The Swiss soprano Lisa Della Casa has died aged 93.
Best known as a performer of Mozart and Strauss, Della Casa was blessed with an exquisitely beautiful voice and effortless charm that graced the world’s major stages from 1940 to 1974. She recorded extensively, with a number of her discs rapidly becoming established as classics.
Born in Burgdorf, near Bern in Switzerland, Della Casa studied at the Zurich Conservatory before making her debut as Puccini’s Madam Butterfly at the Municipal Theatre in nearby Solothurn. Her early career then saw her join the ensemble at Zurich Municipal Opera House, where her big break came during a production of Strauss’s Arabella in 1946.
It was as Zdenka in Arabella that Della Casa’s talent was spotted by Maria Cebotari, who was singing the title role. At Cebotari’s recommendation, she went on to sing the same role at the following year’s Salzburg Festival – Strauss himself, who was in the audience, expressed his approval and tipped the soprano for greatness.
That greatness came in a career that, following a move to the company of Vienna State Opera House, soon took her to international fame. Her debut at La Scala in Milan came in 1949 when she sang the role of Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, and her British debut came as Countess Almaviva at Glyndebourne’s The Marriage of Figaro in 1951. It was again as Mozart’s Countess that she made her debut in 1953 at the New York Met, a venue she would go on to appear at 173 times in total.
Of her many discs, her performances of the title of role of Arabella, conducted by Sir Georg Solti, or her Strauss Four Last Songs (below), recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic under Karl Böhm are two that few collections should be without.