VIDEO PODCAST: John Dante Prevedini leads a discussion about The Creative Spark, including contributions from Ryan Ash, Sean Neukom, Adrian Rumson, Stephen Francis Vasta, David Arditti, Halida Dinova and Andrew Arceci.
American soprano, opera director and teacher Brenda Lewis was born Birdie Solomon into a Jewish family in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 2 March 1921. After a brief period preparing to study medicine, she won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute where she studied with Marion Freschl and Emilio de Gogorza.
She made her professional operatic debut at eighteen, in December 1939, whilst still a student, in the Philadelphia Opera Company's The Marriage of Figaro, and appeared in various other roles with the same company over the next three years.
In 1944 she made her New York City debut as Hanna Giawari in The Merry Widow with the New Opera Company, and this led to a series of performances on Broadway, including the Female Chorus in the first US performance of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, and a series of performances in the 1950s and 60s at the Metropolitan Opera, including two appearances on the TV programme Omnibus. She also appeared as a guest performer with various other United States opera companies.
Overseas, she first sang at Opéra de Montréal in 1945, and also appeared at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, at the Vienna Volksoper, and at Zurich Opera.
She retired from singing in the late 1960s and turned to producing and directing, initially at New Haven Opera Theater. In 1973 she taught voice at the Hartt School of Music, and directed student opera productions there for many years.
Brenda Lewis died on 16 September 2017 at her home in Connecticut, aged ninety-six.