|Year of Birth:||1924|
|Year of Death:||2005|
Nell Rankin (January 3, 1924 – January 13, 2005) was an American operatic mezzo-soprano. Though a successful opera singer internationally, she spent most of her career at the Metropolitan Opera, where she worked from 1951 to 1976. She was particularly admired for her portrayals of Amneris in Verdi's Aida and the title role in Bizet's Carmen. Opera News said, "Her full, generous tone and bold phrasing, especially in the Italian repertory, were unique among American mezzos of her generation.
Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Rankin was raised in a musical family. Along with her parents and siblings, Rankin grew up playing various musical instruments. She began performing at the age of four on the radio by singing for commercials. As a teenager she studied voice with Madame Jeanne Lorraine (a ten-year student of vocal pedagogue, Manuel Garcia), at the Birmingham Conservatory. In order to pay for her lessons with Lorraine, Rankin rented the Huntingdon College pool and spent her summers teaching the children of Montgomery to swim. Helen Traubel visited the conservatory to perform a recital in 1943. Determined to succeed in an opera career, Rankin went backstage and persuaded Traubel's accompanist, Coenraad V. Bos, to hear her sing. On Bos's advice, she moved to New York City to continue her studies with Karin Branzell. Her sister, Ruth Rankin, a soprano with similar ambitions, moved with her. An illuminating story of the Rankins is found in the biography of Jussi Bjoerling written by his wife, wherein she tells of Nell singing "O don fatale" for Maestro Bjoerling in their Montgomery home. Ten years later she knocked on his dressing room door at the Chicago Lyric to reintroduce herself as his Eboli for the evening.