(July 17, 1914 – October 3, 1990)
Eleanor Steber was an American operatic soprano.
She is noted for being one of the first major opera stars to achieve the highest success with training and a career based in the United States.
She debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1940 and remained one of its leading artists through to 1961.
She was a flexible artist recognised for her large, flexible voice that had a silvery tone to it. She was particularly suited to the high-lying soprano roles of Richard Strauss and she was also recognised for her lyrical portrayals of Mozart's heroines.
She worked extensively with conductor Bruno Walter.
Beyond the roles of Mozart and Strauss her repertoire varied widely. Always triumphing in the Wagnerian roles she was also a fine interpretter of Alban Berg, Giacomo Puccini as well as French opera.
She sang the title role in the world premier of the American opera Vanessa by Samuel Barber.
She also featured in a number of Metropolitan Opera premieres, including Strauss's Arabella, Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Berg's Wozzeck.
In 1944 under the baton of Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony she sang Leonora in Beethoven's Fidelio. In 1953 she scored a major triumph at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival singing Elsa in Lohengrin. It was also recorded by Decca Records.
In 1954 in Florence she sang a highly praised performance of Minnie in Puccini's La Fanciulla Del West.
Always a popular artist on both radio and television she appeared regularly on such programes as The Voice of Firestone and The Bell Telephone Hour.
In addition to recording complete operas she recorded many popular ballads, operetta tunes, art songs and arias.
With a great sense of fun she even recorded an album of songs and arias at the gay bath house known as the Continental Baths in New York City in the seventies where Bette Midler also performed regularly
Eleanor Steber still found time to record a late career performance of Strauss's Four Last Songs with James Levine and the Cleveland Orchestra.
Although she was an artist known for having very high standards she also had a reputation for being living a little too much on the high side and she reportedly lived a rather tempestuous personal life- sometimes partying through the night.
Turning up one morning for a recording session (obviously a little worse for wear) and having been out all night she refused to sing the set Mozart arias until conductor Susskind trying to save the situation asked her what she would like to sing.
She replied "Depuis le Jour"- from Charpentier's Louise. There was a scramble to find their orchestral parts and the recording was cut. To this day, it is recognised as a superb rendition of what is considered to be, a very difficult aria.
Eleanor Steber struggled throughout her career with asthma and alcoholism yet it did not prevent her from reaching the pinncale of success in opera and as a performer who was
much loved and recognised as a national treasure.
She died in 1990 following heart surgery.