From Development server
16 July 2021

Jean Kraft, 94, an Incisive Singing Actress and Valuable Member of the Met Ensemble in the '70s and '80s, has Died

News Jean Kraft hdl 721
Kraft, photographed by Douglas Merriam

JEAN KRAFT

MENASHA, WI, JANUARY 9, 1927—ENGLEWOOD, NJ, JULY 15, 2021  

THE MEZZO SANG 784 performances with the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center and on tour during her twenty seasons on the company’s roster. A striking character actress, Kraft was a valuable member of the Met ensemble in the 1970s and ’80s, an artist whose keen dramatic imagination and incisive singing turned every part she sang into a leading role.

Kraft made her debut in 1957, as Laura Gates in Marc Bucci’s Tale for a Deaf Ear at Tanglewood. She made her New York City Opera debut in 1960, as the Mother in the company premiere of Hugo Weisgall’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. Kraft’s other NYCO roles in her five seasons there included Miss Jessel in the company premiere of The Turn of the Screw and the Forewoman in the company premiere of Louise. In 1964, Kraft created the role of Sarah Chicken in the world premiere of Robert Ward’s Lady from Colorado at Central City.

In 1965, Kraft made her company debut at Santa Fe Opera as Adelaide in Arabella, beginning an association with that company that lasted through the 1987 season. At Santa Fe, Kraft sang an impressive mix of standard repertory assignments—Flora, Marcellina, Suzuki, Herodias, The Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Meg Page, Larina in Eugene Onegin and Berta in Barbiere, among othersas well as leading roles in several U.S. premieres presented at Santa Fe, such as Penderecki’s Devils of Loudon (Ninon, 1969), Menotti’s Help, Help, The Globolinks! (Miss Newkirk, 1970), Aribert Reimann’s Melusine (Lapérouse, 1972), Britten’s Owen Wingrave (Kate Julian, 1973), Strauss’s Intermezzo (Notary’s Wife, 1984) andHans Werner Henze’s We Come to the River (May, 1984). Kraft also sang in Santa Fe’s world premiere of John Eaton’s Tempest (Juno, 1985). Kraft’s last performance with Santa Fe Opera was as Widow Zimmerlein in Strauss’s Schweigsame Frau in 1987. 

Other U.S. companies on Kraft’s résumé were Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, New Orleans Opera Association, Tulsa Opera, Opera Company of Boston. In Europe, Kraft appeared at Vienna State Opera as Dinah in Leonard Bernstein’s Quiet Place, conducted by the composer (1986) and as Mrs. Sedley in Peter Grimes at the Florence May Festival (1988).

Kraft made her Met debut in 1970, as Flora in La Traviata, which was to be one of her most frequent Met assignments, along with Mamma Lucia, Emilia in Otello, Ines in Il Trovatore, Mother Jeanne in Dialogues of the Carmelites, the Abbess in Suor Angelica and Gertrud in Hansel and Gretel. Kraft sang in the Met premieres of Les Troyens (Hecuba, 1973), Dialogues of the Carmelites (Mother Jeanne, 1977) and Les Mamelles de Tirésias (Newspaper Seller, 1981). Kraft was also featured in new Met stagings of Jenu˚fa (Grandmother, 1974); Le Nozze di Figaro (Marcellina, 1975); Il Trittico (Abbess, 1975); The Bartered Bride (Háta, 1978); Der Fliegende Holländer (Mary, 1978); Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Mother’s Voice, 1982); Ernani (Giovanna, 1983) and Il Trovatore (Ines, 1987). Kraft also sang in eleven Met telecasts and more than seventy-five network radio broadcasts. Kraft’s last Met performance was in 1989, as Larina in Eugene Onegin. Kraft made her last opera appearance in 1990, as the Marquise de Berkenfeld in La Fille du Régiment at Seattle Opera. spacer 

More information can be found in the OPERA NEWS Archives.



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