Opera Scotland

Patricia Kern Suggest updates

Born Swansea, 4 July 1927.

Died Toronto, 19 October 2015.

Welsh mezzo-soprano.

Patricia Kern had a successful international career as a coloratura mezzo. In Britain she was particularly associated with two opera companies, Sadler's Wells and Scottish Opera, appearing frequently in prominent roles with each during a period in excess of twenty years.

She studied in London at the Guildhall under Parry Jones. Her professional debut, touring with Opera for All, came in 1952, and she continued her travels with them until 1955. She also worked with both Welsh National and Dublin Grand.

She sang on several occasions with the Handel Opera Society in London, her final role in 1976 being a majestic interpretation of Ariodante. Her debut with Sadler's Wells in 1959 was as the witch Ježibaba in Rusalka. Other early roles there included Hansel, Iolanthe, Pitti-Sing, Jill-all-alone, Orestes, Cherubino, Dorabella, and the Messenger in Monteverdi's Orfeo.

Kern had a particular reputation for Rossini roles, including Cinderella, Rosina, Isolier, Pippo and Isabella. She created the part of Josephine in The Violins of Saint-Jacques (Williamson 1966).

Her appearances with the Royal Opera from 1967 included Zerlina, Suzuki and Cherubino, this last being the legendary production that brought Kiri Te Kanawa's Countess to fame.

Among Kern's London concert performances was one for Opera Rara in the highly demanding role of Armando in the first modern revival of Meyerbeer's extremely Rossinian Il crociato in Egitto, conducted by Roderick Brydon. She also sang at Spoleto, Dallas, Washington DC, New York City Opera, Chicago and in Canada. She did not reach Scottish Opera until she sang Cinderella in 1969, but she returned regularly thereafter, as Hermia, Ottavia, Rosina, Lucretia, Mrs Grose and Geneviève. She created Aurelia in The Catiline Conspiracy (Hamilton 1974) and Kirstie in Hermiston (Orr 1975).

As a teacher, she worked extensively at the University of Toronto, where her students included a particularly fine group of baritones - Russell Braun, Gidon Saks, Brett Polegato and James Westman.


Kern's recordings sadly do not include any of her great Rossini roles. However she can be seen on DVD late in her career (1985) as Mrs Herring in Peter Hall's Glyndebourne production of Albert Herring. Kern can be heard as Jill-All-Alone in a 1960 recording of Merrie England. At Sadler's Wells she made studio recordings of Pitti-Sing (1962), Iolanthe (excerpts 1962), and Hansel (1964).

She later appeared on a group of operas in which she supports the leading American soprano Beverly Sills, with whom she worked at New York City Opera. These include Rosette (Manon 1970), Alisa (Lucia di Lammermoor 1970), Anna (Maria Stuarda 1971), Smeton (Anna Bolena 1972), Antonia's Mother (Contes d'Hoffmann 1972) and Albine (Thaïs 1976).


Her family have established a website as a memorial - www.patriciakern.com

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