Dramatic coloratura soprano Rita Shane performed as Queen of the Night more than 250. When she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1973 in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, The New York Times noted her “powerful, precise, expressive, and intense” performance, saying it “left no doubt as to the Queen of the Night’s character.” A leading soprano at the Met for 10 seasons and 75 performances, Ms. Shane also sang at the Chicago Lyric, San Francisco, Santa Fe, New York City, and many other American opera companies. She made her European debut at Teatro Alla Scala in Milan in 1970, and sang at the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Opera du Rhin in Strasbourg, and a dozen other houses in Europe and South America.
Rita Shane was born on August 15, 1936 in New York City, and studied voice at Barnard College with Beverly Peck Johnson. She made her professional debut in 1964 as Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Chattanooga, and the following year appeared with the New York City Opera as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. With City Opera, she went on to sing in Dialogues of the Carmelites, L’amour de trois oranges, as Queen of the Night, and also Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.
At the Met, Ms. Shane replaced Beverly Sills in January 1976 in Rossini’s The Siege of Corinth and Verdi’s La Traviata, to excellent reviews. In 1979, she sang the world premiere of Miss Havisham’s Fire by Dominick Argento ‘58E (PhD) at the New York City Opera, the world premieres of Hovhaness’s Cantata and the complete orchestral version of Richard Strauss’s Brentano Songs, and sang in the American premieres of Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers as Hilda Mack, in Schat’s Houdini as Cecilia, and in Reimann’s Lear as Regan.
Ms. Shane’s repertoire also included Manon, Lulu, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore, Micaëla in Carmen, Musetta in La bohème, Oscar in Un ballo in maschera, Berthe in Le Prophète, and Giselda in I Lombardi. She appeared at the Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Glyndebourne, Perugia, Aspen, and Mostly Mozart Festivals.
Ms. Shane joined the Eastman faculty in 1989. She had also taught at Manhattan School of Music, conducted master classes, judged vocal competitions, and maintained a private teaching studio in New York City. She died October 9, 2014, after a brief, courageous battle with pancreatic and liver cancer.