Reisenberg, Nadia

Born 14 July 1904, in Vilna, Lithuania, Nadia Reisenberg moved with her family to St. Petersburg in 1915 where she studied piano at the Conservatory under Leonid Nikolaiev. After the Russian revolution, the family moved, going from Vilna, where Nadia played in the Gelios Theatre accompanying movies, to Poland where she concertized with the Warsaw Philharmonic, to Germany. The Reisenberg s came to America in 1922. Under the helpful largesse of Isaac Sherman, Nadia gave private recitals and began to build a reputation.

With less than one year of study with Alexander Lambert in New York, she gave her American debut on 17 December 1922, playing the Polish Fantasy by Ignace Paderewski, with the composer at the performance in the Century Theatre. With sterling reviews by the press, the young Miss Reisenberg began to receive invitations for more recitals.

Her first solo appearance occurred at Aeolian Hall in 6 February 1924, and from there she began touring. Already possessing a brilliant technique in which she  tossed off technical difficulties with ease and fluency, her audiences were won over by the depth of her musicianship, diverse repertoire, strength and agility, and as well as convincing and serious interpretations  beyond her years.

She married Isaac Sherman, an economist, 24 June 1924 and they had two sons, Alex (born 2 April 1925) and Robert (born 23 July 1932). She credited the successful balancing of her concert career and raising a family with having  complete cooperation and understanding from her husband.

In 1930, she began studies with Josef Hoffman at the Curtis Institute, receiving a diploma in 1935, and teaching there from 1934-38. She also taught at Mannes, Queens College, CUNY, the Julliard School, and in the 1960s spent six summers giving master classes at the Rubin Academy in Israel.

Reisenberg focused significant attention on chamber music, which she considered  her first and real love in this world. She often concertized with the Budapest Quartet, or soloists such as cellist Joseph Schuster, and violinists William Kroll and Erick Friedman.

In 1939-1940, she amazed radio listeners by performing the complete Mozart Piano Concertos in a cycle of weekly broadcasts, which she called  the most rewarding experience of my career, my private year with Mozart. Arthur Rubinstein said of this series,  She played brilliantly and I admired her very greatly.

Reisenberg toured with orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic under John Barbirolli, and was the first soloist to play twice in one season with that symphony, in 1941. Nadia often played premieres of Russian composers, and frequently included newer compositions on her programs, although she didn t prefer  ultra-modern twentieth century music. She also recorded for commercial labels. Her last solo recital was at Carnegie Hall on 21 November 1947, though she still gave some concerts, such as a benefit for Israeli children at Carnegie Hall in 1948.

In general, after 1950, she focused on teaching, becoming a beloved, sympathetic instructor with deep personal interest in all her students. She was known to set high standards, yet did so in a gentle, clear and kind way.

Nadia’s last public concert occurred 3 October 1981 in Carnegie Hall and she died 10 June 1983 in New York, surrounded by family and friends. A version of this article will appear in the forthcoming edition of Encyclopedia Judaica. Many materials for this article came from Robert Sherman and Alexander Sherman, Nadia Reisenberg: A Musician’s Scrapbook (College Park: International Piano Archives at Maryland, 1986); The New York Times and other newspapers.

Regina Resnik
American. Born August 30, 1922, New York City. Mezzo- Soprano. Earned her B.A. in Music at Hunter College. Debuted as Leonora in Il Trovatore to great acclaim. Sang as Lady Macbeth under Fritz Busch in December, 1942 with the New Opera Company. Sang with the Metropolitan Opera starting around 1944 and continuing around ten years. According to Wikipedia: “During the next decade, she offered twenty heroines: Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni, Donna Anna(Don Giovanni), Fidelio, Sieglinde (Die Walkure), Gutrune (Gotterdammerung), Chrysothemis (Elektra), Rosalinda, Eboli (Don Carlo), Aida, Alice Ford (Falstaff), Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Musetta (La Boheme). She was the Met’s first Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes and created Delilah in Bernard Roger’s world premiere of “The Warrior.” She then also began a long association with the San Francisco Opera. As for the voice, it was a dramatic soprano, rich and vibrant, it invited comparison with the legendary Rosa Ponselle. During these years, her teacher was Rosalie Miller and her life began with the legendary conductors; Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter, George Szell, Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg and Erich Leinsdorf.

In 1953, while singing Sieglinde in Bayreuth, the great conductor, Clemens Krauss, was to forecast her future, insinuating her voice was actually a mezzo-soprano. Despite her great success as a soprano, she realized that her entire voice was constantly darkening in color. In 1955 she began a year of restudy with the celebrated baritone, Giuseppe Danise. Her first two roles were Amneris in Aida and Laura in La Gioconda. On February 15, 1956, she debuted as a mezzo-soprano at the Metropolitan in a brilliant portrayal of Marina in Boris Godunov under Dimitri Mitropoulos. October, 1957, was the beginning of a long career in London at the Royal Opera House. Her debut as Carmen was a success and, in time, she was heard as Amneris (Aida), Marina (Boris Godunov), Ulrica (Un Ballo in Maschera), the Nurse in Die Frau Ohne Schatten and the Old Prioress in Dialogues of the Carmelites. In the historic Franco Zeffirelli-Carlo Maria Giulini production of Falstaff, her Mistress Quickly became the model for this role. Carmen, Klytemnestra (Elektra), Mistress Quickly and the Pique Dame (Queen of Spades) became her signature parts.

From the French Press – “Hers was the most skillfully inflected Carmen with every nuance of the role and every syllable of her French set forth in a masterly manner. It was also the most beautifully sung performance of the role. From the dramatic standpoint, this was the ideal Carmen – ferocious, sultry, unpredictable; never banal, never vulgar.” But with Klytemnestra, Miss Resnik met her greatest challenge  “a dramatic conception that is unforgettable and a vocal prowess without limit.” Surely among the happiest memories are three comic masterpieces – her Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus, the Marquise in La Fille du Regiment (with Sutherland and Pavarotti) and her Mistress Quickly in the Leonard Bernstein  Zeffirelli Falstaff of 1964.

Fluent, singing in six languages, her multifaceted talent crossed stylistic lines from the classic to the romantic, the Wagnerian to the modern. As the years passed, Miss Resnik developed a steady network of international performances: La Scala, The Paris Opéra (hailed as Carmen), Salzburg, Naples, Vienna, Lisbon, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Marseilles, Stuttgart, Hamburg and a return to Bayreuth. The Met, however, remained her base and among her triumphs there, was the new Elektra (with Birgit Nilsson and Leonie Rysanek) and The Queen of Spades. Outside the Met, she appeared in works by Poulenc, (an unforgettable portrait of the Old Prioress in Dialogues of the Carmelites), Menotti (The Medium), Von Einem (Visit of the Old Lady), Walton (The Bear), Weill (Mahagonny), Frank Martin (MystPre), Britten(Lucretia – both Female Chorus and Lucretia) and Barber (her Baroness in Vanessa). She has recorded all her great signature roles, Carmen (Thomas Schippers), Klytemnestra (Georg Solti), Mistress Quickly (Leonard Bernstein), Orlovsky (Herbert von Karajan), “Pique Dame” Countess (Msitislav Rostropovich) and Sieglinde (Clemens Krauss), among many others. She became the only singer in operatic history to have sung both the soprano and mezzo leads in much of her repertory. In the United States and Canada she has also appeared in countless regional companies.

In the decade spanning 1971-1981, she distinguished herself as a stage director with Arbit Blatas, the renowned Lithuanian-born painter and sculptor, as designer. “Carmen” (Hamburg) which became the film “The Dream and the Destiny”, “Falstaff” (Venice, Warsaw, Madrid, Lisbon), “Queen of Spades” (Vancouver, Sydney), “The Medium” and “The Bear” (Lisbon), “Elektra” (Venice, Strasbourg, Lisbon) and “Salome” (Lisbon, Graz).

In 1987, Resnik conquered a new world making an incredible transition to the American musical theatre as a singing actress. Her Mrs. Schneider in “Cabaret” on Broadway earned her a Tony nomination and her now incomparable Mme. Armfeldt (“A Little Night Music”) at Lincoln Center brought her a Drama Desk nomination in 1991. Nominated for Broadway’s 1988 Tony Award as Best Actress.

Teaching career

Her own ability to verbalize her unique ideas has made her an exceptional master class teacher at the Metropolitan Opera, for ten years, at the Mozarteum (Salzburg), the Canadian Opera (Toronto), the San Francisco Opera, the Opera Studio of Opera Bastille in Paris, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School. She is Master Teacher- in – Residence in the Opera Department of the Mannes College of Music, and has been responsible for the preparation of “La Bohème”, “The Magic Flute”, “Don Giovanni”, “Il Tabarro”, “Gianni Schicchi”, “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Dialalogue of the Carmelites.” In Italy, she is Master Teacher of Vocal Studies at the Ca Zenobio Master Campus in Treviso, and Musical Director of Eurobottega, a unique program for young singers. of the European Union, with headquarters in Venice and Treviso. The now renowned concert series “Regina Resnik Presents” has become part of the American musical scene. Conceived by her son, Michael Philip Davis who is Artistic Director and Dramaturg, Miss Resnik appears as narrator in these concerts that have been televised and shown on CUNY-TV and will soon become a DVD.

Awards and honors

Celebrations of her career began in New York City when “Regina Resnik Day” was proclaimed. She received the Lawrence Tibbett Award from the American Guild of Musical Artists and a special tribute from Lincoln Center. The city of Venice honored her 50th anniversary in a special event. The 60th anniversary of her illustrious career was celebrated by the Metropolitan Opera Guild at Lincoln Center in New York.

Hunter College has invested her with an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters and, in 2007, the New England Conservatory honored her with a Doctorate of Music. She has served as a trustee of the Hunter Foundation and as a member of the jury of the Peabody Awards for Radio and Television. She still serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Board of Advisors of CUNY-TV.”
While starting out as a soprano, in the mid 1950s, due to vocal problems, she trained herself to sing in the lower registers and became a mezzo. She toured widely and sang with operas around the world, becoming especially famous for her acting and her role in Carmen.