Frederica "Flicka" von Stade, operatic mezzo-soprano

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Frederica "Flicka" von Stade, operatic mezzo-soprano

Birthplace: Somerville, Somerset County, New Jersey, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of 1st. Lt. Charles Steele von Stade, USAAF, polo player and Sara Worthington Clucas
Wife of Private and Private
Widow of Michael G. Gorman
Ex-wife of Private and Private
Mother of Private User and Private
Sister of Charles Steele von Stade, Jr.

Occupation: mezzo-soprano américaine.
Managed by: Pierre Quenee
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Frederica "Flicka" von Stade, operatic mezzo-soprano

Frederica von Stade OAL (born June 1, 1945) is a semi-retired American opera singer. Since her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1970, she has performed in operas, musicals, concerts and recitals in venues throughout the world, including La Scala, the Paris Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburger Festspielhaus, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne and Carnegie Hall. Conductors with whom she has worked include Abbado, Bernstein, Boulez, Giulini, Karajan, Levine, Muti, Ozawa, Sinopoli, Solti and Tilson Thomas. She has also been a prolific and eclectic recording artist, attracting nine Grammy nominations for best classical vocalist, and she has made many appearances on television.

A mezzo-soprano equally at home in lyric music and in coloratura, she has assumed fifty-seven operatic roles on stage and eight more in concert or on disc, progressing from minor parts to romantic leads – both male and female – and, latterly, character parts. She is especially associated with the Mozart, Rossini and French repertoires and with contemporary American music, particularly the works of Dominick Argento and Jake Heggie. She has participated in nine world premieres. Among her signature roles are Penelope, Rosina, Angelina, Charlotte, Lucette, Mélisande, Hanna Glawari and Mrs de Rocher, and, in trousers, Cherubino, Hänsel, Chérubin and Octavian.

Since stepping back from full-time performing in 2010, she has become increasingly involved in charitable work, principally in aid of ventures fostering musical education or supporting people enduring homelessness. The institutions that she has served include Oakland's Sophia Project and St Martin de Porres School, both no longer extant, and the People's Choir of Oakland, the Dallas Street Choir and the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra.

Her divorce from her first husband, Peter Elkus, was important in the development of American family case law, establishing the principle that when the marriages of performing artists are dissolved, the courts can attribute an economic value to their celebrity status and treat it as marital property to be shared with their former spouses.

Early life


Von Stade is a member of a large, wealthy[1] family long prominent in northeast American high society,[2] with roots in Ireland,[3] the Isle of Man,[4] England, Denmark and Germany;[5] "a horsey... set, with a... background that goes back to Colonial Connecticut. The whole thing—Social Register, polo, yachts, investments, private schools, convents."[2] Her father was Charles Steele von Stade, a banker, polo champion and war hero, and her mother was Sara Worthington Clucas von Stade, a secretary and caterer.[6]

Von Stade was born in Somerville, New Jersey on June 1, 1945,[7] a premature baby weighing 2½ pounds.[8] Seven weeks earlier, on April 10, 1945, her father was killed in action in Germany in World War II when his jeep ran over a landmine.[9][10] The many letters that he had written to her mother from Europe later inspired Kim Vaeth and Richard Danielpour to devise the song cycle Elegies for her.[10] She described her feelings about her father in her 2004 song lyric "To my Dad", which was set to music by Jake Heggie and performed by them on his album Flesh & Stone.[11]

Von Stade was named after her maternal grandmother, Frederica (née Bull) Clucas.[12] Her family later came to call her by a nickname, Flicka, Swedish for "little girl", which her father had borrowed from Mary O'Hara's novel My Friend Flicka to bestow upon his favourite polo pony.[13][14]

On December 6, 1946, von Stade's mother married Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier General) Horace William Fuller.[15] Employed as a diplomat by the US State Department, he took von Stade, her brother Charles and her mother with him on assignments in Italy and Greece, but his duties allowed him so little time with his stepdaughter that she scarcely got to know him.[3][12] Her memories of her childhood in Athens inspired one of the poems in her lyric cycle Paper Wings, which was set to music by Jake Heggie and performed by them on his album The Faces of Love: The Songs of Jake Heggie.[16] [17]
Ethel Merman, von Stade's idol for years, and her employer for a day

On October 6, 1950, Sara Fuller and her children left Le Havre on the SS America to return to the United States.[18] The Fullers divorced in 1951.[19] Sara von Stade established a new life for herself in Washington, D. C., working for the CIA as a secretary.[5][20] Von Stade remembers her early self as a "latchkey kid" with a dynamic, clever, humorous, volatile mother whose "problem with booze" did not compromise her passionate attachment to her daughter.[12]

Von Stade began her education at the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, a college-preparatory school near the Bethesda Naval Hospital.,[21] later transferring to the Holy Trinity School, Georgetown, a parochial school founded by Jesuits.[7][22] When she reached grade 8, her mother relocated to Oldwick, Tewksbury Township, New Jersey,[23] and she spent two years at the nearby Far Hills Country Day School before returning to the care of the nuns of the Convent of the Sacred Heart at their elite boarding college-preparatory school in Noroton.[21][24]

Each of von Stade's closest relatives had at least some enthusiasm for music. At Yale University, her brother sang in the Whiffenpoof a capella chorus;[5] her mother liked listening to operas on the radio[25] and to popular melodies on her Victrola record player;[26] and her father, admired by his comrades for his attractive singing,[27] was a pianist and organist[5] who had studied at a music college in New York.[26] She herself began singing when she was six or seven, pleased to discover that dressing up and performing for her family helped her to cope with a shyness so extreme that the prospect of going to a party could make her physically ill.[12][20][26]

At Stone Ridge, she sang processional music and Masses under the guidance of Mother Jan McNabb.[21] From the age of fourteen, she began taking Saturday train rides from New Jersey to New York to see the latest musicals on Broadway; she routinely bought standing passes for a matinee and an evening performance on the same day, whiling away the interval between them by loitering outside the Metropole Cafe and eavesdropping on jazz played by Gene Krupa or Dizzy Gillespie.[28][29] Among the shows that she enjoyed were Peter Pan, The Sound of Music, Camelot and Tovarich, and she went ten times to hear Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun.[2][12][30] At school in Far Hills, she herself appeared on stage in productions mounted by a multidisciplinary teacher with a love of music and drama, Betty (Mrs. Harold) Noling.[21]

When she was sixteen, her mother took her to the Salzburg Festival to hear Karl Böhm conducting Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Christa Ludwig in Der Rosenkavalier.[7][2] Despite arriving at the Festspielhaus dishevelled and wet after being driven through the rain in a leaking Volkswagen, she was spellbound by what seemed to her the most beautiful thing that she had ever heard, and she still treasures an autograph that she subsequently solicited from Schwarzkopf after glimpsing her through a restaurant window.[31] She was introduced to much more classical music in her senior high school years in Noroton, where she sang choral works by Mozart, Handel, Palestrina, Orlande de Lassus and Josquin des Prez.[7][32][33] But neither Richard Strauss nor any of the other composers in the classical pantheon could seduce her away from the kind of music that won her heart in her earliest years. When she entertained her friends and family at one of their gatherings, it was invariably with pop songs or show tunes that she had picked up by ear.[2][34]
Young adulthood
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who introduced von Stade to opera in Salzburg and to art song in Paris

After graduating, von Stade was given a sum of money by her grandfather, with the advice to spend it on something better than clothes or a car.[20] Her mother suggested using it to finance a gap year in Paris.[21] She combined waitressing, tending bar and working as a part-time nanny to three children with studying piano at the École Mozart, although she was so embarrassed by the youth and skill of her fellow pupils that she did not persist with her lessons for long.[7][2][6][20] She had happier musical experiences hearing Schwarzkopf in recital at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées[2] and Carmen at the Opéra.[6]

Once back in New York, she worked as a sales assistant in the stationery department of Tiffany's – "I was terrible at it, and kept sending out orders to Houston, Wyoming and Sacramento, Nevada"[35] – and took secretarial night classes that led to a job at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut.[7][5] But she also began to investigate the possibility of earning money from her voice. Offering herself as a freelance singer for hire, she found employment in cocktail bars where "customers were not expected to listen, and didn't", and she took part in a promotional industrial musical staged for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.[5] Eventually she summoned up enough courage to begin asking for small parts in summer stock musicals. It was not an easy process for her: "You do fifty or sixty auditions and get called back five times and maybe get one job offer – if you're lucky."[2] But ultimately her persistence was rewarded when she made her professional stage debut in the Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven in 1966, playing Beauty in a children's production of Beauty and the Beast.[7][dubious – discuss]

Torn between her growing ambition, her difficulty in acknowledging it, her Catholic guilt over it and her fear of failure, she was unsure whether to commit herself to the training that would be necessary if she were to become the professional singer that she increasingly dreamt of being.[12][20] Ultimately it was a friend's dare that tipped the balance and led to her approaching a conservatory that happened to be close to her East 73rd Street Manhattan apartment, New York's Mannes School of Music.[7][6][36] Even then, she was still hesitant, initially limiting herself to a part-time course in sight-reading.[7][24][36] It was only at the urging of her instructor that she applied to become a full-time student singer.[7][24][36] Hoping that she would at least learn how to play the piano well enough to handle pop tunes at parties, she auditioned with Mignon's "Connais tu le pays?", and was accepted into the college's vocal programme.[6][36] She was funded by help from her family and part-time secretarial work.[6] (While working at the Long Wharf Theatre, she had once put her shorthand and typing skills to good use by spending a day temping as Ethel Merman's PA.)[37] Despite a disappointing evening at a Metropolitan Opera Arabella – "Awful, no melody"[7] – she chose to make opera her speciality, because it offered the quickest route to a degree.[6] Under the tutelage of Sebastian Engelberg, she discovered talents in herself that she had not anticipated, yet she was still so unsure of herself that she contemplated a switch to nursing.[7] But after Harold Schonberg wrote an appreciative review of her Lazuli in the college's production of Chabrier's L'étoile in The New York Times – "This little girl has real personality and an interesting voice. She could go places" – she found enough self-confidence to enter the Met's 1969 recruitment competition, encouraged by another dare from a friend who wagered $50 on her.[7][38] Her singing of Charlotte's letter aria from Massenet's Werther got her through to the semi-finals, and the house's general manager, Rudolf Bing, was so impressed by her in a private audition that he signed her up as a comprimario for the next three seasons.[6]



About Frederica "Flicka" von Stade, operatic mezzo-soprano (Français)

Frederica von Stade, née le 1er juin 1945 à Somerville, dans le New Jersey (États-Unis), est une mezzo-soprano américaine.


Élevée par sa mère entre l'Amérique, la Grèce et l'Italie, elle fait ses classes au Mannes College of Music de New York.

Elle fit ses débuts au Metropolitan Opera (le Met) en 1970 dans La Flûte enchantée et Madame Butterfly. Elle fit sensation une année plus tard dans le rôle de Chérubin (Les Noces de Figaro) au Santa Fe. Ce même rôle lui vaudra un triomphe à l'Opéra de Paris en 1973. Elle a interprété divers rôles depuis, avec le Met, et avec la plupart des compagnies d'opéra les plus importantes au monde.

Formée dans un style de Bel Canto, von Stade est réputée pour ses rôles dans Le Barbier de Séville et La Cenerentola de Rossini, ou encore dans La Sonnambula de Bellini. Plus récemment, elle a créé le rôle de Tina (écrit pour elle par Dominick Argento pour The Aspern Papers) à l'opéra de Dallas.

En dehors de l'opéra, elle a effectué divers enregistrements pour des productions telles que La Mélodie du bonheur ou Show Boat, ainsi que certaines apparitions télévisées sur des chaînes américaines.

En outre, elle est également une chanteuse de récital accomplie, maîtrisant aussi bien les œuvres de Mozart et de Haydn que les œuvres contemporaines de variété. Des artistes comme Dominick Argento et Jake Heggie ont composé des œuvres spécialement pour elle. Également, Richard Danielpour a composé Elegies (pour orchestre, mezzo-soprano, et baryton) à la mémoire de son père, Charles von Stade, mort deux mois avant sa naissance, lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Frederica von Stade fit une apparition à la cérémonie d'ouverture des Jeux olympiques d'hiver de Salt Lake City, en 2002.

Elle a effectué plus de soixante enregistrements avec les plus grandes maisons de disques, dont des opéras complets, des récitals, des œuvres symphoniques, et d'autres albums populaires. Ses enregistrements lui ont valu six nominations Grammy, deux grands prix du disque, un prix allemand du disque (de), et un Premio della Critica Discografica.

Elle a également été nommée officier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres, et en 1983, le président Ronald Reagan lui a remis un prix à la Maison-Blanche, en récompense de ses contributions aux arts.


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Frederica "Flicka" von Stade, operatic mezzo-soprano's Timeline

June 1, 1945
Somerville, Somerset County, New Jersey, United States