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Famous Like Me > Actress > K > Dorothy Kirsten

Profile of Dorothy Kirsten on Famous Like Me

Name: Dorothy Kirsten  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 6th July 1910
Place of Birth: Montclair, New Jersey, USA
Profession: Actress
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Dorothy Kirsten

The American soprano Dorothy Kirsten (July 6, 1910–November 18, 1992) was a well-known opera singer whose stage career spanned from the late 1930s to the mid-1970s. She was admired as an attractive, intelligent, musical singer and a fine actress. Outside of opera circles, she became a well-known personality through her frequent radio and television appearances. In her concert and television appearances, she sang not only opera arias but theater and popular songs as well.

Kirsten was born into a into a musical family in Montclair, New Jersey. Her mother was an organist and music teacher; her great-aunt, Catherine Hayes, was an opera singer and was known as "The Irish Jenny Lind." Her grandfather was a conductor and an early president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians.

After leaving high school at age 16, Kirsten took several jobs while studying voice in New York City at night. She later agreed to work for her teacher, Louis Darnay, as both secretary and maid in exchange for lessons.

By 1937, Kirsten was singing professionally on radio, both as a member of the Kate Smith Chorus as well as in solo spots with several dance orchestras. In 1938, she was discovered by the soprano Grace Moore who became her mentor and benefactor, sending her to Rome for a year of study with Astolfo Pescia, who was Beniamino Gigli's vocal coach. She had planned to spend a second year in Italy and then a year in France, but returned to New York at the start of World War II.

In 1939, Kirsten made her professional concert debut in a stage show at the New York World's Fair. She made her operatic debut the following year as Pousette in Massenet's Manon with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

In 1942, Kirsten began to sing leading roles with the San Carlo Opera Company in Washington, D.C. and New York City. She made her New York City Opera debut in 1943, and by 1945 had performed with the San Francisco Opera, the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras. In September 1943, she was given her own radio program, Keepsakes, which ran for a year.

In 1945, Kirsten made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Mimi in Puccini's La Bohème, the beginning of an illustrious thirty-year association with that company.

During her years at the Met, Kirsten sang most of the important Puccini roles, including the title roles in Manon Lescaut, Tosca and Madame Butterfly, and she starred as Minnie in a revival of La Fanciulla del West that helped restore the work to the repertory. Her repertory also included the female leads in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette and Faust, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Verdi's La Traviata. She sang in the American premieres of Walton's Troilus and Cressida and Poulenc's Dialogue des Carmelites, both in San Francisco. To prepare for the title role of Charpentier's Louise, she went to France to study it with the composer. She also worked with the composer Italo Montemezzi on L'Amore dei Tre Re before performing it in San Francisco and at the Met.

Kirsten's career was largely centered around the US, but she did tour Europe and, in 1962, the Soviet Union. There, besides giving recitals, she sang Violetta at the Bolshoi performance of La Traviata.

At the height of her career, Kirsten was not only admired by opera fans but was a popular figure among broader public that knew her from radio and television appearances and from her performances in the films Great Caruso, with tenor Mario Lanza, and Mr. Music, with Bing Crosby. In 1950, she recorded two sides with Crosby for Decca: "Accidents Will Happen" and "Milady." Kirsten also co-starred with Frank Sinatra on the radio show Your Hit Parade.

Kirsten's voice was not huge one, but opera critics say she chose her roles well and used her vocal resources gracefully throughout her long career. Her last performance at the Met was as Tosca in 1975. After her retirement, she became a frequent guest on the intermission programs during the Met's Saturday afternoon national radio broadcasts.

After two brief marriages, Kirsten was married to many years to John Douglas French, a neurosurgeon who was director of the Brain Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. After French developed Alzheimer's in the early 1980s, Kirsten testified at a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and in 1983 she set up the French Foundation for Alzheimer Research. French died in 1989.

Kirsten published an autobiography, A Time to Sing in 1982.

She died in 1992 at age 82 in Los Angeles.

In recent years, several of Kirsten's television performances on the "Voice of Firestone" program, including the Poker Scene from Fanciulla,"Vissi d'Arte", and several popular songs, have been issue as well as her recordings of several Romberg operettas.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Dorothy Kirsten