Dr Margreta Elkins AM 16 October, 1930 – 1 April, 2009
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Dr Margreta Elkins AM, one of the foremost mezzo-sopranos of the 20th century and an Honorary Life Member of Opera Queensland. A great supporter of our endeavours, Margreta or ‘Greta’ to her friends and colleagues, has recorded with many of the world’s most eminent singers and conductors including Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Tullio Serafin and Richard Bonynge. She has performed on all continents, was a resident principal artist with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for 10 years and had a voice that encompassed both mezzo and soprano roles. Greta was highly sought-after as a teacher, and dedicated the later part of her career and life to her students and the development of young voices. Her love of singing never waned and she could often be heard breaking into song at friends or as her voice drifted through the valley at her beloved property in Ammamoor.
Born in Brisbane, Margreta made her professional operatic debut singing Siebel in Faust at the age of 17. Upon leaving school, she won a State Government scholarship from the Queensland Education Department which enabled her to take lessons in singing, music theory, appreciation, piano and languages. At that time there was no Conservatorium in Brisbane.
In 1950, she toured Queensland singing Azucena in Il trovatore, Siebel in Faust (which she was later to record for Decca with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge) and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly. In 1952, she joined the National Opera company of Australia with whom she toured the eastern states as well as New Zealand. Sailing to England in 1956, she spent the next 20 years in Europe. Her first engagements there included the title role in Carmen with the Dublin Royal Opera Company and in 1957 she toured with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. At the end of that year, Margreta made her debut at Covent Garden as Amneris in Aida.
In March 1959, she made her first notable recording, singing Alisa to Maria Callas’ Lucia in the Tullio Serafin recording of Lucia di Lammermoor. She was to reprise this role with Joan Sutherland later that year.
In 1976, Margreta Elkins returned to Australia and in the ensuing years worked regularly with Australian orchestras. In 1983, she recorded Elgar’s Sea Pictures with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Werner Andreas Albert. She also played an active teaching role with the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. There was no cessation of activity for Margreta, who up until the end of 2008, continued to lecture and never stopped singing.