2 May 2008

Frances Yeend, 95, Mainstay Soprano of New York City Opera in 1940s and '50s

Frances Yeend
Yeend, in 1964, as Desdemona to Mario del Monaco's
Otello at Philadelphia Grand Opera Company

Louise Neumann/OPERA NEWS Archives
FRANCES YEEND
Vancouver, WA, January 28, 1913 - Morgantown, WV, April 27, 2008

Frances Yeend, a soprano whose charisma and warmth made her a mainstay of the New York City Opera in the 1940s and '50s, has died at 95.

The soprano was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where she received her early vocal training and started her career as a recitalist and radio show personality. She made her first New York appearance in the ensemble of the 1943 Broadway revival of The Merry Widow, starring Jan Kiepura and Marta Eggerth. Three years later, she sang Ellen Orford in the 1946 U.S. premiere of Britten's Peter Grimes, conducted by Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood. The following year, Yeend became a founding member of Columbia Artists Management's Bel Canto Trio, a concert group that toured North America in 1947-48 featuring the soprano in solos, duets and trios with two other promising newcomers - George London and Mario Lanza.

Yeend made her New York City Opera debut in March 1948, as Violetta in La Traviata, and was a handsome, versatile presence on the company's roster for the better part of the next eleven years. Among her other notable NYCO assignments were Amelia in the company premiere of Menotti's Amelia Goes to the Ball (1948); the Countess in the company's first Le Nozze di Figaro (1948); Eva in the first NYCO Die Meistersinger (1950); Felice in the U. S. premiere of Wolf-Ferrari's I Quatro Rusteghi (1951); Micaela; Olympia, Giulietta and Antonia in Les Contes d'Hoffmann; Mimì; Nedda; Marguerite in Faust; Aida; Tosca; and Turandot. Puccini's ice princess was one of Yeend's signature roles, with performances in San Antonio, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Vienna and the Arena di Verona. Other international appearances for Yeend included Violetta and Micaela in Vienna; Mimì at Covent Garden and in Bulawayo, Rhodesia; and the first performances of Verdi's Requiem in the state of Israel (1954).

She arrived at the Metropolitan Opera in 1961, singing Chrysothemis to Inge Borkh's Elektra as the first of her ten performances with the company; her tally at the Met also held a single Gutrune and two student matinees of La Traviata.

Yeend made many appearances in concert and on recordings with the New York Philharmonic, the BSO, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and other major U.S. symphonies under the direction of such maestros as Bruno Walter, Eugene Ormandy, Serge Koussevitsky, Leopold Stokowski and Fritz Reiner.

In 1966, she joined the music faculty at West Virginia University in Morgantown, where she was Professor of Music and Artist in Residence until her retirement in 1978.

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