Adele Addison Berger (1925- )

Adele Addison in 1955 (photographed by Carl Van Vechten)
Adele Addison in 1955 (photographed by Carl Van Vechten)
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Opera singer, actor, and pedagogic Adele Addison Berger was born on July 24, 1925, in Harlem, New York. Addison, a soprano, began singing and studying piano at an early age. She was also diagnosed with type two diabetes at the age of five, and her father, a physician, administered ongoing treatment. Upon graduating from high school in 1942, she received a scholarship to study music at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, thus earning the Bachelor of Music degree in Voice in 1946. In addition, Addison received a Master of Arts degree from Princeton University in 1948. She spent the summer in Berkshire School of Music at Tanglewood, Massachusetts, and in 1949, she continued her studies in voice performance at the Juilliard School.

While Addison was well educated and trained in opera and made many appearances with major orchestras, she preferred a career as a recitalist singing German Lieder, Negro Spirituals, and Art Songs. In 1952, Addison made her classical debut as a recitalist at New York’s Town Hall. In 1955 she made her New York City Opera debut as Mimi in Giacomo Puccini’s, opera in four acts, La bohème.

Addison was invited in 1956 as a soloist with the Howard University Chorale under the baton of the renowned conductor, Warner Lawson and the National Symphony Orchestra. She received a superior review for her performance of Samuel Barber’s “Prayers of Kierkegaard.”

Addison married Norman Berger, a research scientist and clinical professor at New York University, in a private celebration at the home of her aunt and uncle in Springfield, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1958.

In 1959, Addison premiered in Francis Poulenc’s Gloria with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. That same year, she sang the role of Bess in the film version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. In 1962 she premiered in Lukas Foss’s Time Cycle with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Throughout 1962, Addison was heard on many recordings, including the albums George Szell Conducts Beethoven Symphonies & Overtures and Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

The University of Massachusetts awarded Addison an honorary doctorate in 1963. In 1964, Rider University in Lawrence Township, New Jersey gave her the Alumni Merit Award. And in 2001, the Manhattan School of Music awarded her an honorary doctorate. Four years later, in 2005, her spouse of 47 years died.

In 2015 at the age of 90, Adele Addison Berger released her last album, Debussy, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Honegger & Barber: Orchestral Works.