Obituary: Maria Stader

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The Independent Culture
A SOPRANO with a high, pure-toned, perfectly pitched and flexible voice, the Swiss singer Maria Stader excelled in the music of Bach and Mozart. Though she rarely appeared on stage - the Queen of Night in The Magic Flute at Covent Garden during the 1949/50 season was a notable exception - her repertory included many operatic roles, which she sang in concert and, frequently, on records.

Born Maria Molnr in Budapest, she was left an orphan after the First World War, and taken by the International Red Cross to Switzerland. There she was adopted by Hans Stader, a fisherman, and his wife, who lived at Romanshorn on Lake Constance. Stader studied first with Mathilde Baerbach- Keller in St Gallen, then with the latter's father, Hans Keller, in Germany. She also studied with Therese Schnabel. In 1939 Stader won the singing prize in the Geneva International Music Competition, and sang the role of Olympia, the doll, in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann at the Zurich Opera.

The Second World War, which she spent teaching in Zurich, interrupted her career, which began to flourish again soon after the war was over. She appeared at the Salzburg Festival in 1949, and for nearly every year thereafter until 1962, winning the Lilli Lehmann Medal awarded by the Mozarteum in 1950 and the Mozart Silver Medal in 1956. Meanwhile, in autumn 1949 she came to London to appear with the newly formed Covent Garden Opera Company, singing the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (in English). Her voice was extremely flexible at that time: later, when she came to record The Magic Flute, she sang the more lyrical role of Pamina.

Stader made her US debut in 1954, and made several tours across the country, singing with the top orchestras, including the Philadelphia and the New York Philharmonic. In 1956 she gave more than 20 concert performances in Israel of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Ferene Fricsay. Fricsay also conducted many of her operatic recordings, notably Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, made in 1954, in which she sang Konstanze, managing the fearsome coloratura of the role with apparent ease.

Her other complete recordings included The Magic Flute; Don Giovanni, in which she sang Donna Elvira; and Il nozze di Figaro, where she took the part of the Countess.

Stader sang Eurydice in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice (with the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Orpheus) and Marzelline in Beethoven's Fidelio, and made highlights discs of Micaela in Bizet's Carmen, Marguerite in Gounod's Faust and Violetta in Verdi's La traviata. If some of these were not wholly idiomatic in style, they were always meticulously sung and characterised - as for instance her versions of Liu's third-act arias from Puccini's Turandot, sung with great pathos on a recital disc.

Stader was completely at home in the large number of Mozart concert arias, Bach cantatas and works such as Handel's Judas Maccabeus, that she both sang and recorded. One of her greatest successes was Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate; many older concert-goers will remember her, a tiny figure (she was less than five foot tall) singing with effortless vocal authority in this motet, especially in the final Alleluia. Another success, somewhat surprisingly, was the Verdi Requiem. "Stader, a Mozartian soprano, might seem light for this music," wrote one critic, "but she achieves much through perfect intonation, clean movement from note to note and thorough-going musicality."

Stader made her final concert tour in 1969, ending with a performance of Mozart's Requiem at Carnegie Hall, New York. After her retirement she continued to teach singing in Zurich. She also wrote her autobiography, Nehen meinen Dank ("Take My Thanks"), and a book on Bach arias that was translated into English in 1968.

Maria Molnr (Maria Stader), concert singer: born Budapest 5 November 1911; married 1935 Hans Erismann (two sons); died Zurich 27 April 1999.