Roberta Peters (b. New York, May 4th, 1930) is an American soprano best known for her long career at the Metropolitan Opera. Her parents recognized her vocal talent early and took her out of school at age 13 to study music full-time. Peters was mentored by Jan Peerce, studied voice with William Hermann and was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera at 19, without previous stage experience. She made her debut in 1950 as Zerlina in Don Giovanni as a last-minute replacement for Nadine Conner (her official debut was supposed to have been as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, two months later). By her 25th anniversary with the company she had given 303 performances of 20 roles in 19 operas, notably Gilda, Despina, Norma, Rosina, Oscar, Zerbinetta and Lucia. Later she attempted to broaden her repertory in lyric soprano roles, playing Violetta, Mimì and Massenet's Manon outside New York and performing in musical comedy. She performed at Covent Garden (The Bohemian Girl under Beecham, 1951), in Salzburg (Die Zauberflöte, 1963), Vienna (1963), Munich (1964) and Berlin (1971), and with the Kirov and Bolshoi companies (1972), as well as with numerous smaller companies around the United States. A singer of considerable charm and flute-like accuracy, Peters maintained the Pons and Galli-Curci tradition of coloratura singing at a time when the more dramatic attitudes of Callas and, later, Sutherland were in vogue. She recorded several of her most successful roles, including Zerbinetta and Rosina with Leinsdorf and the Queen of Night with Böhm.
In addition to her career in opera, Peters made frequent concert appearances in piano-vocal recitals or with orchestras. She also had an active career in television, making frequent appearances on the Voice of Firestone opera program and The Ed Sullivan Show, among other variety shows of the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s she appeared on the Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin shows, the Captain Kangaroo program for children, and acted in the programs One Life To Live and Medical Center. She also hosted arts programs for the Bravo Network. Peters also did charity work on behalf of Jewish organizations and the nation of Israel, including a performance for Israeli troops during the 1967 six-day war. She continued performing into the mid-1990s, and received the National Medal of Arts in 1998.
Source: Martin Bernheimer. "Peters, Roberta." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/21438 (accessed March 1, 2011).
From the guide to the Roberta Peters collection, 1881-1998, 1951-1998, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)