January 22nd, 2014
The West Virginia and Regional History Center has acquired a major archive of photographs of the operatic singer Frances Yeend, who substantially contributed to the cultural life of America in the mid twentieth century. In this collection of 300 photographs, we not only see Yeend costumed in the many operatic roles she rendered, but also her illustrious collaborators, including conductor Eugene Ormandy, tenor Richard Tucker, and composer Gian Carlo Menotti, among others.
Born in Vancouver, Washington in 1913, she studied music at Washington State University before debuting as a soprano. Between the 1940s and 1960s, Yeend performed in many noted opera roles at both the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. Her performances included Pagliacci, Turandot, Elektra, Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, Tales of Hoffman, La Traviata, Faust, Aida, La Boheme, Amelia Goes to the Ball, Tosca, and The Four Ruffians.
Early in her career she performed the role of Ellen Orford in the historic 1946 American premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, under the baton of Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood Music Festival. This opera is now considered a part of the standard repertoire.
Yeend studying the score of Peter Grimes.
Yeend then went on to become a member of the Bel Canto Trio with Mario Lanza and George London, a group sponsored by Columbia Artists Management. They toured North America in 1947–1948.
The Bel Canto Trio, Mario Lanza left, and George London right.
Yeend retired from her opera career in 1966, joining the West Virginia University faculty as a Professor of Voice and Artist in Residence. While residing in Morgantown, she and her husband James Benner became frequent visitors to the annual Pittsburgh District Metropolitan Opera Auditions.
Yeend retired from teaching in 1978, and passed away in Morgantown on April 27, 2008.
Yeend and James Benner — Illustration for a 1953 Etude Magazine article regarding vocal technique authored by Yeend.
Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.