Sándor Kónya

23.09.1923 - 20.05.2002


Sándor Kónya (September 23, 1923 - May 20, 2002) was an Hungarian tenor, particularly associated with German and Italian roles, especially Lohengrin and Calaf.

Kónya was born in Sarkad, Hungary, and began his vocal studies at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, with Ferenc Szekelyhidy. He completed his studies first in Detmold with Husler, then Rome with Namcini, and Milan with Rico Lani. He made his professional debut in Bielefeld, as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, in 1951. Some years he appeared as Alexander Konya.

Following engagements at Darmstadt, Stuttgart, and Hamburg, Kónya became a member of the Berlin State Opera, in 1955, where he created the role of Leandro in Henze's König Hirsch. A performance of Nureddin in Cornelius's comic opera Der Barbier von Bagdad, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1956, attracted widespread attention, and his career became more international in scope. Then came his stunning 1958 debut at Bayreuth, as Lohengrin, a part that quickly became one of his signature roles around the world. It was his debut role at the Paris Opéra in 1959. The following year came his La Scala debut, as Parsifal. The same year, his debut at the San Francisco Opera, as Dick Johnson in La Fanciulla del West, won him warm praise, it was followed by Lohengrin, Rodolfo in La Bohème, and Radames in Aida. His Metropolitan Opera debut took place on October 28, 1961, as Lohengrin. In fourteen seasons at the Met, his roles included Radames, Dick Johnson opposite Renata Tebaldi's Minnie, Calaf in Turandot, another signature role, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Max in Der Freischütz, Erik in Der Fliegende Holländer, Cavaradossi in Tosca, and a much appreciated Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, which he sang in a new 1964 production, opposite Joan Sutherland. Lohengrin was once again his debut role at the London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1963.

Gifted with a shining, spinto instrument, Kónya had an easy top register that allowed him to do full justice to the "jugendlicher heldentenor" repertory (Fach), while affording him the full plangency of the Italian roles as well. Kónya left only two commercial recordings, a 1963 Die Fledermaus, under Oscar Danon, and a 1965 Lohengrin, under Erich Leinsdorf, both for RCA Victor, but he can be heard in a number of live performances, notably as Edgardo, opposite Sutherland.

Sándor Kónya retired to Ibiza, Spain, where he died on May 20, 2002, at the age of 78. 

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