Sad death of Solti’s star contralto, 76

Sad death of Solti’s star contralto, 76


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2019

We are saddened to learn of the death during the night of Mira Zakai, an Israeli contralto who won a Grammy for her recording of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with Sir Georg Solti and performed with most of the world’s top conductors and orchestras. She was in recovery from a stroke that she suffered a year ago.

A person of unassuming manners and profound humilty, she was the least assertive of colleagues yet always a strong presence. Like her surname, which means innocent, she seemed untouched by the darker sides of life.

Mira wrote a wonderful book of conversations with the deep-thinking, equally shy Israeli composer Andre Hajdu. Several other composers wrote for her. She retired from singing in 2000 and became Head of Lied and Oratorio at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv.

A devotee of Slipped Disc, she and I enjoyed many conversations. Amir Mandel has written a beautiful Hebrew obituary.

Her memory is blessed.



  • AndrewB says:

    Such effortlessly beautiful singing reveals a great mastery of technique as well as expression.

  • I always thought Helen Watts was Solti’s favorite contralto.

  • Uzi Shalev says:

    Mira Zakai was a lovely human being who was mentor to so many singers in Israel and abroad. She was always wise, friendly and supportive. I was privileged to share the stage with her in the Upper Galilee days of music in 1990. Since then we kept in touch.
    She had a voice of velvet, so clear and expressive. I will miss her dearly. RIP, Mira.

  • Yvonne Livay says:

    She was an outstanding person and a wonderful friend. It is hard to accept her death.

  • raya gonen says:

    oh my god, I didnt know this aweful fact! just a year ago I brought her to muhlenberg college to give a master class on oratorio singing…How incredibly sad!!!

  • She left us too soon. Farewell, my dearest friend. How wise and loving you were! I shall dearly miss our yearly tete-a-tetes and concert-going in New York. You were a giant of a singer, a teacher and a Mensch.