Obituary: Bid Sayao

THE POSSESSOR of a beautiful, silvery voice and an impeccable coloratura technique, as well as a charming appearance and considerable gifts as an actress, the Brazilian-born soprano Bid Sayao was among the best loved singers in America over a period of 20 years.

In 1947 she came second in a contest to find the most popular singer in the United States. As Mimi in La Boheme, as Massenet's Manon, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Violetta in La Traviata and Juliette in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, she gave over 250 performances with the Metropolitan Opera, in New York and on tour, while she also appeared frequently in San Francisco, Chicago and many other cities across the country.

She was born Balduina Sayao de Oliveira in 1902 in Rio de Janeiro, where she began her vocal studies with the Romanian soprano Elena Theodorini. When Theodorini returned to Bucharest in 1924 to teach at the Conservatory there, her pupil accompanied her. Bid Sayao also studied in Nice with the legendary Polish tenor Jean de Reszke, whose pupils included Maggie Teyte.

Sayao made her operatic debut in 1926 at the Teatro Costanzi, Rome, as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and then sang Gilda in Rigoletto and Carolina in Cimarosa's Il matrimonio di segreto there. She next appeared in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Lisbon and Naples, in a repertory that included the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor, Elvira in I puritani, and Norina in Don Pasquale and Delibes' Lakme. In 1930 she sang Rosina at La Scala.

A concert at Town Hall, New York in 1935 had spectacular results for the singer's career. She was noticed by Toscanini, who engaged her for other concerts, and made her Metropolitan debut in 1937 as Massenet's Manon. She scored a huge and immediate success, and from then on until her retirement, she could do no wrong in the eyes of the New York public.

While retaining several of her coloratura roles, such as Juliette and Rosina, she embarked on a more lyric repertory, including Mimi, Violetta, Susanna, Zerlina and Adina in L'elisir d'amore. She made her San Francisco debut in 1939 as Manon, and sang there frequently until 1952, when she added Margherita in Boito's Mefistofele to her tally of roles.

Another San Francisco role was Debussy's Melisande, which she also sang at the Met, and which suited her voice and personality perfectly. Sayao appeared in Chicago between 1941 and 1945, and sang Zerlina in two special "calling card" performances of Don Giovanni in February 1954 to mark the opening of the Chicago Lyric Theatre (later to become Lyric Opera of Chicago).

In 1947 Sayao married, as her second husband, the baritone Giuseppe Danise, who had had a successful operatic career in Italy and, during the 1930s, at the Metropolitan. He acted as her manager for the remainder of her career. The soprano continued to sing in concert until 1957, then gave a final farewell performance on stage in Rio de Janeiro. She became an American citizen two years later and, when her husband died in 1963, retired to live on the coast of Maine.

Bidu Sayao recorded most of her best roles, including those heroines frail in body and spirit, Mimi, Manon, Violetta and Melisande, whom she incarnated so well. Her interpretations are carefully thought out and sung with eloquence, style and a controlled but deep and genuine feeling.

Balduina Sayao de Oliveira (Bid Sayao), opera singer: born Rio de Janeiro 11 May 1902: married first Walter Mochi, second 1947 Giuseppe Danise (died 1963); died Lincolnville, Maine 12 March 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power