Frederica von Stade

Frederica von Stade (born June 1, 1945) is an American mezzo-soprano.


Early life

Frederica von Stade was born in Somerville, New Jersey.[1] She acquired the nickname "Flicka" in her childhood. Her father, Charles S. von Stade, was a polo champion and Lieutenant in the United States Army who was killed in service in Germany during the Second World War, prior to her birth.[2] Her grandfather, Francis Skiddy von Stade, Sr., (1884–1967), was also a polo champion.

She attended the Mannes College of Music in New York City.


She made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1970 and in 1971 appeared as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera. "It was two of the newcomers who left the audience dazzled: Frederica von Stade as Cherubino and Kiri Te Kanawa as the Countess. Everyone knew at once that these were brilliant finds. History has confirmed that first impression."[3]

Cherubino remained her most celebrated signature role, which she sang at her European debut in Versailles 1973, which was the starting point of her great international career. At the inauguration of Jimmy Carter as the 39th President of the United States on January 20 1977, she performed "Take Care of This House" from the Broadway musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner, accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.

After a hiatus of six years she returned to the Met in 1982 and remained a pillar of the ensemble, highly appreciated by critics and loved by the public in such roles as Idamante in Idomeneo, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites, Cherubino, Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande, Charlotte in Werther and Hanna Glawary in The Merry Widow.

Trained in the bel canto style, von Stade is known for her roles in Rossini's The Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola. In addition to opera, von Stade has also performed a wide range of musicals, from Show Boat to The Sound of Music to A Little Night Music and has appeared on numerous PBS specials, most notably in 1991's A Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert. She has also appeared in many Kennedy Center Honors broadcasts for CBS. Von Stade is also a respected recital artist, performing works ranging from Mozart and Haydn to Mahler to Broadway show tunes. Her LP album of Mahler songs was praised as "cherishable" by Peter G. Davis of The New York Times.[4]

Contemporary composers, including Dominick Argento, Jake Heggie, Thomas Pasatieri, Conrad Susa and Richard Danielpour, have produced works specifically for von Stade. She originated the role of "Tina" in Dallas Opera's world premiere production of Argento's The Aspern Papers (opera) in 1988. She has also recorded other works by Argento.[5] Conrad Susa wrote for her the role of the "Marquise de Merteuil" in his opera Dangerous Liaisons, which premiered at the San Francisco Opera on September 10, 1994. Danielpour composed Elegies for orchestra, mezzo-soprano, and baritone in memory of von Stade's father, Charles von Stade, who was killed late in World War II, two months before von Stade's birth. Elegies premiered in January 1998 with the Jacksonville Symphony led by Roger Nierenberg and has now been recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.[6]

In 2008, she created the role of "Madeline" in the opera Three Decembers, a part which the composer Jake Heggie had specially written for her. She gave what was billed at the time as her farewell performance on the opera stage in Heggie's Dead Man Walking at Houston Grand Opera on February 6, 2011 as "Mrs. Patrick de Rocher", a part also written for her. She has subsequently continued to perform in fully staged operas.

On January 19, 1985, she sang at the 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala, the day before the second inauguration of Ronald Reagan. She was introduced by Tony Randall. She sang an aria from Les Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer.

Von Stade was the featured performer at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and also sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the Cultural Olympiad held in conjunction with the games. She also sang at the choir's annual Christmas Concert the following year.[7]

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon wrote his opera A Coffin in Egypt specifically as starring vehicle for von Stade. She portrayed the role of Myrtle Bledsoe in the opera at its world premiere in 2014 at the Houston Grand Opera, and in subsequent stagings at Opera Philadelphia and the Chicago Opera Theater in the 2014–15 season.[8][9] She appeared in Jake Heggie's new work, Great Scott at the Dallas Opera in 2015 and at the San Diego Opera in 2016. [10]

She currently resides in Alameda, California.


She has made over sixty recordings, including complete operas, aria albums, symphonic works, solo recital programs, and popular crossover albums. She has done humorous recordings, such as Songs of the Cat with Garrison Keillor. Her Show Boat album was a bestseller. She has also appeared with Kathleen Battle and Judi Dench on Seiji Ozawa's recording of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her recordings have garnered six Grammy nominations, two Grand Prix du Disque awards, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Italy's Premio della Critica Discografica, and "Best of the Year" citations by Stereo Review and Opera News.

Opera recordings

Musical recordings

Concert Recordings

Recital recordings

Frederica von Stade on DVD


Von Stade was honored with an award in 1983 at the White House by President Reagan in recognition of her significant contribution to the arts and by France's highest honor in the Arts as an officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2009, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Cleveland Institute of Music and in April, 2012 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Von Stade was the idol of a key character in the CBS series Northern Exposure (her interpretation of Bailero from Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne appeared on its original soundtrack album).

A case summary involving a dispute over marital property and earnings (Elkus v. Elkus, 572 N.Y.S.2d 901 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991)) between von Stade and Peter Elkus, formerly her husband, appears in Dukeminier's Property textbook, commonly used in the first year of law school.

Von Stade appeared in the finale of We Are Most Amused, the Charity Gala thrown for the 60th birthday of Prince Charles. She performed as a Valkyrie accompanying Eric Idle in singing a modified version of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".


  1. Leslie Kandell (April 1, 2001). "Opera Star in Her Home State". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-11. Even as a child, Frederica Von Stade, the Somerville-born mezzo-soprano loved to dress up and entertain.
  2. Horace A. Laffaye, Polo in the United States: A History, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2011, p. 355
  3. Scott, Eleanor (1976). The First Twenty Years of The Santa Fe Opera. Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Sunstone Press. OCLC 2856854.
  4. Davis, Peter G. "Singers With a Throat of Gold," The New York Times, June 15, 1980. Registration and purchase required. Accessed November 29, 2009.
  5. Casa Guidi album page at
  6. Danielpour: Elegies album page at
  7. PBS Previews | Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
  8. Heidi Waleson. "Opera: A Diva Reclaims the Stage With Authority". The Wall Street Journal.
  9. John von Rhein (April 26, 2015). "Opera review: COT's 'Coffin' a moving star vehicle for von Stade". Chicago Tribune.
  10. Great Scott Operapaedia, accessed May 6, 2016


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