Coloratura soprano Roberta Peters, who turned to stage musicals following a triumphant career at the Metropolitan Opera, died of Parkinson’s disease in Rye, New York, January 19 at age 86.
The Bronx-born singer-actor’s precocious talent was quickly recognized. She almost made her professional debut on Broadway at age 16, when she was offered a role in the Kurt Weill-Langston Hughes musical Street Scene. She turned it down, preferring to focus on the world of opera.
It took only three years more before she made her Metropolitan Opera debut, at age 19. Her operatic career lasted from 1950 into the 1990s, and she became known for diva roles in The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and The Barber of Seville. She never formally retired.
The impish performer appeared on TV talk shows, children’s shows, and even commercials. Later in her career she began appearing in operetta and musical theatre, including productions of The Merry Widow and The King and I, though never on Broadway. In 1962 she made a studio recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel with Alfred Drake. She and Drake also released an album of songs from Leonard Bernstein musicals, including On the Town, West Side Story, and Candide.