Lisa Della Casa, elegant Swiss-born opera diva, dies at 93

K.B Theatres - Lisa Della Casa, a Swiss-born diva who swept up crowds at opera houses if the past century with an elegant and radiant style that established her as one of the finest sopranos of her generation, died Dec. 10 in Muensterlingen, Switzerland. She was 93.

Lisa Della Casa, a Swiss-born diva who swept up crowds at opera houses of the past century with an elegant and radiant style that established her as one of the finest sopranos of her generation, died Dec. 10 in Muensterlingen, Switzerland. She was 93.

The Vienna State Opera announced the death but did not give a cause.

Gallery

Ms. Della Casa performed on many of the world’s great opera stages, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House in London and La Scala in Milan. She was most identified with the Vienna State Opera, where she gave more than 400 performances before retiring in 1974.

Her interpretations of many roles, particularly those from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss, won her wide acclaim and appreciation. Her recordings remain popular among opera enthusiasts.

In 1953, she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Music critic Olin Downes wrote in the New York Times that Ms. Della Casa has “youth, beauty and personal distinction and an unusually beautiful voice and a fine sincerity and taste in interpretation.”

Ms. Della Casa was born Feb. 2, 1919, at Burgdorf, near the Swiss capital Bern. Her father, an ophthalmologist, encouraged her interest in theater, which deepened into a passion for opera after seeing a production of Strauss’s “Salome.”

She trained in Zurich, where in her early 20s she made her professional debut at the Municipal Opera House.

In her performances of Strauss’s “Arabella,” including as Zdenka at the Salzburg Festival in 1947 and as Arabella at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden in 1953,she wowed crowds and became identified with the opera because of what critics celebrated as a natural grace in her singing and her beauty.

In retirement, Ms. Della Casa resided in a castle along Lake Constance in northern Switzerland. She lived there with her husband, journalist and violinist Dragan Debeljevic, and their daughter, Vesna.

— From staff and wire reports

A few ‘SAT words,’ defined