Margaret Matzenauer

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Margaret Matzenauer
Margarete Matzenauer.jpg
Born(1881-06-01)June 1, 1881
DiedMay 19, 1963(1963-05-19) (aged 81)
Edoardo Ferrari-Fontana
(m. 1912; div. 1917)
ChildrenAdrienne Fontana
Edoardo Ferrari-Fontana and Margaret Matzenauer in 1915 at the Metropolitan Opera

Margaret Matzenauer (sometimes spelled Margarete Matzenauer or Margarethe Matzenaur) (1 June 1881 – 19 May 1963) was a mezzo-soprano singer with an opulent timbre and a wide range to her voice. She performed key works from both the Italian and German operatic repertoires in Europe and the United States.[1][2]


Matzenauer was born in Temesvár, Austria-Hungary (now Timișoara, Romania).[1] Her father Ludwig was a conductor, her mother an opera singer. She considered herself Hungarian although she had Germanic blood and the place of her birth is now in western Romania. She was of Jewish descent.[3][4]

She studied opera in Graz and Berlin, making her operatic debut in 1901 as Puck in Weber's Oberon. She began singing major roles such as Azucena in Il trovatore, Carmen, Mignon, Waltraute and Erda in the Ring operas and Ortrud in Lohengrin. She first achieved fame in Europe as a contralto and mezzo-soprano, and she was engaged to appear at the 1911 Bayreuth Festival. She was tempted to tackle soprano parts as well but this expansion upwards of her repertoire did not prove to be an unqualified success due to limitations with her highest notes.

Matzenauer made her debut (as a mezzo) at the New York Metropolitan Opera in Aida on 13 November 1911, singing Amneris on opening night with a cast that also featured Emmy Destinn as Aida and Enrico Caruso as Radamès, with Arturo Toscanini on the podium. A few days later she displayed her versatility by appearing in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

In 1911, she married one of her Met colleagues, the fine Italian-born dramatic tenor Edoardo Ferrari-Fontana (1878-1936). Consequently, she acquired automatic Italian citizenship. The marriage ended in divorce in 1917.

She had a photographic memory, too, and she saved the day for the Met's management on 1 January 1912 when, with only a few days' notice, she appeared as Kundry in the opera Parsifal, a highly demanding role that she had not sung before.

Matzenauer remained at the Met for a total of 19 seasons, delivering a wide variety of roles including Eboli in the first Met production of Don Carlos (1920), Santuzza, Marina in Boris Godunov, Leonore in Fidelio and Brünnhilde in Die Walküre. She gave her farewell Met performance on 17 February 1930 as Amneris, but she continued singing opera elsewhere and giving concerts.

In 1924, she appeared at the Royal Albert Hall, London at a Special Sunday concert with pianist Solito de Solis.[5]

In 1936, she played the part of Madame Pomponi in the Columbia Pictures production of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

Matzenauer also took up teaching; two of her pupils were mezzo-sopranos Blanche Thebom and Nell Tangeman. Her last stage appearance was in a Broadway comedy, Vicki, in 1942.[1]

Tenor Giacomo Lauri Volpi mentioned her in his Voci parallele as one of the only three real contraltos he had chanced to meet throughout his career (the others being Gabriella Besanzoni and Matilde Blanco Sadun).[6]

She died in 1963 at the Sherman Way Convalescent Hospital in Van Nuys, California.[1][2]


Her daughter is Adrienne Fontana, former nightclub singer and host of variety TV show Champagne and Orchids, on the Dumont Network in early television.[7] Matzenauer made a sizeable number of 78-rpm recordings, many of which are available on CD reissues.


  1. ^ a b c d "Margaret Matzenauer, 81, Dies; Contralto at Met in Caruso Era; Leading Member of Company for 19 Years. Acclaimed for Versatility in Roles". The New York Times. May 20, 1963. Margaret Matzenauer, a well known contralto with the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Enrico Caruso, died yesterday morning at a convalescent home in Van Nuys, Calif. She would have been 82 years old on June 1. She had been ill for several months.
  2. ^ a b "Margarete Matzenauer Former Opera Star, Dies". Associated Press in the Hartford Courant. 20 May 1963. Retrieved 2010-05-09. Margarete Matzenauer, onetime Metropolitan Opera prima donna, died Sunday at 81. She died at Sherman Way Convalescent Hospital where ...
  3. ^ Hans Morgenstern, "Jüdisches biographisches Lexikon. Eine Sammlung von bedeutenden Persönlichkeiten jüdischer Herkunft ab 1800", Lit Verlag [de], Wien; p. 548
  4. ^ "Matzenauer, Margarete". Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  5. ^ Royal Albert Hall Archives,
  6. ^ Cited (in Italian) in Celletti, Rodolfo, La grana della voce. Opere, direttori e cantanti (2nd edition), Rome, Baldini & Castoldi, 2000, p. 245, ISBN 88-80-89-781-0
  7. ^ The Florence Henderson Show - Hollywood Hotel/Jack Klugman/Adrienne Fontana.

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