Brenda Lewis, famed opera soprano and Broadway actor, passed away September 16 at her home in Westport, Connecticut, as reported by The New York Times.
Lewis, 96, was best known for her creation of two formidable roles in the opera: Birdie in Regina, the opera adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes—the play was revived on Broadway this past season—and the title role in Lizzie Borden.
Coincidentally, Lewis’ given name was Birdie. Born March 2, 1921 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Jules and Lena Solomon, her English name was the translation of her Hebrew name, Tziporah.
In 1941, she landed her first major professional role with the Philadelphia Opera, singing the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier under the stage name Brenda Lewis. Between 1952 and 1965, Lewis sang in 38 regular performances at the Met Opera and worked with New York City Opera for 20 years.
In addition to her opera talents, Lewis boasted eight Broadway credits to her résumé. She made her Broadway debut in 1944 in the musical operetta The Maid as Mistress / The Secret of Suzanne as Suzanne. She sang on Broadway in special opera engagements including The Bartered Bride, Faust, The Gypsy Baron, The Rape of Lucretta, and Regina. In 1954, she performed in Shepard Traube’s The Girl in the Pink Tights and returned a decade later to the Main Stem for Jerome Eskow’s Cafe Crown.
After her performing days, Lewis directed and produced operas for the New Haven Opera from 1963–1973. She also worked as an opera director and voice teacher at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in Connecticut.
Lewis is survived by her two sons, Leo Asen and Michael Asen, from her first marriage; a daughter, Edith Cooper, from her second marriage; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.