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Lauris Elms (Mezzo-soprano)

Born: October 20, 1931 - Springvale, Victoria, Australia

The Australian mezzo-soprano, Lauris Margaret Elms, was born in Springvale, Victoria, the daughter of Harry Britton and Jean Elms, and trained with Katherine Wielart in Melbourne. She first sang with the National Theatre Opera Company in 1952. She had further study in Paris with Dominique Modesti.

Lauris Elms made her Royal Opera, Covent Garden debut in 1957 as Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, and was principal contralto at Covent Garden from 1957 to 1959. She appeared there in Elektra, Les Troyens, The Tales of Hoffmann and Dialogues of the Carmelites. She also appeared as Mrs Sedley in Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, conducted by the composer. She toured Israel in 1958 for the 10th anniversary of the State of Israel, appearing with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1958 she married Graeme de Graaff, and they have one daughter.

Lauris Elms presented Lieder recitals with Musica Viva Australia and the ABC throughout Australia between 1960 and 1970. In 1961 she was a soloist in Dvořák’s Stabat Mater with the South Australian Symphony Orchestra under Karel Ančerl. Amongst the other soloists was Arnold Matters. In 1965 she sang with the Sutherland-Williamson Opera Company and then with the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust and the Australian Opera from 1966 to 1987. She was much praised for her Azucena (Verdi’s Il Trovatore) opposite Donald Smith and Kenneth Collins. Between 1958 and 1973 she sang in five Royal Command performances. In 1970 she sang in Verdi's Requiem with an all-Australian cast of soloists, at the Royal Festival Hall, London, conducted by Charles Mackerras, marking the 200th anniversary of James Cook’s discovery of the east coast of Australia. In 1973 she sang at the openings of the Adelaide Festival Theatre and the Sydney Opera House, and she appeared in the inaugural opera season at the latter venue in Puccini's Suor Angelica. That year she also appeared as a soloist in L.v. Beethoven's 9th Symphony in Korea. She and Marilyn Richardson sang roles in Ian Cugley’s The Six Days of Creation, which was written for their voices. Her 1979 solo recital at the Opera House was the first ABC recital to feature a resident Australian singer. She again appeared in L.v. Beethoven's 9th Symphony in China in 1983. In 1987 Lauris Elms commissioned a song cycle from composer Derek Strachan. He produced Rose of the Bay, a cycle of 9 songs for mezzo-soprano, clarinet and piano. It was premiered by Lauris Elms, Deborah de Graaff, and David Miller, and they went on to make the premiere recording.

Her principal roles were: Amneris (Aida), Azucena (Il Trovatore), Ulrica (Un ballo in maschera), the title role in Carmen, Principessa (Suor Angelica), Lucrezia (Lucrezia Borgia), Judith, Sesto (Julius Caesar), Orfeo, Mrs Sedley (Peter Grimes), and roles in Les Troyens and Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle.

Lauris Elms retired in 1994. In 2001 she published her autobiography The Singing Elms: the autobiography of Lauris Elms. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1974, awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 1977, and appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1982. In 1988, the University of Sydney awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Music.

Her recordings include: highlights from Bononcini's Griselda (title role); B. Britten's Peter Grimes; Chausson's Poème de l'amour et de la mer; Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures; highlights from Carl Heinrich Graun’s Montezuma (title role); George Frideric Handel's Alcina (with Joan Sutherland, Margreta Elkins, Spiro Malas and others); Franz Liszt songs with David Miller; Schubert Lieder with John Winther; a video of Verdi's Il Trovatore with Joan Sutherland, conducted by Richard Bonynge, recorded at the Sydney Opera House; Johannes Brahms and Alban Berg songs with Geoffrey Parsons; Debussy and L.v. Beethoven song recitals; operatic arias with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.

Source: Wikipedia Website [based on Dictionary of Performing Arts in Australia; International Who’s Who of Women 2002; International Who’s Who in Classical Music 2003)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (December 2008); Manfred Krugmann (Photos 01, May 2011)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Richard Bonynge


G.F. Handel: Opera Alcina, HWV 34 [Bradamante]

Links to other Sites

Lauris Elms (Wikipedia)

Interview with Lauris Elms, opera and concert singer (National Library of Australia)

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