Frances Ginsberg, American Soprano,
Dies at 55

The New York Times


Published: December 28, 2010

Frances Ginsberg, an American soprano heard regularly with the New York City Opera in the 1980s, died on Friday in the Bronx. She was 55 and had lived in Manhattan and Milan. Frances Ginsberg in 1987.

The cause was brain and spinal cancer, said, Hagai Kamil, a longtime friend. Ms. Ginsberg had previously been treated for breast and ovarian cancer. Known for her large, bright voice and expressive acting, Ms. Ginsberg was most closely associated with the spinto repertory. "Spinto" — the past participle of the Italian verb spingere, "to push" — describes roles that demand both the silvery fluidity of a lyric singer and the dark power of a dramatic one.

Her roles with City Opera included Donna Elvira in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," Mimi in Puccini's "Bohème," Violetta in Verdi's "Traviata" and Nedda in Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci."

Reviewing Ms. Ginsberg's Mimi in The New York Times in 1987, Bernard Holland praised her "passionately idiosyncratic ideas on phrasing" and her "desire to say something — to be Mimi — rather than just make pretty sounds."

Ms. Ginsberg also appeared in Carnegie and Town Halls in Manhattan, at the Mostly Mozart Festival and with the Opera Orchestra of New York. Also an understudy at the Metropolitan Opera, she sang one performance with the company, as Rosalinde in Johann Strauss's "Fledermaus," in 1990. Frances Helen Ginsberg was born in St. Louis on March 11, 1955. She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater and voice from the University of Kansas in 1979 and also studied at the Center for American Artists, the training program of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her teachers over the years included Carlo Bergonzi, Renata Tebaldi and Eve Queler. Ms. Ginsberg made her City Opera debut in 1986, singing the dual roles of Margherita and Elena in "Mefistofele," an 1868 opera by the Italian poet and composer Arrigo Boito.

Other opera companies with which she appeared include the Houston and Fresno Grand Operas; the San Diego, Pittsburgh, Utah and Cincinnati Operas; the Welsh National Opera; and l'Opéra de Nice.

A brother, Michael, is Ms. Ginsberg's only immediate survivor.

Additional Musical Biography

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Biography              Italian Curriculum

The American soprano Frances Ginsberg began her studies under the auspices of the Lyric Opera of Chicago with Walter Baracchi (already accompanist/coach at Teatro alla Scala in Milan), who brought her to Italy where she further perfected her training with the "Bel Canto Foundation" of Busseto under the guidance of Carlo Bergonzi and Renata Tebaldi. She was a finalist in the Concorso di Voci Verdiane of Busseto and in the Concorso Internazionale "Toti dal Monte" di Treviso, dedicated to Puccini's La Bohème. After having continued her studies with Eve Queler of the Opera Orchestra of New York and Eugene Kohn of the Metropolitan Opera, she was signed with the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, The Lyric of Opera of Chicago, and the Santa Fe Opera in the quality of understudy.



Ms. Ginsberg's operatic debut was in Mefistofele of Arrigo Boito (Margherita/Helen of Troy) with the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center in 1986. Her singing was critically acclaimed as "the return of the golden era of opera". She was awarded the "Debut Artist of the Year Award" by Beverly Sills and a "Richard Tucker Foundation Grant Award".

From that point, she has been dedicated to an intense career, internationally. Among the operatic events most significant: Mimi (La Bohème, New York City Opera and The Welsh National Opera); Violetta (La Traviata, New York City Opera, New Israeli Opera, San Diego Opera, Fresno Grand Opera, Connecticut Grand Opera, Santa Barbara Grand Opera), Madama Butterfly, e Magda (La Rondine,The Houston Grand Opera); Elena (I Vespri Siciliani), Elvira (Ernani) and Margherita/ Helen of Troy (Mefistofele), all at the L'Opera de Nice; Tosca and Norma at the Royal Opera de Wallonie Liege, Belgium; Norma (Scottish Opera), Leonora (La forza del destino at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C., e Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) also at the Kennedy Center, New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, l'Opera de Lille France; Donna Anna (Don Giovanni, Fort Worth Opera); Manon Lescaut (Palm Beach Opera and 'Todi Music Fest' in Portsmouth, Virginia; Abigaille (Nabucco), also 'Todi Music Fest', Desdomona (Otello, San Franciso Opera and the Cincinnati Opera); Aida (Gars am Kamptal Theater, Austria, Leonora (Il Trovatore, Teatro Calderon, Madrid Spain, Pittsburgh Opera) Amelia (Un Ballo in Maschera), Aida, Lady Macbeth (Macbeth) all at the Utah Opera. In 1990 Ms. Ginsberg made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Rosalinda in (Die Fledermaus) and Semiramide.

Ms. Ginsberg's successes in concert include Verdi's Requiem (Florida Philharmonic in honor of the Centennial Anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi's death and Valenzia, Spain Philharmonic), Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Janecek's Glagolitic Mass (Seattle Symphony), Richard Strauss Lieder (Moscow Philharmonic), World Premier of Canzone Del'Amore e Della Vita of Lukas and Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder (Prague Philharmonic, Prague Autumn Festival), Zandonai's Giulietta e Romeo (Radio Koncert Orchestra, Amsterdam), Libuse (Smetna) and Robert Le Diable (Meyerbeer) with the Opera Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall, and Mostly Mozart Festival Live from Lincoln Center PBS TV, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center.

In the 2006-2007 season, Ms. Ginsberg has interpreted the protagonist roles in Manon Lescaut (L'Orchestra Filharmlonica of Torino, Italy and the Fresno Grand Opera); in Tosca (L'Orchestra-Sinfonica di Bologna, Italy, in homage to Maria Callas, in La Gioconda (Teatro Municipaledi Santiago, Chile) in Norma (L'Orchestra Filharmonica of Torino-Fondo Opera Festival and Teatro Monterosa), the role of Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), L'Orchestra Filharmonica of Milano, Italy in honor of the 250th Anniversary of Mozart's birth, and recorded the role of Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) with the l'Orchestra Filharmonica of Torino, Italy, and a Voci del Mondo (Voices of the World) concert tour throughout Lombardia, Italy.

In New York City Ms. Ginsberg sang "Ave Maria" for the Closing Ceremony's Mass for Ground Zero at St. Paul's Cathedral, September 11th, Leonard Bernstein's "Bless this House" for the Centennial of the New York Public Library, Mozart's Requiem for the 40th Anniversary of JFK's Assassination, honored the 75th birthday for Cardinal O'Connor at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and various concerts throughout the city to honor American tenor Richard Tucker. Ms. Ginsberg served on the Board of the American Guild of Musical Artists from 2000-2006 and was honored with the "Distinguished Alumni Award" from Ladue High School in St. Louis, Missouri.

Frances Ginsberg lived in Milan, Italy for several years and studied at the Scuola Musicale di Milano with Maestro Marco Munari of La Scala.

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