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Philip, thanks again for another insightful post. I've never heard of Irene Dalis & it's a shame that she has only one recording.


Yes, she had such a big Met career that it is surprising that only one role was recorded commercially.


Oh, Irene Dalis! I must say that first, I don't quite understand people who say the think her voice was unattractive. I really hear nothing ugly in the sound. I only think Dalis' Italian diction was weird, but what she does with the text and the music! This woman was out of control. As a rule there aren't many singers I actually regret not seeing live (what's the point of regretting being born when I was?) But Dalis is a singer I really do wish I got to see and hear live. As it is, her recordings will have to make do. Her Die Amme is astonishing - too bad they cut so much of her music in those days. I've seen 3 Amme's live: Reinhild Runkel, Julia Juon, and Jane Henschel. Julia Juon especially made a great impression on me, but I think today Dalis' interpretation could only be equaled by Dolora Zajick (if she ever got off her backside and did something adventurous.) Her Eboli and Azucena (she was Azucena at Price and Corelli's Met debuts) were also stunning. It's hard to imagine she even gave Isolde a go! I think she later admitted it was a mistake, but she wanted to see if she could do it. And why not!

I know some years ago a fire destroyed her entire personal collection of her own recordings and a friend was putting out feelers on the web from other collectors to replace it. I hope he succeeded!


Dalis sang her first Isolde in San Francisco on the night after her father died. It was one of those fateful timings that can throw the best-laid plans awry. Dalis agreed to sing as the whole thing was built around her, though she was obviously under deep emotional strain. There are recordings of it; I used to have it on reel-to-reel.

Irene Dalis had two other bits of bad luck in her career, the first being the canceled ELEKTRA in what would have been her only Met Klytamnestra; due to there being no viable substitute for the title role to be found that night, FIDELIO was substituted with Christa Ludwig in her only Met Leonore.

In 1972, San Diego Opera mounted the world premiere production of Alva Henderson's MEDEA for Dalis {the opera written expressly for her} but she was ill and after one or two performances surrendered the role to Marvalee Cariaga.

(As I recall, a similar incident took place in Sutherland's career when news of her mother's death reached her on the day of her NY debut with the American Opera Society in Bellini's BEATRICE DI TENDA.)

Robert Schlesinger

There is at least one more commercial recording by Irene Dalis, I have it here next to my keyboard: a 10 inch Telefunken TW 30168 with Carmen excerpts, sung in German, with Heinz Hoppe and Karl Schmitt-Walter.


Thanks for the note, Robert. I had no idea Irene Dalis had ever sung Carmen in any way, shape or form...that is exciting! Do you know what year the recording dates from?

Robert Schlesinger

According to http://www.operadis-opera-discography.org.uk/ (a very reliable source), it's from 1961.


Thanks for this lovely post about Ms. D's performance history. I've posted a link at Opera San Jose's page at Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/cxzhh2), so that other fans can enjoy reading more about her.


Irene Dalis was a supremely great singer and a wonderful human being. I take issue with fact that her top was not easy. it was and for that reason Lady Macbeth held no terrors for her. The intensity of her performances were matched only by the likes of martha Modl with whom she shared so much in common. Her Ortrud was second to none as were her Amme, her Fricka, her Eboli, and her Azucena. That she became a great teacher was no surprise to me. It simply affirmed in a very public way the generous spirit that I knew was there since I was very young


I heard a lot of tension in her upper range at times. She was usually able to hit the notes but not always with the comfort of someone who is truly at home in the higher range.

Overall, I believe her passion and dramatic vibrancy more than compensated for any vocal quirks that set in from time to time.

Steve Kerr

To the person from Syracuse (I attended S.U. and am originally from Binghamton)...I took the bus from Binghamton back in 1966 by myself and came back the same night. My mother wanted to have me committed, but I reminded her that I had written a paper on "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" at college and just had to see it at the Met, and I'm glad I did! I hate the new Met production, especially where NOTHING happens at the end of Act II. I own the only two DVDs of "Frau," and I prefer the Solti for conducting and no cuts, and the Swallisch for the very interesting staging, especially the exciting end of Act II, done entirely with flowing, undulating drapery. Yes, I thought Dalis was a GREAT Amme, but I also think that Dunn back then and Lipovsek now are also wonderful nurses. I'm very sorry that the Met chose to retire the 1966 "FRAU" because what they replaced it with is pretty ridiculous, and I only deigned to see it because of the score and Deborah Voigt. On the other hand, the Met's new "Helen" was quite incredible, especially the instant final transformation of the palace to an ocean liner at the end. On the other hand, when I saw the first even "Daphne" in New York at the City Opera, their ludicrous production almost made me puke! I actually wrote Paul Kellogg and told him that you shouldn't reinvent an opera that has NEVER been as far as I know in the USA except at the Santa Fe Opera, which now, under Crosby's successor, has apparently abandoned his practice of doing a Strauss opera every season. Also, the "Danae" a few years ago in concert with Botstein and Flannigan was pretty damned exciting; I'd love to see it staged, properly, that is...long live Richard Strauss and his incredible orchestrations!!!!!!

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