Remembering Regina Resnik

Regina Resnik as Carmen(Photo: Opera News)
Regina Resnik as Carmen(Photo: Opera News)

Opera star, director and teacher Regina Resnik has died at the age of 91.

Born in New York, Resnik’s career began when at age 19 she sang Verdi’s Lady Macbeth in New York. She joined the Metropolitan in 1944. Appearing at the last-minute as Leonora in Verdi’s Il trovatore, she earned accolades from the New York Times: “Miss Resnik, still in her twenties, was notified to appear twenty-four hours before curtain time…with only one and a quarter hours rehearsal, she took over this difficult role and won several ovations for her efforts.”

Miss Resnik’s career as a soprano continued through the mid 1950s. After a period of study, she began a second career as a mezzo-soprano. The great dramatic roles were now hers: Carmen, Klytamnestra in Elektra, Mrs. Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff, the Countess in Pique Dame. She recorded all of these operas and directed several of them.

She sang at the Met until 1983. Her Marquise in The Daughter of the Regiment was a comedic turn worthy of Edna Mae Oliver, but with a better voice. She was the Carmen of choice in London, Vienna, Salzburg and Buenos Aires. Metropolitan Opera director Rudolf Bing reportedly did not care for the mezzo Resnik. No matter, she was acclaimed everywhere else.

I treasure her masterclasses I attended in New York. Resnik taught clearly and patiently a number of young singers. None of these had the opportunities at 20 she enjoyed. Nevertheless, the lady’s years of wisdom and humor gave a lot of encouragement to talented young artists. Her marriage to painter Arbit Blatas led to on stage collaborations in several of Regina Resnik’s most notable operas.

Resnik was an artist who could do anything. She had the personality and the graciousness that kept her before the public into her ninth decade. Later career found her on Broadway in Cabaret, and at the New York City Opera in A Little Night Music. Resnik began her career on a major New York stage and that’s where it ended, fifty years later. Brava.

  • Jeff Wyckoff

    I saw her in Daughter of the Regiment on New Year’s Eve, 1972 with Sutherland and Pavarotti. It was wonderful. I think the gala evening had something to do with it because they all seemed to really be having a great time, especially Resnik.