Few other musicians are known for their versatility and continual innovation as the opera singer, Regina Resnik. The ultimate New Yorker, Bronx-born Resnik became known as a soprano singer when in 1944 she was the lauded stand-in for a last minute performance for the principal role in Il trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera.
In the following years, Resink played dozens of lead roles in the soprano repertoire—enough work that would have allowed any diva to retire gracefully. But she didn’t stop there. In 1953, while singing at the Bayreuth Festival, a conductor suggested she would be better suited as a mezzo-soprano—a vocal range typically reserved for lesser, more antagonistic parts. She took a year off to make this major career-change, and premiered the new range as Amneris in Aida, eventually becoming one of the few singers in operatic history to have sung both the soprano and mezzo leads in much of her repertory.
This was just one example of her incredible range: in addition, she was fluent singing in six languages, and she was at home playing serious, High German operas, as well theatrical pieces, including musical pieces like Cabaret and Sondheim’s A Little Night of Music. Off the stage, she made a great impact on the opera community and New York at large, working as a stage director, teaching master classes at the Met Opera and other schools around the world, as well as directing the documentary film Geto: The Historic Jewish Ghetto of Venice. She was such an important figure in her hometown that in 1991, the mayor declared January 24, 1991 Regina Resnik Day.
In observance of Resnik’s centenary last year, the Music and Recorded Sound Division of the Library for the Performing Arts is proud to display selected materials from her personal archive which demonstrate her incredible grace, versatility, and commitment to the city that made her success possible, New York.