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Arleen Augér (Soprano)

Born: September 13, 1939 - South Gate, California, USA
Died: June 10, 1993 - Leusden, Holland

The esteemed American soprano, Arleen Augér, projected a commanding stage presence and was especially praised for her flexible coloratura soprano voice and subtle interpretations of works by J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, Haydn, Monteverdi, Glück, and especially W.A. Mozart.

As a girl Arleen Augér sang in a church choir and studied the piano and violin. After graduating from California State University at Long Beach (1963), she dedicated herself to the study of singing (1963-1967). She taught elementary school and studied voice in Chicago with Ralph Errolle.

Arleen Augér was first known through a series of concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. In Los Angeles, she captured the I. Victor Fuchs Competition (1967) and won an audition with the Vienna Volksoper. Though she had only three songs in her repertoire, Augér so impressed one person at her audition, Josef Krips, director of the Vienna State Opera, that he offered her a contract despite her lack of stage experience and unfamiliarity with the German language. Augér made her debut (1967) there as the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte. Another powerful admirer at this point was Böhm, with whom she sang, and also recorded a notable Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. She later expanded her repertoire to more than a dozen roles, including Gilda in Rigoletto. Appearances at the Vienna Volksoper included Marie in Donizetti’s La fille du régiment. Her reputation as a coloratura soprano grew with débuts at the New York City Opera (1969) and Salzburg (1970), both as the Queen of Night.

Arleen Augér left the Vienna State Opera in 1974, and with her move to Frankfurt in the same year Augér turned more to lyric roles in opera and to the development of her career as a concert singer. She toured Japan in programmes of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel, and worked extensively with the Pianist Irwin Gage in the lieder repertory. In 1975 she sang as Fire in L’enfant et les sortilèges in her debut at La Scala, and thereafter at many Western European theatres and at the Bolshoi. She was greatly admired in Britain, where she gave many recitals and sang in memorable performances of Alcina (which she also recorded) and L’incoronazione di Poppea at Spitalfields in the City of London Festival.

Arleen Augér continued to expand her recital repertoire and made selective appearances in roles she felt were suitable for her rich tone; she sang Schubert and Robert Schumann lieder and turn-of-the-century French art songs besides commissioning new song cycles by Libby Larsen and Judith Zaimont. During 1971-1975 she appeared as a concert singer at the Salzburg Festspielen (c minor mass of W.A. Mozart), and 1988-1989 (Messiah).

Arleen Augér was renowned as a great concert and oratorio soprano, especially esteemed as a Bach interpreter, taking the lion's share of the soprano parts in Helmuth Rilling's Bach cantata cycle (mid 1970's to mid 1980's).

Arleen Augér, who was more popular in Europe than in the USA, performed at most of the European opera houses before making her New York City Opera debut in 1976. In 1978 made her début at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Marzelline in Fidelio and started to be a member of this famous opera house, but it was not until 1984 that she began to attract a serious USA following. The highlight of her career was her performance at the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, the Duke and Duchess of York, on July 23, in London's Westminster Abbey, when she sang W.A. Mozart's Exsultate, Jubilate, and was heard by millions world-wide on television. On the bi-centenary of W.A. Mozart's death (December 5, 1991) she performed in his Requiem in Vienna's St. Stephan's Cathedral. She was also active in teaching in the Salzburg Mozarteum.

Arleen Augér's superb coloratura technique was documented on nearly 200 recordings. Her many recordings show her as a delightful singer of J.S. Bach, Haydn, W.A. Mozart, Schubert and Richard Strauss, to whose Vier letzte Lieder she brought a fresh voice and mature understanding in a performance with Previn. Among her last recordings were a distinguished contribution to Graham Johnson’s Complete Schubert Song Edition and Sonnets from the Portugese, written for her by Libby Larsen.

Arleen Augér's voice was of a gentle character with impressive reserves of power: her singing was unfailingly musical, her professional life refreshingly independent. She continued to perform until 1992, when the brain cancer that later claimed her life forced her retirement. She was a much beloved singer (and she still is) and the sad news of her premature death, after series of operations, were incredulously received and she was deeply mourned.

More Photos

Sources: Operissimo; Book of the Year (1994): Obituary: Augér, Arleen; Britannica Online; Grove
Contributed by
Yoël L. Arbeitman & Aryeh Oron (February - March 2001); Matthias Hansen (Photo - November 2007)

Arleen Augér: Short Biography | General Discussions
Arleen Auger [by R. Zedler]

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




William Christie


G.F. Handel: Opera Alcina, HWV 34 [1st recording, 1990, Alcina]

Martin Flämig


BWV 248/1-6 [1st]

Greg Funfgeld


Aria from BWV 208

Nikolaus Harnoncourt


BWV 244 [3rd]

Richard Hickox


G.F. Handel: Opera Alcina, HWV 34 [1st recording, 1985, Alcina]

Theo Loosli


[V-1] (1979): BWV 245

Dwight Oltman


BWV 61, BWV 110, BWV 199
BWV 244 [2nd], BWV 244 [3rd]

Helmuth Rilling


BWV 3, BWV 5, BWV 8, BWV 10, BWV 13, BWV 17, BWV 21, BWV 23, BWV 24, BWV 25, BWV 26, BWV 28, BWV 31, BWV 32, BWV 36, BWV 37, BWV 38, BWV 39, BWV 42, BWV 43, BWV 44, BWV 47, BWV 49, BWV 51, BWV 52, BWV 57, BWV 59, BWV 63, BWV 64, BWV 67, BWV 68, BWV 70, BWV 71, BWV 72, BWV 76, BWV 78, BWV 79, BWV 80, BWV 84, BWV 85, BWV 86, BWV 89, BWV 92, BWV 93, BWV 95, BWV 98, BWV 99, BWV 100, BWV 101, BWV 105 [1st], BWV 105 [2nd, Video], PBWV 107, BWV 111, BWV 113, BWV 115, BWV 116, BWV 119, BWV 121, BWV 124, BWV 127, BWV 129, BWV 132, BWV 133, BWV 137, BWV 138, BWV 140, BWV 144, BWV 147, BWV 149, BWV 152, BWV 162, BWV 163, BWV 165, BWV 171, BWV 177, BWV 179, BWV 180 [1st], BWV 180 [Audio, 2nd], BWV 181, BWV 183, BWV 184, BWV 185, BWV 186, BWV 188, BWV 193, BWV 198, BWV 199
BWV 232 [2nd], BWV 232 [3rd], BWV 243, BWV 244, BWV 245 [2nd],, BWV 248, BWV 249, Schemellis Gesangbuch

Hans-Joachim Rotzsch


BWV 1, BWV 21, BWV 36, BWV 61, BWV 68, BWV 71, BWV 79, BWV 80, BWV 110, BWV 137, BWV 140, BWV 172, BWV 192, BWV 245

Peter Schreier


BWV 208, BWV 232

Gerard Schwarz


BWV 508, Arias from BWV 202, BWV 209, BWV 244

Recordings of Arrangements/Transcriptions of Bach’s Works




12 Cellisten der Berliner Philharmoniker


H. Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for soprano and 8 cellos, A 389 [1st]

Links to other Sites

Arleen Augér - In Memoriam
Raphi's Serious Singers List: Arleen Auger
The Arleen Auger Memorial Fund, Inc.
Decca Music Group - Arleen Auger

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Last update: Monday, January 08, 2018 15:56