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Roberta Alexander (Soprano)

Born: March 3, 1949 - Lynchburg, Virginia., USA

Among the most compelling singing actresses of our time, the admired black American soprano, Roberta Alexander, enjoys international renown for her riveting, incisive characterizations, miraculous vocal and dramatic range. She was reared in a musical family. She studied at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor from 1969 to 1971, receiving M. Music in 1971, and with Herman Woltman at the Royal Conservatory of Music at The Hague.

Roberta Alexander appeared as Pamina at the Houston Grand Opera in 1980, as Daphne in Santa Fe in 1981, and as Elettra in Idomeneo in Zürich in 1982. Following a tour of Europe, she made a successful debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Zerlina in November 1983. Among the operatic heroines she has unforgettably portrayed are the title role of Janacek's Jenufa (a Glyndebourne production), Mimì in Puccini's La Bohème, and especially the great W.A. Mozart heroines: Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Vitellia in W.A. Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, the latter a major success with both the public and the press at the Glyndebourne Festival. In addition she has performed principal roles at New York's Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House/Covent Garden, and the major Houses of Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna, Zürich and Venice. In January 1999, Roberta Alexander sang concert performances of Jenufa, Act 2 with Sir Simon Rattle and the Philadelphia Orchestra, in Philadelphia and at New York's Carnegie Hall. Other recent North American highlights includes a Washington, D.C. recital on the distinguished Vocal Arts Society series and Benjamin Britten's War Requiem with the Utah Symphony Orchestra under its Music Director Keith Lockhart, both receiving rapturous critical acclaim.

Equally esteemed as an orchestral soloist, Roberta Alexander recently enjoyed particular success performing Ravel's Shéhérazade with André Previn and the NDR Sinfonieorchester, telecast throughout Europe. She has also performed with the Wiener Symphoniker, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orcherstra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Orchestra; and collaborated with such distinguished conductors as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrew Litton, Bernard Haitink, Sir Colin Davis, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Carlo Maria Giulini, Leonard Slatkin, Jesús López-Cobos, Edo de Waart and David Zinman. She recently reunited with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra for Felix Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream and Tchaikovsky's Romeo & Juliet and the rapturously-received world premiere of Leon Kirchner's Of things Exactly As They Are. In addition she sang Aaron Copland's In the Beginning with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

An uncommonly communicative recitalist, Roberta Alexander has offered acclaimed programs at New York's Carnegie Recital Hall, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Vienna Musikverein, London's Wigmore Hall and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. An especially ardent and persuasive interpreter of American masterworks, her latest recordings include Songs My Mother Taught Me and With You (the latter an anthology of Broadway songs).

Roberta Alexander's voluminous discography on the Etcetera, Philips, Sony, Teldec and BMG reflects her astonishing mastery of varied vocal styles: songs by Samuel Barber, W.A. Mozart, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ives, Copland, Strauss, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Puccini and Heitor Villa-Lobos; George Frideric Handel's Giulio Cesare, Apollo e Daphne, Samson and Theodora; Mozart's Don Giovanni and Idomeneo; and such rarities as Goldschmidt's Der Gewaltige Hahnrei and Beatrice Cenci, Heppener's Four Songs of Ezra Pound and an Edison-winning recording of Andriessen's Songs with Orchestra.

More Photos

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Various Websites (see below)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2001)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Carlo Maria Giulini


BWV 232

Nikolaus Harnoncourt


BWV 244 [2nd]

Peter Schreier


BWV 245

Links to other Sites

Interview: Roberta Alexander (Kulture Kiosque)
The Durbeck Archive: Black Classical Singers (Roberta Alexander [Photo]
Interview - Lyrische sopraan Roberta Alexander (NCRV Gids Online) [Dutch]

Roberta Alexander - soprano (Music Partnership)
Roberta Alexander (Beauty in Music)
English National Opera Casts Roberta Alexander, an American [N/A]

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