Gwendolyn Killebrew

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Gwendolyn Killebrew
BornAugust 26, 1939
Philadelphia, United States
EducationJuilliard School
OccupationOperatic contralto
AwardsMetropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Gwendolyn Killebrew (born August 26, 1939[1]) is an American operatic contralto who has worked in Germany and internationally, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Bayreuth Festival.


Killebrew studied first piano and horn, and worked as a music teacher and music therapist. She studied voice at the Juilliard School in New York with Hans Heinz and Christopher West. She won a competition in Belgium in 1966 and was a winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions the same year. She was engaged at the Met in 1967, where she sang smaller parts.[2] In 1968, she appeared as the valkyrie Waltraute in Wagner's Die Walküre,[2] in a performance conducted by Berislav Klobučar and aired live as a Saturday afternoon radio broadcast from the Met.[3] The title role was sung by Birgit Nilsson, Wotan by Thomas Stewart, Siegmund by Jon Vickers, Sieglinde by Leonie Rysanek, Hunding by Karl Ridderbusch and Fricka by Christa Ludwig.[3]

From 1978 she appeared at the Bayreuth Festival, performing parts in the Jahrhundertring, the centenary performance of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen staged by Patrice Chéreau.[2] She sang the part of Schwertleite in Die Walküre[4] and Waltraute in Götterdämmerung, also in the version filmed in 1980.[2]

She performed from 1976 regularly at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, where she also sang contemporary opera, including in 1988 Frau Leimberger in Giselher Klebe's Der Jüngste Tag, in 1991 Beroë in Hans Werner Henze's Die Bassariden, and in 1995 in the premiere of Klebe's Gervaise Macquart.[2]

Selected recordings[edit]

Killebrew recorded in 1976 Antonín Dvořák's Rusalka, with Bohumil Gregor conducting Het Omroeporkest,singing the parts of the foreign princess) and Ježibaba, with Teresa Stratas in the title role and Ivo Zidek as the prince.[5]

In 1986, she recorded Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gary Bertini. Lewis M. Smoley wrote in a book comparing recordings of the Mahler symphonies that she "has a deep, rich, if heavyish, timbre that suits the profound, other-worldly atmosphere of Nietzsche's poetry".[6]


  1. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (2001). Baker's biographical dictionary of musicians (ninth ed.). New York: Schirmer Books. Killebrew, Gwendolyn. ISBN 978-0-02-865525-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Gwendolyn Killebrew" (in German). Bayreuth Festival. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Berislav Klobucar; Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Christa Ludwig, Jon Vickers, Thomas Stewart" (in German). SONY. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Der Jahrhundertring: Die Walküre" (in German). ORF. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  5. ^ "rusalka" (in German). Operone. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  6. ^ Smoley, Lewis M. (1996). Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings Since 1986. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0-313-29771-1.

External links[edit]