The Australian soprano and wife of Rafael Kubelík has passed away at the age of 91.
The popular Australian soprano, who gave up a promising career after marrying leading Czech conductor Raphael Kubelík, has died in Prague at the age of 91. Despite her early retirement at the age of 39, Morison leaves behind a discography that includes recording the soprano leads in all of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s Gilbert and Sullivan series for HMV.
Born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1924, Elsie Morison studied in Melbourne at the Conservatory of Music for two years under the tutelage of Clive Carey. Her musical career took off when she was given the opportunity to be the soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic when she was just 20 years of age. Continuing her studies with Carey for two more years, she then transferred to the Royal College of Music in London.
Her English concert debut followed in 1948 at the Royal Albert Hall in Handel’s Acis and Galatea and she went on to appear in opera and oratorios throughout the 1950s. In 1953 she sang Anne Trulove in Edinburgh as part of the first British production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, making her Glyndebourne debut in the same role the following year. Soon after she became a part of the opera company at Covent Garden and sang there for almost a decade. A highlight of her career in England was her involvement in the English premiere of Poulenc’s Les Dialogues des Carmelites in 1958, alongside the young Joan Sutherland.
During her time in Europe she met the widowed Rafael Kubelík, the Czech conductor known for his resistance the Nazi Party during his time at the Brno Opera. The couple moved to Germany almost 20 years after the conclusion of the war in order to further Kubelík’s career as the newly appointed conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1961. They were married in 1963, at which time the 39-year-old Morison decided to leave behind her promising future as a singer.
Though her career seemed short lived, she leaves behind a store of recordings that are remain popular to this day; this includes Sargent’s HMV recordings of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. She has also been featured on recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, including Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, as well as recording Purcell’s King Arthur with London Philomusica and Beethoven’s Fidelio with the Covent Garden Orchestra and Chorus under Klemperer.
A clean, warm-voiced soprano with exemplary diction, British cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht described her as having a “quietude and humility that is rare among great artists.”