Frances Yeend: Silvery-voiced lyric soprano
Saturday 31 May 2008
Frances Yeend was an American lyric soprano who sang at both the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. She had a beautiful, silvery voice and started her career singing roles such as Violetta in La traviata, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro and Micaëla in Carmen. Later her voice became more powerful and she took on dramatic roles such as Verdi's Aida, Puccini's Turandot and Strauss's Ariadne. Very good-looking and a fine actress, she was able to fill her characterisations with genuine dramatic tension.
She was born Frances Leone Lynch in Vancouver, Washington in 1913. She studied at Washington State College (now University). When she began to sing professionally, she used her married name of Yeend. She made her début as Nedda in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci at Spokane, Washington, but her early career was spent mostly in concert tours and radio work. In 1946 Yeend sang Ellen Orford in the US premiere of Britten's Peter Grimes at Tanglewood, during the Berkshire Festival. The following year she, together with the tenor Mario Lanza and bass-baritone George London, made a world tour as the Bel Canto Trio.
In 1948 Yeend was engaged at the New York City Opera, making her début as Violetta. She remained for 11 seasons and during her early years with the NYCO, her roles included Countess Almaviva, Micaëla, and Marguerite in Gounod's Faust. In 1953 she made her Covent Garden début as a fragile but very musical Mimi in La bohème, followed by a spunky Micaëla. During her later years at NYCO she progressed to Eva in Wagner's Die Meistersinger and the title roles of Verdi's Aida and Puccini's Turandot. In the summer of 1958, she repeated Turandot at the Verona Arena and shortly afterwards at the Vienna State Opera.
The following year she took on two roles that apparently suited her rather better than Puccini's ice-maiden: Elisabeth in Wagner's Tännhauser at Fort Worth, Texas, and the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos at the Empire State Music Festival at Sterling Forest Research Center in New York; both occasions were very successful. In 1960 Yeend sang her first Sieglinde in Wagner's Die Walküre at Houston and Abigaille in Verdi's Nabucco at San Antonio. She made her Metropolitan début in 1961 as Chrysothemis in Elektra. This, too, was a great success and she repeated the role at San Antonio later the same year.
Yeend made a fiery Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at the Zoo Park in Cincinnati during the summer of 1961; her other roles during three seasons at the Met were Violetta and, finally, Gutrune in Wagner's Götterdämmerung. From 1966 to 1978 she was professor of music and artist-in-residence at West Virginia University at Morgantown.
Frances Leone Lynch (Frances Yeend), concert and opera singer and teacher: born Vancouver, Washington 28 January 1913; married first Kenneth Yeend (one son; marriage dissolved), second 1954 James Benner; died Morgantown, West Virginia 27 April 2008.
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