Obituary: Tatiana Troyanos
Thursday 26 August 1993
MEZZO-SOPRANOS often spend a large part of their careers singing boys or young men. Few have looked so credible or been more dramatically believable in these roles than the American mezzo Tatiana Troyanos, whose tall, slim figure could carry off any variety of male garb.
I first saw and heard her as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1966, when she made a heart-breaking - and heart-broken - adolescent whose voice, in Strauss's great paean to the power of music, soared into the warm, Provencal night and seemed to hang there like the stars of a rocket. Just over two years later, in November 1966, Troyanos made her Covent Garden debut in Der Rosenkavalier, singing her first Oktavian. Here human passion and humour were added to the pure emotions of the Composer, but the 17-year-old boy (in fact just 30) was equally convincing. The following year she returned as a fine Carmen, proud of bearing and full of fire temperamentally.
Tatiana Troyanos was born in New York City in 1938; her father was Greek and her mother of German origin. She studied with Hans Heinz at the Juilliard School, paying for her own tuition by working as a secretary with the publishers Random House. Heinz taught her to sing Lieder and oratorio, but not opera, and she made her first stage appearance in the chorus of The Sound of Music on Broadway.
In 1963 Troyanos made her operatic debut as Hippolyta in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream with New York City Opera. She remained with the company for two seasons, singing Cherubino and Jocasta in Oedipus Rex. Then, with financial aid from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation, she went to Germany to audition for various opera houses.
Receiving several offers, she chose the Hamburg State Opera, where Rolf Liebermann was then the Intendant.
Troyanos stayed in Hamburg for 10 years, acquiring a large repertory that included Mozart's Dorabella, several Verdi roles such as Eboli, Amneris and Preziosilla; and Baba the Turk in The Rake's Progress, which she sang at the Met during the Hamburg Opera's visit to New York in 1967. Liebermann also arranged for her to sing in Munich, Vienna and at Salzburg, where she scored a great success as Oktavian in 1969. The same year at Hamburg she created the role of Jeanne, the nun accused of witchcraft in Penderecki's The Devils of Loudun. She also began to appear in the US: in 1971 she sang the title-role of Handel's Ariodante in Washington and Charlotte in Werther at Chicago; in 1975 she sang Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti ed i Montecchi at Boston (repeating the role 10 years later at Covent Garden), and Monteverdi's Poppaea and, later, the title-role of Handel's Giulio Cesare in San Francisco.
Finally, in 1976, Troyanos made her Metropolitan debut as Oktavian and became a stalwart of the company for the next 16 years. She continued to sing her trouser roles, the Composer, Hansel, Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus and also Sesto in Mozart's La clemenza di Tito, for which she received particular praise. She also widened her repertory of female roles, taking on Adalgisa in Norma (which she sang for her Scala debut in 1977); Wagner's Venus, Brangaene and Kundry; Geshwitz in Lulu and both Cassandra and Dido in Les Troyens, possibly the greatest achievements of her later career. On 12 October 1992 - Columbus Day - Troyanos created the role of Queen Isabella in Philip Glass's opera about Christopher Columbus, The Voyage.
Troyanos recorded many of her finest roles, including the Composer, Oktavian, Cherubino, Carmen, Cassandra, Adalgisa and Jocasta, and most of these recordings give a very fair idea of the singer's beautiful, velvety voice and vivid personality.
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