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History-Making AGMA President Passes Away

Published February 6, 2020   |  By Alicia Cook  |  Post in All Areas

Nedda Casei, who made history when she became AGMA’s first woman president, passed away on January 20, 2020. She was 87 years old.

"Though I never had the pleasure to know Nedda personally, her legacy echoes through AGMA," said Raymond Menard, AGMA president. "Not only did she make history as AGMA's first woman president, but her strong commitment to the musical arts and dedication to our union made her one of our strongest supporters even in the years following her presidency. She was beloved by her colleagues and will be greatly missed. We will continue to honor her memory."

AGMA file photo

Casei’s decade-long tenure as AGMA president began in 1983 and concluded in 1993. During her time as president, she fought for copyright laws to protect performers; worked on health care reform in Washington; and helped open doors beyond AGMA’s own membership to encourage foundations and private donors to help shape the Emergency Relief Fund, which culminated in the AGMA Relief Fund Million Dollar campaign during the 50th anniversary of AGMA.

"A vital aspect of Nedda's living legacy is the AGMA Relief Fund,” shared Linda Mays, former AGMA president and current AGMA Relief Fund Trustee. “During her historic presidency, and after, Nedda used her fame, her warm and generous personality, and powerful friendships to create an endowment which continues to provide a secure future for the Relief Fund, a safety net for AGMA members in need."

Additionally as president, Casei helped organize singing competitions and assisted in creating ties to Fordham University for Career Transition for Dancers.

“Looking back on my ten years as president, I am proud that we were able to build more communication across the country and a more cohesive union to [combat] the challenges that artists continue to face today,” Casei said during AGMA’s 75th anniversary in 2011. “It is the reason for AGMA. It’s the heartbeat.”

Photo by Beth Bergman (1975)

Prior to becoming president, the mezzo-soprano made her operatic debut at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in 1960, with her Teatro alla Scala debut that same year. According to her obituary published on OperaWire, from there she performed at a number of major opera houses including  the Teatro San Carlo, Prague Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Lceu, and the Metropolitan Opera in 1964, where she became a fixture. She appeared with the company until 1984 in over 280 performances. Throughout her time with the company, she appeared in such operas as “Rigoletto,” “Madama Butterfly,” “La Traviata,” “Salome,” “Andrea Chénier,” “Die Zauberflöte,” “Adriana Lecouvreur,” “Carmen,” and “La Forza del Destino,” among others.

Photo courtesy of Janice Arponen

Some of her opera recordings included “Cavalleria Rusticana,” “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore,” and “Madama Butterfly.” She was a teacher of voice, having been Visiting Professor of Voice and Opera Staging at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in Japan. She taught master classes at numerous universities, music schools, and festivals. Among her many accolades were the New York State Study Grant (1979, 1980, 1981), Outstanding Young Singers Award, (1959), Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation Award (1962–64), Community Leaders and Noteworthy Americans (1975–1976) and the Woman of Achievement Award (1969).

Photo courtesy of Janice Arponen

A celebration of her life is currently being planned. AGMA will share details as they become available.