Christine Johnson Smith, Original Star of Carousel, Dies at 98

Obituaries   Christine Johnson Smith, Original Star of Carousel, Dies at 98
Christine Johnson Smith, who gained lasting fame for a single stage role, playing Nettie Fowler in the original production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel in 1945 — her name was Christine Johnson then — died at her home in Owensboro, KY. She was 98.
Jan Clayton with Christine Johnson in Carousel
Jan Clayton with Christine Johnson in Carousel

As the strong-willed Nettie, Ms. Smith got to sing the rouser "June Is Bustin' Out All Over," as well as "This Was a Real Nice Clambake." Most famously, she originated the moving standard "You'll Never Walk Alone." He vocal work is preserved on the original cast album. Ms. Smith repeated the role of Nettie on tour and in a 1949 revival of Carousel at City Center. Aside from Carousel, she had only one other Broadway role, in 1938's Great Lady, and spent the bulk of her career on the concert stage and in the opera. A contralto, she sang Dorabella in Così fan tutte, opening the Tanglewood opera house at Lenox, MA, in 1941. She also performed with the New Opera Company, the San Francisco Opera, and sang Bess in Porgy and Bess with conductor Leonard Bernstein.

In 1943, she won the Metropolitan Opera auditions, which led to her becoming the youngest person ever to sing the role of Erda in Wagner's Das Rheingold at that house.

Her career was short, however. She moved back to Owensboro, where she married surgeon Robert Smith in 1950 and raised two daughters, Robin and Nancy. After that, she taught voice for many years and served on local arts committees. Her husband died in 1959.

Ms. Smith is survived by two daughters.

Christine Johnson Smith
Christine Johnson Smith
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