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(Image courtesy: Met Opera)

American Mezzo-Soprano Mildred Miller has Died, Aged 98

Miller spent over 20 years as a featured mezzo-soprano at New York’s Metropolitan Opera


Born in Cleveland, in 1924, Mildred Miller Posvar was the daughter of German immigrants, Elsa and Wilhem Müller. After graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1946, she attended Boston’s New England Conservatory and Tanglewood Music Center.

Studying opera with Boris Goldovsky, Miller made her opera debut at the Tanglewood Music Festival, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Before traveling to Italy on a fellowship, Miller married Wesley Wentz Posvar, a Rhodes Scholar studying at Oxford University.

In 1951, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro — a role in which she holds the Met record (67) for most performances. Across her 23 years at the Met, Miller sang in 338 performances, including 31 live radio broadcasts. 

She sang in 21 different roles including the title character in Carmen, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. At the Met, she was also known as “Legs Miller,” as she was cast in various “pants” roles.

Miller shared stages across Europe and the U.S. with acclaimed conductors and opera stars including Placido Domingo, Robert Merrill, Roberta Peters, and Leontyne Price. 

As a recitalist and soloist, she performed for audiences at the White House, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and other prestigious venues in North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

After she retired from performing, she founded the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh in 1978 and served as its artistic director until 1999 — the group continues today as the Pittsburgh Festival Opera.

She also taught at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music and gave masterclasses internationally. She retired from teaching in 2021 at age 95, but continued to attend board meetings, arts performances, and football games until last year, said her daughter Lisa Posvar Rossi in WESA News

A longtime board member of the Pittsburgh Opera and music advisory board member for the National Endowment for the Arts, Miller’s accolades included a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal. She has received honorary degrees from her alma mater, plus from Bowling Green State University and Washington & Jefferson College.

“[We] mourn the death of mezzo-soprano Mildred Miller, an admired and cherished artist who sang 338 performances with the company from 1951 to 1974,” the Met posted on Facebook. “Following her Met career, Miller continued as a major force in the opera world.”

Ms. Miller Posvar is survived by three children, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Our condolences to her family, friends, students, and colleagues.

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