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Suzanne Danco

With a curious melding of a bright vocal timbre and a somewhat-reserved temperament, Suzanne Danco became a leading artist among the lyric sopranos of the 1940s and 1950s. She was a frequent visitor to the recording studio and left an appreciable legacy on disc, each one reflecting her high purpose and musical exactitude. Her choice of operatic roles was wide-ranging, extending from Mozart to Alban Berg with several French heroines occupying a central place among them. Danco received her musical training at the Brussels Conservatory, where her studiousness won her numerous awards. Her first experiences on-stage were as a chorus member. While her family was largely unsupportive regarding her desire to become an opera singer, Danco persisted. After winning a prize in Vienna, she followed the advice of conductor Erich Kleiber and traveled to Prague to study with lyric tenor Fernando Carpi. Following a series of recitals in Italy in 1940, Danco's 1941 debut as Fiordiligi attracted notice in Genoa and the role remained a central one in her subsequent career. She presented herself in the same part for a 1947 production at La Scala. An American operatic career failed to materialize: Rudolf Bing's promise of an invitation from the Metropolitan Opera he was about to join remained unfulfilled and Danco did not appear there. Instead, she visited the United States on a recital tour with accompanist Paul Ulanowsky. Danco's stage appearances in Europe compensated for any American disappointments. For La Scala in 1947, she sang Ellen Orford in Milan's first performance of Britten's Peter Grimes. In 1948, she presented her Jocasta in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex to La Scala audiences and in 1949, she ventured Marie in Berg's Wozzeck for the Teatro San Carlo, afterward declaring it a part holding no difficulties for her. Despite her enthusiasm for Italian lyric roles, they seldom came her way. A 1951 production of La bohème at Covent Garden was presented in English and Danco felt her one opportunity to sing Mimi was compromised by an inept translation. Despite her discomfort, she was well-regarded by the critics who found her a fragile, slightly distant heroine whose English was excellent. That outing, however, was both the beginning and the end of her career at the Royal Opera House. Other houses were less indifferent. At Rome, her Mélisande was acclaimed and she became a valued artist at the Edinburgh, Aix-en-Provence, and Glyndebourne festivals. In orchestral concerts, she was regarded as exemplary in Berlioz's Les nuits d'été and Ravel's Shéhérazade, both of which she commercially recorded. In her recital repertory, works by Berlioz, Gounod, Fauré, Chausson, Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc alternated with ones by Schubert, Schumann, Berg, Schoenberg, Falla, and Britten. Several Mozart roles were recorded either on commercial disc or through reasonably faithful radio transmissions. After retirement, Danco taught at Aldeburgh and at the Accademia Chigiana at Siena.
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