Rita Streich (December 18, 1920, Barnaul - March 20, 1987, Vienna) was one of the most admired and recorded light coloratura-and-soubrette sopranos of the post-war period.
Rita Streich moved to Germany with her parents during her childhood, where she grew up bilingual, something that was extremely helpful during her later career. Among her teachers were Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Erna Berger, and Maria Ivogün.
Her debut as an opera singer was during the Second World War at the Stadttheater (city theatre) of Ústí nad Labem in Bohemia, in the role of Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss' opera Ariadne auf Naxos. Three years later she secured her first engagement at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden (State Opera) in Berlin, where she stayed until 1952. In that year she moved to Bayreuth, in 1953 to Vienna, and in 1954 to Salzburg. Appearances at La Scala in Milan and at Covent Garden followed.
From 1974 she taught at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen and the Music Academy in Vienna. She gave master classes during the Salzburg Festival from 1983.
Her repertoire included roles in Idomeneo, Così fan tutte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Zauberflöte, Il Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier, Siegfried (the Forest Bird) and others. Since she had grown up bilingual, she could also sing the works of Rimsky-Korsakov in their original Russian without a trace of an accent. Apart from this Rita Streich was an active operetta-singer. She made recordings of many classical Viennese operettas, for instance Die Fledermaus, Eine Nacht in Venedig, Der Zigeunerbaron, Boccaccio, Der Bettelstudent, and Der Zarewitsch.
Rita Streich was brought to modern audiences in 2007 in the film "Mr. Bean's Holiday" when Rowan Atkinson lip-syncs her famous recording of Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" with the Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra directed by Reinhard Peters.