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Rise Stevens BiographyOne of the great voices of the Metropolitan Opera, New York-born mezzo-soprano Rise (pronounced REE-za) Stevens made her debut with the company in 1939 as Octavian in Richard Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier" in a tour performance in Philadelphia. Her other notable roles in 21 years with the company included the two characterizations most associated with her, the title role in Bizet's "Carmen" and Dalila in Saint-Saens's "Samson et Dalila," Laura in Ponchielli's "La Gioconda," Marfa in Mussorgsky's "Khovanschina," Prince Orlofsky in Johann Strauss's "Die Fledermaus," and Hansel in Humperdinck's "Hansel und Gretel." A great beauty as well as a great singer, she enjoyed one of the more successful careers of the many opera singers who made films, most notably in "The Chocolate Soldier" opposite Nelson Eddy and "Going My Way" with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. She was also something of a fixture on early TV, appearing frequently on such programs as "The Bell Telephone Hour" and "The Voice of Firestone," where she sang both operatic arias and popular songs. She also appeared on one of the first telecasts from the Met, in 1954, singing Carmen opposite one of her most frequent Don Joses, Richard Tucker.
Since her retirement from opera in 1960, she has continued to play a very active role in the New York fine arts scene. In 1964, she innaugurated the Music Theater of Lincoln Center as Anna Leonowens in a well-received revival of "The King and I," produced by Richard Rodgers, opposite Darren McGavin's King. Also that year, she became Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Company, a touring company which served as a training ground for promising young singers and conductors, many of whom (Marilyn Niska, Ron Boettcher) became members of the regular company. She held this job for three years, until the company ceased operations when the Met could no longer afford to finance it. Since then, she has remained active with the Met as a long-time official of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
Married to actor Walter Surovy from 1939 until his death in 2001, their only child is the actor Nicolas Surovy. She continues to live in New York, as active and charming as ever.
TriviaHighly respected opera singer before making films. Participated in the first complete opera recorded by the Metropolitan Opera Company in 1947. The opera, released that same year by Columbia Records, was Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel und Gretel," sung in Constance Bache's English translation. Singing the role of Hansel, she was joined by fellow Met luminaries Nadine Conner (Gretel), Thelma Votipka (The Witch), Claramae Turner (The Mother), and John Brownlee (The Father). Max Rudolf led the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus for this recording, which remained in print through the early 1980s.
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