From Development server
24 May 2022

Anne Howells, 81, British Mezzo of Formidable Charm and Histrionic Ability, has Died

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Southport, England, January 12, 1941—Andover, England, May 18, 2022  

A MEZZO-SOPRANO of formidable charm and histrionic ability, Howells was admired for her beauty and wit and beloved for her self-deprecating good humor. Howells studied at the Royal College of Music before joining the chorus at Glyndebourne, in 1964. Howells’s first principal role at Glyndebourne was one of the Genies in a 1966 revival of Die Zauberflöte; the following season, she was given the plum assignment of Erisbe in the company premiere of Cavalli’s Ormindo, directed by Günther Rennert, which brought her international attention. Other Glyndebourne roles during the next twenty-five years included Dorabella; Minerva in Monteverdi’s Ulisse; Diana in La Calisto; the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, Clairon in Capriccio and Adelaide in Arabella; Baba the Turk; Meg Page; and Cathleen Sweeney in the world premiere of Nicholas Maw’s Rising of the Moon.

Howells made her Covent Garden debut in 1967, as Flora in Luchino Visconti’s celebrated black-and-white staging of La Traviata, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini. Subsequent Covent Garden assignments for Howells included the world premieres of Humphrey Searle’s Hamlet (Ophelia, 1969) and Richard Rodney Bennett’s Victory (Lena, 1970), as well as the 1994 revision of Harrison Birtwistle’s Gawain (Lady de Hautdesert) and revivals of Tippett’s Knot Garden (Thea) and King Priam (Helen), Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (Mélisande), Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hermia) and Così Fan Tutte (Dorabella).

Dorabella was one of Howells’s signature roles. In 1989, a profile of Howells in Opera reported that she had sung in four new productions of Così and twenty-six revivals, including four revivals at Covent Garden. Dorabella was the role of Howells’s debuts at Lyric Opera of Chicago (1972), San Francisco Opera (1979) and the Metropolitan Opera (1975). Howells’s only other Met role was Nicklausse/Muse in the premiere of Otto Schenk’s lavish 1982 staging of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, starring Plácido Domingo. She sang a total of fourteen performances with the Met in two seasons.

Howells’s other career successes included Despina in Los Angeles and at Covent Garden; Prince Orlofsky at Lyric Opera of Chicago; Nicklausse in Salzburg; Régine in the world premiere of Rolf Liebermann’s Forêt and Octavian in Geneva; and Phaedra in Hippolyte et Aricie at the Paris Opéra. After she retired from the stage, Howells taught singing privately and at the Royal Academy of Music. spacer 

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