Obituary: Arleen Auger

Arleen Joyce Auger, singer: born Los Angeles 19 September 1939; Professor of Music for Voice, University of Frankfurt 1975-87; died Leusden, The Netherlands 10 June 1993.

THE SOPRANO Arleen Auger possessed a pure-toned voice of great flexibility and absolute accuracy of intonation. She excelled in the music of Monteverdi, Bach, Gluck, Haydn, Handel and in particular of Mozart, but also sang works by 20th-century composers such as Carl Orff with great success.

Auger's voice was not large, but it was perfectly focused and so well projected that it could easily be heard in the biggest auditorium. During a career lasting 25 years, she appeared in opera and oratorio, on the concert platform and in recital both in Europe and the United States. She made a vast number of records, which included more than 90 Bach cantatas. At the wedding of Prince Andrew (later the Duke of York) and Sarah Ferguson in Westminster Abbey, in 1986, she sang two Mozart anthems with the soprano Felicity Lott during the signing of the register.

Auger was born in Los Angeles in 1939. After graduating from California State University at Long Beach, in 1963, she studied singing with Ralph Errolle in Chicago, making her professional debut in concert with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. She won a scholarship to study in Vienna. Having auditioned for the conductor Josef Krips, she was engaged in 1967 at the Vienna State Opera, making her debut as the Queen of Night in Die Zauberflote. Her other roles in Vienna included Constanze in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail - which she later recorded with Karl Bohm - and Gilda in Rigoletto. At the Volksoper she sang Valencienne in Die lustige Witwe, Marie in La Fille du regiment and in 1972 created Alma in Kaufmann's Konig Nicolo.

Gradually her repertory, which at first centred on spectacular coloratura roles such as the Queen of Night, which she repeated at Salzburg in 1970, Constanze and Marie, began to change. Though Sifare in Mitridate, re di Ponto, her second role at Salzburg, was extremely florid, Sandrina in Haydn's L'infedelta delusa, which she sang at the Castle of Hohenems Festival, and Servilia in La clemenza di Tito at the Theater an der Wien were more lyrical in style. As a change from Mozart, she sang Mabel in a German version of The Pirates of Penzance on Cologne Radio. In 1975, after touring Japan with a programme of music by Bach and Handel, she made her debut at La Scala, Milan, as the Fire in Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortileges, a temporary reversion to dazzling coloratura.

So far, apart from singing the Queen of Night for New York City opera in 1969, Auger had spent her career mostly in Europe. After her Metropolitan debut in 1978 as a charming Marzelline in Fidelio, she sang more frequently in the United States. During the early 198Os she appeared at the Aspen Festival and the New England Bach Festival; she gave a recital at Alice Tully Hall in New York; she sang Donna Anna, a heavier role than any she had previously attempted, for Kentucky Opera, Louisville; she took the part of Amor in a concert performance of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, conducted by Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall, and sang in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Auger first sang the title-role of Handel's Alcina, one of her finest operatic characterisations, in a staged performance at Christ Church, Spitalfields, during the 1985 City of London Festival. Alcina, the beautiful sorceress, a part requiring great brilliance of vocal technique, as well as considerable dramatic power, remained a favourite with Auger, who recorded the opera and sang it in Los Angeles the following year. In 1990 she sang it at Geneva and then at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

In 1987 Auger sang Ilia in a concert performance of Idomeneo at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, given by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by Simon Rattle; Ilia, the gentle but courageous princess, was another of the roles that she interpreted particularly well, both vocally and dramatically; the heroine of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, which she sang in 1988 at Spitalfields, and later recorded was, at that stage in her career, less suitable, although she sang Poppea's music very beautifully. She sang the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro at the Los Angeles Music Center in 1990, and the following year Lieder at the Hohenems Schubertiade.

Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, Auger was kept busy recording a wide variety of music: Gluck's Iphigenie en Aulide, Mozart's early operas Il re pastore and Ascanio in Alba, as well as the Countess and both Donna Elvira and Donna Anna; the roles of Angelica in Haydn's Orlando Paladino and in Handel's Orlando provide another interesting contrast, while the Italian Soprano in Richard Strauss's Capriccio is a very successful departure from her usual repertory. She can also be heard, together with Della Jones, frequently her 'male' partner in Handel and Monteverdi operas, as one of the two Nursemaids in Kurt Weill's Street Scene.

Her recordings - nearly 200 in number - include the St Matthew Passion and the Brahms Requiem. Among her finest recent discs is a set of Haydn arias and cantatas, with superb performances of the Scena di Berenice and Arianna a Naxos. These illustrate to perfection the elegance and stylishness of Arleen Auger's singing.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices