frowned upon today? Don’t tell Paulo Szot, operatic baritone who sang Emile de Beque in Lincoln Center’s revival of South Pacific.

    Kristen Chenoweth spends most of her time on the Broadway side but distinguished herself in the killer coloratura role of Cunegonde in Bernstein’s Candide.

    There aren’t many in this position but they are there, and are apparently managing both sides nicely.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    The versatile Cheryl Studer recently sang Nettie Fowler in Carousel, in Basel.

  • John Cheek says:

    There is also Kelli OHara who returns to the Met to sing Despina this season.

  • Alexander Platt says:

    When one loses an especially close friend, one feels as if one has lost a part of oneself. From the moment she discovered me over 30 years ago, as an aspiring conductor fresh out of high school, Brenda Lewis was one of my dearest lifelong friends, “the Jewish grandmother I’d never had” as we used to jokingly recall. Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” and Walton’s “Facade” were just two of the narration projects we undertook together, at Yale and beyond. Throughout, she was a fount of goodness, wit, wisdom, generosity, great knowledge, and tough advice (more of which I wish I’d followed). Her recording of REGINA will always be the authoritative interpretation of this great American opera — as with her own career, something always under-rated, and it was a relief to see that her work in the first production of Barber’s VANESSA was finally acknowledged. From her earliest days, she was an utterly self-made artist, always mixing Broadway with summer stock and some of the world’s great operatic stages, from New York to Vienna — as I once exclaimed to her, “Brenda, ‘crossover’ — you INVENTED crossover!”. Or as she put it to me once, wistfully, “Wherever I was singing — on Broadway, in a classroom, in a barn somewhere, or singing Carmen or Salome at the Met — I was just so happy to be performing…..” — such great advice for so many of us, at this difficult time for music. With Brenda’s death a magnificent mid-century golden age in New York’s operatic history is now gone — to my knowledge, she was the last of that line — but “there will always be a Lionnet”, and there will always be a Brenda, in my heart.

  • Jean Hirsh says:

    Thank God for “crossovers”. If not for them, I would have never experienced the magnificent Paulo Szot. Living in a small suburb of St. Louis, we don’t get much opera here, but we certainly get PBS! Alexander, my sympathies on the loss of your friend & great talent. Jean