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Beatrice Krebs (Mezzo-soprano)

Born: March 12, 1924 - Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died: February 5, 2011 - Golden Valley, Minnesota, USA

The American mezzo-soprano, Beatrice Krebs, received her training at the Institute of Music in Cleveland (she earned its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001), and after local success, continued overseas at the Musikhochschule in Munich.

Conductor Robert Shaw gave Beatrice Krebs her first break. She made her stage debut with his Collegiate Chorale at Carnegie Hall in 1948. She later joined his professional ensemble, the Robert Shaw Chorale, which performed regularly at Carnegie Hall, toured nationally, was broadcasted on NBC, and produced many recordings.

Beatrice Krebs made her stage debut in 1952 at the New York City Centre Opera, as Miss Todd in The Old Maid and the Thief by Giancarlo Menotti. In 1956 she sang the role of Mother McCourt in the world premiere of Douglas Moore’s opera The Ballad of Baby Doe at Central City Opera House in Colorado and then reprised it at New York City Opera alongside Beverly Sills in 1958. She she can also be heard on the original recording of this opera. On the stage she appeared in roles as Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Azucena in Troubadour, Haushälterin in Schweigsamen Frau by R. Strauss, Olga Olsen in K. Weill's Street Scene, and in additional roles. She appeared with nine opera companies, including New York City Center, NBC-TV, and Tanglewood and at the Shubert Theater in Chicago.

Crossing over to do Musical Theater, Beatrice Krebs played Bloody Mary on the First National Tour of South Pacific. She was then the Mother Abbess on the First National Tour of The Sound Of Music in the summer of 1960 - a role Richard Rogers 'insisted' she take. She toured the country in this role and performed it more than 1,000 times, taking Mr. Hammerstein's admonition "Climb Every Mountain" quite literally. Krebs also was asked to sing at the funeral of Oscar Hammerstein II in 1960, symbolic of her long connection with the librettist and his composer colleague Richard Rodgers in their popular musicals. In 1960, she also sang The Star Spangled Banner at the Fourth of July ceremonies in Rockefeller Plaza in the presence of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. She sang the role of Nettie at the Civic Light Opera in Pittsburgh and the Starlight Musicals in Indianapolis. A member of the New York City Opera Company, with which she also toured, she presented three German Lieder recitals in New York. She appeared at the Maramoor Festival's outdoor Venetian Theatre singing in Troilus and Cressida, Dido and Aenaes, and The Chocolate Soldier.

During her singing career, Beatrice Krebs shifted gradually to activity as concert and oratorio singer. She appeared with 18 of the renowned orchestras in the USA, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and under prominent conductors. She performed in oratorios, including singing Messiah by George Frideric Handel more than 70 times with various choruses and orchestras. She continued however on the other hand her stage appearances until the end of the 1960's.

Beatrice Krebs began teaching at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh in 1963. As the head of the Voice Faculty in the School of Music, she introduced vocal pedagogy, among other programs. She became a vibrant force in the creation of the Voice curriculum, creating standards and practices that are still used today. In 1973, she was named Pennsylvania Music Association's Outstanding Teacher. She was heavily involved with the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) both as a judge and as a member of the board during various years. In Pittsburgh she performed on many occasions with the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. She sang weekly at services at St. Paul's Cathedral.

After her retirement in 2002, Beatrice Krebs moved from Squirrel Hill to Minnesota to be closer to her Nephew and his Family. She died of pneumonia in Golden Valley, Minnesota. She was 86.

Beatrice Krebs' voice inhabited the low contralto range, but her career hit high note after high note. She recorded for Columbia (Threni by Igor Stravinsky), American Decca (Bach Cantatas), MGM (The Ballad of Baby Doe), Arkadia (Symphony No. 3 of Gustav Mahler).

Beatrice Krebs, c1940 [02]

Beatrice Krebs, c1960 [01]

Source: Großes Sängerlexikon (Authors: K. J. Kutsch / Leo Riemens; Expanded 3rd edition 1999/2000; K. G. Saur Verlag, Munich), English translation by Aryeh Oron (June 2006); Obituary by Erin Quill (February 10, 2011); Obituary by Andrew Druckenbrod in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (February 10, 2011)
Contributed by
Thomas Braatz (June 2006); Erin Quill (February 2011)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Karl Richter


BWV 12, BWV 23 [1st], BWV 79

Links to other Sites

Miss Beatrice Krebs, Obituary by Erin Quill (Facebook)
Obituary: Contralto Beatrice Krebs at home in opera or musical theater by Andrew Druckenbrod (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

St. John Terrll’s Music Circus: Supporting Cast

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