HELEN LORENE LAIRD
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LAIRD
HELEN LORENE


Oct. 24, 2018, age 92 years. A Haddonfield, NJ resident for 40 years, she was best known throughout the Phila. region as Dean of Temple University's Boyer College of Music. Her glorious soprano voice, how-ever, had been heard pre-viously in solo performance with the Philadelphia Orches-tra, which was among many of the leading ensembles through-out the United States and in Europe with which she sang during her career as soloist and in opera. She became known throughout the musical aca-demic world also for her administrative acumen, which resulted in her election as the first female officer of the National Association of Schools of Music, the primary accredit-ing body for college music degree programs in the United States.
Born in Harrisburg, Illinois, her exceptional musical talent became apparent from a young age. Singing opportunities came to her very early, and she matriculated at the University of Nebraska as a music major. Following a move by her family to Wyoming, she embarked upon and completed a graduate degree at Columbia University in New York City. After further vocal study and concert appearances in the United States, she went to Europe in 1953 and by 1954 had been engaged for leading roles at the Basel City Theater in Switzer-land. Appointments followed at Mainz and Kassel in Germany, and for 14 years she was a leading soprano, with perform-ances of major roles in over forty operas, averaging over a hundred performances per season. She found time to return to the United States for specific engagements. She garnered significant awards, including the first ever Blanche Thebom Award, the Laureate of International Competition in Geneva, and the Martha Baird Rockefeller Award for Vocal Performance. Included among her title roles were Verdi's Aida, Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Tosca, and Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and others. Important also were several Wagnerian roles, including Eva in Die Meistersinger and Senta in The Flying Dutchman. Favorites included Mozart's Countess in Figaro, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Chrysothemis in Richard Strauss's Elektra. A review of her Madama Butterfly in Kassel said, "She created the timeless destiny of Madama Butterfly with her acting ability, with conquering naturalness, and with full use of her dramatic and moving vocal resources. "Of her Ariadne, it was said in Frankfurt, "She unfolded a greatness of interpretation and bewitched the audience with her beautiful voice." Her reper-toire ranged from baroque to contemporary, with a partic-ular attention to American works, which she enjoyed sharing with European audiences.
Seeking to expand her teaching, she returned to the United States and accepted the post of professor and division chair of the opera and musical theater departments of the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where for a decade she taught and administered one of the country's notable university vocal and opera programs until accepting the post as dean at (Continued)

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Published in Philadelphia Inquirer/Philadelphia Daily News on Oct. 31, 2018.
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February 17, 2019
BILLY HERMANSON
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