Death of a brilliant harpsichordist and voice coach

Death of a brilliant harpsichordist and voice coach


norman lebrecht

June 02, 2020

The harpschordist Janine Reiss, director of musical studies at the Paris Opéra from 1973 to 1980, has died in her 99th year.

The singers she coached in major roles included Maria Callas, Teresa Berganza, Mady Mesplé, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. She was music advisor on Joseph Losey’s Don Giovanni film.

Here’s a full interview in English with Bruce Duffie.

She said: ‘I never prepare a singer for a conductor.  I always prepare a singer for the composer.’


  • Sam McElroy says:

    I am saddened to read this. Janine was a monumental figure in the world of opera, and a truly great character, of the old school. They don’t make them like Janine anymore. Fair well to an irreplaceable.

  • Tony Britten says:

    I had no idea she was still with us. Along with the great Norman Feasey and a very young Roger Vignoles, she coached me at the ROH in 1969 when I played Yniold in Monsieur Boulez’s first ‘Pelleas et Melisande’. As I recall, she and M Boulez were good friends and she was an extraordinary musician and fabulous person. Captivatingly glamorous to a fourteen year old boy! RIP

  • The View from America says:

    The interview is well-worth reading.

  • Paul Randall says:

    I believe she worked with Karajan on that wonderful recording of Pelleas.

    • Laurence Dale says:

      I don’t think so… wasn’t that Mlle Irène Aïtoff?

      • CHNina says:

        Yes, of course it was the amazing Irene Aitoff. NOT to be confused with Janine Reiss!

      • Herbiere says:

        Absolutely not as the son of Janine Reiss I can tell you she was the vocal coach of H. Von Karajan for Pelleas at Salzburg and then for the recording in Berlin. The very last rehearsal for Pelleas took place at home in Paris with Karajan

        • Madi says:

          Hello, I come across your comment about Janine, and you mention that you are her son. I meet Janine in Geneva at the GTG where she was there for studies musicales many time under our director Mr. Gall. I was pianist for the ballet and for somes Opera too. That’s was late 80s, and late 90s. and in 1997- I was engaged to play the piano lessons in Donizetti la fille du Regiment and Janine was there for the musicals studies. She was terrific, I have wonderful souvenirs with her. Please accept my must sincere condolences. Madi.

    • erich says:

      Indeed she did. A true Grande Dame and a wonderful coach.

    • Carlos says:


  • Michael in Missouri says:

    And just days after Mady Mesplé.

    We can honor these superb artists together.

  • E says:

    This is a wonderful interview. I dearly wish I had known her.

  • Una says:

    Happy 83rd birthday today to Valerie Masterson who worked with Janine.