30 January 2013

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, 86, Who Wrote Definitive Biography of Verdi, has Died

Lebanon, OH, January 30, 1926 — New York, NY, January 19, 2013

Biographer, essayist and scholar, Phillips-Matz was best known to the general public for her 1994 biography of Giuseppe Verdi, a work that was the culmination of some thirty years of research in Italy and the U.S. Phillips-Matz was also a contributor to OPERA NEWS for more than a half-century, beginning in 1948, when her byline appeared in the magazine on a short piece about the season at the Cincinnati Summer Opera. Then in her early twenties, Phillips-Matz was already a veteran operagoer: she fell in love with opera during childhood and was to remain passionately absorbed in the study of the art form for the rest of her life.

Phillips-Matz received her bachelor's degree in medieval literature from Smith College and her master's degree from Columbia before beginning her career as a writer and scholar. After several years of writing reviews and articles for OPERA NEWS, Phillips-Matz was listed on the magazine's masthead as a contributing editor, a designation she retained until the early 1960s. She enjoyed especially happy working partnerships with Mary Ellis Peltz, OPERA NEWS's founding editor and a woman whose hunger for operatic detail matched Phillips-Matz's own, and with Patrick J. Smith, who was editor of OPERA NEWS when Verdi: A Biography was nearing completion. In 1991, when Verdi was still a few years away from publication, OPERA NEWS published an article by Phillips-Matz that contained the assertion that Verdi had fathered an illegitimate child by Giuseppina Strepponi, the soprano who was to become his second wife. This was the type of previously undiscovered detail, backed up by exhaustive research, that filled Phillips-Matz's work. When Verdi: A Biography was published by Oxford University Press in 1993, it was hailed as a milestone in Verdi scholarship.  The book won the ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 1994.

Matz, who was a founder of the American Institute for Verdi studies in New York, was also a regular writer of program notes for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and was a frequent consultant and writer for projects developed by the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Her books after Verdi included Rosa Ponselle: American Diva (1997), Leonard Warren: American Baritone (2000) and Puccini: A Biography (2002). spacer 

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