Anna Russell, Deft Parodist of Operatic Culture, Dies at 94

New York Times

Published: October 20, 2006

Anna Russell, the prima donna of operatic parody who claimed to have begun her career as “leading soprano of the Ellis Island Opera Company,” who said she learned to play the French horn from an article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and who gave indelibly grating performances of a song she identified as Blotz’s “Schlumpf” to demonstrate what it is like to sing with “no voice but great art,” died on Wednesday in Bateman’s Bay, New South Wales, Australia. She was 94.

Her death was confirmed by her adopted daughter, Deirdre Prussak, in an interview with the Australian ABC radio network, quoted on its Web site.

Rest of obit

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1 Response to Anna Russell, Deft Parodist of Operatic Culture, Dies at 94

  1. Will says:

    I saw her here in Boston sometime in the 70s at Symphony Hall. The voice was definitely going and many of the comic points she had made vocally in her send-up of THE RING were beyond her. But the energy, exubrance and wit were still there in abundance.
    I remember that THE RING didn’t appear on the program. She announced its inclusion saying that as she did this tour she always tried to get away without doing it but she’d always hear from someone in the audience “You ‘AVE to do THE RING–I brought me daughter!
    Strangely enough, the program isn’t in my archive that began when I was taken to my first Broadway show at age seven, How I let it get away from me I don’t know.
    She used to tell a story about how she chose her eventual career that’s quite different from the disastrous Santuzza episode or the facial injury mentioned in Rothstein’s obit. On stage she used to say “I studied at a famous Conservatory where some of the world’s Grrrrrreatest vocal teachers completely rrrrruined my voice!” In an interview, she said that when she took her voice finals before a faculty jury she was halfway through a selection when one of the faculty stopped her and said “If you’re going to sing like that, you might as well leave the stage right now.” She said she went into a depression for a week, asked herself what she COULD do with such a voice and slowly the idea was born.
    It is said that Wieland Wagner gave a memorable dinner party at Haus Wahnfried in Bayreuth during the height of his career and engaged musicians to entertain his guests with pieces such as Chabrier’s delightful “Waltzes, Polkas and Gallops on Favorite Themes from Tristan und Isolde.” He capped the evening playing Anna Russell’s RING parody for them.
    She was indeed a great lady.


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