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Home Obituaries Rye Resident and Opera Star Roberta Peters Dies at 86

Rye Resident and Opera Star Roberta Peters Dies at 86

Opera star and Rye resident Roberta Peters, has died at age 86. Back in 2013, another opera star and Rye resident, Marta Eggerth,died at age 101.

Peters was in part known in the way she was catapulted to stardom as a last minute substitute at the Met.


(PHOTO: Rye resident and opera star Roberta Peters.)

The New York Times carried the obituary:

"Roberta Peters, the Bronx-born coloratura soprano who at 20 was catapulted to stardom by a phone call, a subway ride and a Metropolitan Opera debut — her first public performance anywhere — all in the space of five hours, died on Wednesday at her home in Rye, N.Y. She was 86.

The cause was Parkinson’s disease, her son Bruce Fields said.

Ms. Peters, who would sing with the Met 515 times over 35 vigorous years, was internationally renowned for her high, silvery voice (in private, she could hit a high A, two and a half octaves above middle C); her clarion diction in a flurry of languages; her attractive stage presence; and, by virtue of the fact that she and television came to prominence at about the same time, her wide popular appeal.

“As a coloratura,” Cue magazine wrote of Ms. Peters in 1960, “she has no peer.”

In addition to the Met, with which she appeared regularly from 1950 to 1985 — one of the longest associations of any singer with a major opera company — Ms. Peters was heard at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden and elsewhere.

Her best-known roles include the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Rosina in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Oscar (a pageboy played by a soprano) in his “Un Ballo in Maschera.” But her most significant role was undoubtedly Zerlina in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

Enlisted to sing that part in 1950 as a last-minute substitute, Ms. Peters was propelled, with no rehearsal, onto the Met stage and into a stellar career….

RobertaPeterschockfullonuts ad

(PHOTO AND VIDEO: More often at the Met, Roberta Peters appeared in this Chock full o' Nuts coffee commercial.)

…“The delightful surprise of last night’s performance of ‘Don Giovanni’ at the Metropolitan was the emergency debut of little Roberta Peters in the part of Zerlina,” The New York World-Telegram’s review the next day said. “The voice came through the big house as clear as a bell, the notes equally bright and focused and the phrasing that of a true musician. And the girl — she is all of 5 feet 2 — turned in a very smooth job of acting, too.”

From then on, Ms. Peters was in great demand, both at the Met, where she sang her planned Queen of the Night on Jan. 12, 1951, and around the world. As if her debut had foreordained as much, she developed something of a specialty as an 11th-hour substitute for indisposed singers…

For years, her weekly regimen included not only voice and foreign language lessons but also instruction in ballet, acting and fencing, as well as a strength and conditioning program under the direct supervision of Joseph Pilates, the originator of the Pilates exercise method…."


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