Roberta Peters has passed away at the age of 86. I first heard her voice on the Texaco broadcasts in the early 1960s, when I was in the earliest stages of my lifelong obsession with opera. She was also on the very first opera LP set I ever owned: an RCA aria collection which my parents had given me. Roberta appeared frequently on the Ed Sullivan Show during those years.
I first saw Roberta live at the Old Met; she sang Despina in an English-language production of COSI FAN TUTTE, and her co-stars included Leontyne Price, Rosalind Elias, and Richard Tucker. After the New Met opened at Lincoln Center in 1966, I saw her as Gilda, the Queen of the Night, Oscar in BALLO IN MASCHERA, Adina (with Pavarotti), and Norina.
My parents took me to Saratoga, where Eugene Ormandy conducted a concert FLEDERMAUS in which Roberta sang Adele opposite Hilde Gueden (Rosalinda) and Kitty Carlisle (Prince Orlofsky). While I was living in Houston briefly in 1973, Roberta gave a delightful recital there, singing everything from Donizetti to Debussy. I saw her onstage for the last time at the Met's 100th Anniversary Gala in 1983; she sang in the sextet from LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR.
Her recordings of Gilda, the Queen of the Night, and Rosina remain favorites of mine, and - even with Sutherland, Scotto, and Sills being among my most memorable Lucias - I still really enjoy Roberta's recording of the role, opposite Jan Peerce.