Obituary: Ina Souez
Thursday 10 December 1992
INA SOUEZ, the American-born soprano, was the first of many fine singers to make their names at the Glyndebourne festival. On 29 May 1934, the second night of the first opera season at John Christie's country house in Sussex, before an audience of 54 people, Souez scored a tremendous success as Fiordiligi, in Cosi fan tutte.
Cosi fan tutte, an opera much less well-known then than now, rapidly became popular. Souez, then married to an Englishmen, was described in the programme as English. Returning to Glyndebourne every year until the outbreak of the Second World War, Souez continued to sing Fiordiligi and, from 1936, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Her Donna Anna was described as 'superbly fiery and brilliant', while her Fiordiligi was thought to have increased in technical security and dramatic strength with every season that passed.
Ina Souez was born in Windsor, Colorado. Her real name was Rains, Souez being the name of her maternal grandmother. She studied singing in Denver with Florence Hinricks, then with Sofia del Campo in Milan. After making her debut in 1928 at Ivrea as Mimi in La Boheme, she sang at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. In May 1929 she made her Covent Garden debut as Liu, with Eva Turner as Turandot. Souez caused a sensation, but was not re-engaged. For the next decade she made her home in England. It was Hamish Wilson, who designed the sets for all the pre-war productions there, apart from Macbeth, who brought Ina Souez to the notice of Glyndebourne.
As a result of her success as Fiordiligi, Souez was asked back to Covent Garden for the 1935 season, causing a crisis at Glyndebourne, where the management, taking it for granted that she would return, had not contracted her for Cosi fan tutte.
In the end matters were sorted out: Souez sang Fiordiligi on 30 May and 7 June at Glyndebourne; between the performances she sang Micaela at Covent Garden on 4 June, with Conchita Supervia as Carmen, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. Once again she was very well received, but not re- engaged.
In 1936 she added Donna Anna to her Glyndebourne repertory and by all accounts this part suited her vocally and temperamentally even better than Fiordiligi. She sang both roles for the next three seasons, and also appeared in Stockholm and The Hague, where she sang in the Verdi Requiem. On the outbreak of war she returned to the United States.
After singing Fiordiligi with the New Opera Company in New York in 1941 and with the New York City Opera in 1945, she retired from opera and became a jazz singer. She toured America with Spike Jones and his City Slickers, whose popularity was at its height in the late 1940s.
The passion and involvement that Ina Souez brought to her singing of Mozart in no way detracted from its stylishness as can be heard on the Glyndebourne recordings of Cosi fan Tutte and Don Giovanni, in which she takes her accustomed roles. These recordings, frequently reissued, remain as a worthy souvenir of a gifted singer who, although her career was not of long duration, will not be soon forgotten.
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