Christiane Eda-Pierre, first French soprano, dies at 88

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Christiane Eda-Pierre, coloratura soprano who was among the first stars of black opera in France, and whose New York curriculum vitae included a performance seen by some 150,000 people in 1980, died on September 6 at her home in Deux-Sèvres, in western France. She was 88 years old.

His biographer, Catherine Marceline, posted news of his death on Facebook.

Ms. Eda-Pierre, born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, made her debut in 1958 in Nice and will soon be a regular on French opera and recital stages as well as on the radio. She was known for, as one critic put it, “a clear voice supported by good coloratura equipment and a very loud table,” which she put to good use in operas by Mozart, Bizet and the Baroque composer. French Jean-Philippe Rameau, as well as in contemporary works.

In 1966, she made her American debut at the Lyric Opera in Chicago as Leïla in Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers”, and in the mid-1970s she performed on stages in New York.

She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in April 1980 as Konstanze in Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio”, a role that includes a notoriously difficult tune, “Martern Go Arten.”

“Any soprano who can decently sing Konstanze’s ‘Martern go Arten’ is a better-than-average singer, and Miss Eda-Pierre’s accomplishments with that devilish tune were far better than decent,” Allen Hughes wrote in his review of the song. performance in The New York Times. “The air could be called a vocal obstacle course, so athletic and arbitrary are its demands, and Miss Eda-Pierre negotiated the course deftly.

Mr. Hughes, however, criticized another aspect of his performance, a not uncommon complaint from critics over the years.

“It may seem rude to expect her to act too,” he wrote, “but it would have been nice if she had put more effort into it. She is an attractive woman and could be a compelling stage figure if she tried. But her path in that performance was to take a stand, stand there and sing. Period. “

Two months later, Ms Eda-Pierre was part of a momentous event in Central Park when she sang Gilda, a role she first played in France early in her career, in the free production of The Met of “Rigoletto” by Verdi. The performance was widely anticipated due to the presence in the cast of Luciano Pavarotti, then perhaps the opera’s biggest star, making his first appearance in an opera at the Met Central Park, according to reports at the time.

The performances were usually held in the Sheep Meadow, but it was being revamped at the time, so the event was moved to the Bigger Lawn. The additional space was necessary: ​​the number of people is estimated at 150,000.

Ms. Eda-Pierre was born on March 24, 1932 in Ford-de-France, Martinique (which at the time was a French colony and has since become French territory). Her father, William, was a journalist and her mother, Alice, was a music teacher who taught her piano.

At 18, she moved to Paris to continue her studies and in 1954 she enrolled at the National Conservatory of Music and Dance, graduating in 1957. Shortly after her debut in Nice, she performed with the Opéra Comique in the title role of Léo “Lakmé” by Delibes, a role she played 12 years later at the Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland with great success.

The New York Times noted: “She breathed such life into the faded orientalism of ‘Lakmé’ that London’s leading music critic Andrew Porter of the Financial Times wrote after a detailed rave: ‘We need to hear more from this remarkable singer! ‘ ‘

In 1974, she took Leïla to Carnegie Hall when the New York Opera Orchestra performed “The Pearl Fishers” there, and two years later she was part of the cast, as a countess, when the New York Opera. Paris brings its version of Mozart’s “Marriage” to Figaro ”to the Met and then to the Kennedy Center in Washington.

After her debut with the Met in 1980, Ms. Eda-Pierre only played with the company for two years. Prior to her retirement from the opera scene in the mid-1980s, she experienced another career highlight in 1983 when she premiered the role of angel in Olivier Messiaen’s opera, “St . François d’Assise ”, which was premiered in France by the Paris Opera.

Information on his survivors was not immediately available.

Both before and after her retirement from the stage, Ms. Eda-Pierre taught at the Paris Conservatory, which operated in somewhat dilapidated facilities until she moved to new quarters in 1990. In a 1984 interview with The Guardian , Mrs. Eda-Pierre lamented the fragility of the walls and other problems that made it difficult to teach students the voice.

“Can you hear the saxophone upstairs and the piano next door?” she says. “And it’s after the hole in the ceiling has been filled.

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