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Soprano Lisa Della Casa, Strauss And Mozart Specialist, Dies At 93

Lisa Della Casa, a Swiss soprano acclaimed for her sensitive singing of Mozart and Richard Strauss, has died at age 93. The Vienna Staatsoper, where she had performed on more than 400 occasions, announced today that Della Casa died Monday in the Swiss town of Muensterlingen.

She will be remembered as one of the finest sopranos of her generation, especially in the songs and operatic roles of Richard Strauss, which fit Della Casa's sweet and silvery voice like couture gowns.

"Della Casa remains one of the best of all sopranos in Richard Strauss," John Steane writes in The Grand Tradition, a bible of sorts for opera and voice enthusiasts. "Her voice has that touch of spring and silver that Strauss loved and wrote for; her tone will float and soar."

Born near Bern in 1919, Della Casa studied in Zurich and made her professional debut singing the lead in Puccini's Madama Butterfly in 1941. She first appeared at the Salzburg Festival in 1947, singing a small role in Strauss' Arabella. Later she would graduate to the title character in the opera, which would become her signature role; she recorded it in 1957 with conductor Georg Solti to much acclaim. Steane notes that she makes "an immediate impression of beauty and graciousness with her first phrases," singing with soaring abandon. Her 1953 recording of Strauss' Four Last Songs is considered one of the finest interpretations.

Della Casa will also be remembered fondly by New Yorkers, as she sang regularly at the Metropolitan Opera from 1953 to 1968, making her debut there as Countess Almaviva in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. She also sang at London's Covent Garden, Milan's La Scala and at Bayreuth, Munich and San Francisco.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.
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