Phyllis Frankel

The Baltimore Sun

Phyllis Frankel, a widely known opera singer who taught voice for nearly two decades at Towson University, died of pneumonia Feb. 17 at Northwest Hospital Center. She was 82.

Born in Kingston, N.Y., Phyllis Levey studied piano for nine years and then began voice lessons. In 1943, she moved with her parents to Baltimore and graduated in 1944 from Forest Park High School.

She continued studying with Elsa Baklor and later with Metropolitan Opera diva Rosa Ponselle.

In 1950, at age 23, she made her formal recital debut at Cadoa Hall. A Sun music critic praised her "gentle flute-like tones" and said "she held the stage with dignity and composure."

During the 1950s and 1960s, Mrs. Frankel sang leading soprano roles with the Baltimore Civic Opera, now the Baltimore Opera, as well as the Washington Opera, Empire State Musical Festival and the New York City Opera.

She played major roles with the Baltimore company's productions of The Marriage of Figaro, La Boheme, La Traviata, Manon and Thais.

She also appeared with the Peabody Opera Theatre in The Old Maid and the Thief, a one-act opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, who also directed the 1959 production.

Mrs. Frankel made national headlines that year when, with a few hours' notice, she substituted for an ailing artist in the difficult role of Anne Truelove in the Washington Opera Company's production of The Rake's Progress.

During her long career, Mrs. Frenkel also sang with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Glee Club, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Peabody Conservatory's Candlelight Concert series. She also was a longtime soloist with the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

"Phyllis sang Violetta, Manon and Mimi, all of the really wonderful romantic heroines, and she did it with such grace and style," said Ruth Drucker, a Baltimore soprano and voice teacher who retired from Towson University.

"She was an impeccable artist who worked very hard at her craft and never wanted to stop learning music," said Mrs. Drucker, who lives in Brooklandville.

Mrs. Frankel was in her 40s when she stopped regularly performing. "She had two children and really didn't want to go to Europe to perform," Mrs. Drucker said.

In 1973, Mrs. Frankel joined the faculty of what was then Essex Community College, where she taught a class in musicianship and gave private vocal lessons.

The next year, she joined the faculty of Towson University, where she spent the next 18 years teaching voice and working as co-leader of the university's Opera Workshop program, which she had co-founded in 1976 with Shirley Thompson.

The Opera Workshop put on full operatic productions using university students.

While at Towson, Mrs. Frankel earned both a bachelor's and master's degrees in music.

"She was a wonderful artist who brought her professional stage experience to her position at Towson. She and Shirley expanded the Opera Workshop program and raised it to new heights," said James M. Anthony, who has taught music history at the university since 1971.

Bette Hankin, a mezzo-soprano and longtime Baltimore Opera member, was a friend of Mrs. Frankel's for more than 60 years and frequently performed with her.

"Phyllis was an outstanding singing actress who was always memorable when on stage," said Mrs. Hankin, a Pikesville resident.

A resident of Pikesville for 48 years, Mrs. Frankel had lived at the North Oaks retirement community since late last year

Services were Sunday.

Surviving are her husband of 61 years, Henry J. Frankel, a retired Baltimore attorney; two daughters, Judith Ann Lester of New Providence, N.J., and Madeline L. Frankel of West Chester, Pa.; and three grandchildren.

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