Irene Gubrud



Competition Winner

Born: January 4, 1944 (Canby, MN)

Died: November 3, 2020 (Huntington, NY)

Irene Gubrud (Finch), soprano, captivated audiences throughout the United States and Europe with the warmth and rich beauty of her voice, and her ability to bring fresh insights of musical and dramatic understanding to her performances. During her distinguished career, Gubrud, a First Prize winner of the 1980 Walter W. Naumburg  Voice Competition ,performed with the major symphonies  at the request of prestigious conductors such as Maazel, Boulez, Leinsdorf, Ormandy, Comissiona, Entremont, Shaw, Schwartz, and Slatkin. A much sought-after recitalist and orchestral soloist, she performed with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Cleveland Orchestra, as well as the symphonies of St. Louis, San Francisco, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Cincinnati, the National Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. In Europe, with the Stuttgart and Bavarian Radio Orchestras, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Holland, and the Symphony of Bordeaux. A recital tour in Norway included a performance at the Akershus Castle in Oslo, and at the Bergen International Festival. She toured East Germany with the Baltimore Symphony, the first American orchestra ever to play there during the time of the Berlin Wall.

As a winner of the Ford Foundation Program for Concert Artists, George Crumb composed "Star Child" for her which she premiered with the New York Philharmonic in 1977.

In opera, her debut as Mimi in La bohème with Opera St. Paul was hailed as "glorious" by the public and critics alike. She has performed Poulenc's monodrama La voix humaine often, a work first staged for her at the Central City Opera by Nathaniel Merrill of the Metropolitan Opera and Opera Colorado. Subsequently, she performed it at the Ravel Festival in France at the invitation of Pierre Bernac. Other operatic performances include evenings of Verdi arias and scenes with Sarah Caldwell of Boston Opera.

Engagements at the Lincoln and Kennedy Centers have been regular features of her many recital tours throughout the United States. She appeared at the Casals Festivals in Mexico City and Puerto Rico, as well as at the Meadowbrook, Summerfest, and Blossom festivals. She was an artist-faculty member at the Aspen Music Festival and School, where in addition to performing, she gave master classes in voice, and taught a course in how to reach optimal performing levels called "Meditation for Peak Performance."

Gubrud has served as a panelist for the Opera and Musical Theatre Program, and the Solo Recitalists Program of the National Endowment of the Arts. She recorded for Musical Heritage Society, CRI, Delos, and Augsburg Publishing.

As a voice teacher in New York City, Gubrud was a guest teacher at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, and  taught master classes in numerous venues, including Yale Summer School of Music and Art, Cincinnati College Conservatory, Minnesota Opera University of Wisconsin, St. Olaf College, Muhlenberg College, University of Minnesota, and Cal-Arts, Bakersfield. She was artist-in-residence at Washington University in St. Louis for six years, and was an adjunct faculty at Columbia University, Queens College (CUNY), and Brooklyn College Conservatory.

Gubrud received a Distinguished Alumni Award from St. Olaf College in 1981 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Concordia College (MN).

Excerpt from The New York Times review, October 27, 1981

Soprano: Irene Gubrud in Recital at Tully Hall

"In a time of general prosperity for the performing arts, the song recital remains a pocket of poverty. It is only in audiences that we are poor, however, not in talented singers. For that reason, the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation's vocal awards have become an invaluable way to encourage both artists and audiences to keep the song recital tradition alive in a time of shrinkage.

Monday night it was Miss Gubrud who was presented in an Alice Tully Hall recital in recognition of her sharing of the honor. In line with the Naumburg's policy, Miss Gubrud is anything but a novice. She has appeared with many major orchestras, and New York Philharmonic audiences may recall her as the splendid soloist in the world premiere of George Crumb's ''Star Child'' a couple of seasons ago.

For this recital, she chose a program that required her to sing in English, Russian, German, French and Spanish, in all of which she seemed quite at home. The English group hit its peak in Purcell's ''If Music Be the Food of Love,'' a florid charmer that Miss Gubrud floated through with the greatest of fluidity, sustaining the song's difficult profile in a way to suggest that she would be a brilliant exponent of Bach, Handel or any other Baroque master.

In an early Prokofiev cycle, ''Poems of Anna Akhmatova'' (Op. 27), the recitalist softened this composer's rather spiky melodies into a surprisingly Romantic and shapely line. Her voice, especially in the middle, has an attractive quaver that is not yet a severe tremolo, and a naturally intense quality that could convey the tenderness and ripe emotion in Strauss's ''Allerseelen'' or take on a monumental tone in his ''Ruhe, meine Seele.'' The folksy ''Fur funfzehn Pfennige'' got a little broad at the humorous climaxes, but the audience got its 15 cents' worth and enjoyed every moment.

Miss Gubrud proved herself an accomplished artist, and a remarkably mature one at that, in a program that stayed pretty well off the beaten recital path and did not offer many of the art-song repertory's automatic successes. An exception, and a big one, was a group of four songs by Obradors that used to appear on every other recital program. Miss Gubrud, dropping into a kind of cabaret style that was not inappropriate for these popular pieces, spun out the lovely ''Del Cabello Mas Sutil'' in a luxuriously warm style. Martin Katz was the piano accompanist, entirely secure and sensitive as usual." Donal Henahan


1980 Vocal Competition

First Prize

Commissioned Works

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Naumburg Performances

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Recording Awards

1980 Philip Naumburg Solo Recording Prize (Irene Gubrud)

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