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May 14, 1909 - April 2, 2008
International Opera

Please scroll down for her many accomplishments in the obituary

"Another of Oconto’s daughters, Kathryn Harvey, became an important figure in grand opera.  

On the evening of President Franklin Roosevelt's third inauguration she sang in Washington D.C., taking the part of Fransquito in the opera 'Carmen'." 

George Hall - Historian

In Wisconsin

Lyla Kathryn Harvey was the daughter of Leslie C. Harvey (October 25, 1869 - October 28, 1948) and Nellie M. Perkins (November 24, 1871 - December 23, 1961). Her parents had been born in Wisconsin and married on June 23, 1897 in Oconto County. Her ancestors came from Connecticut, to Massachusetts and then New York states before migrating to Wisconsin. Leslie Harvey was a successful, long-time insurance agent and businessman in lumber milling companies. The family lived in the East Ward of city of Oconto. By 1900 Nellie's widowed mother, Julie F. Babcock, lived with the couple, and their first born, Clifford (April, 1899 - also known as Lyle). 

Kathryn Harvey's maternal grandfather, John L. Perkins, was a wealthy farmer in 1870. He was 19 years older than his wife Julia. The couple were raising 8 children with the addition of Nellie, in 1871.  Grandmother, Julia, was the widow Perkins by 1880 and was raising her children as a music teacher in the Village of Waterloo, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Nellie was the youngest of the 8 Wisconsin born children; 7 living at home that year. Her older sister Frances also taught music.

By 1905, the Harvey couple had two sons, the second named Robert (1901 - September 12,  1981) , as well as widow Julia C. Babcock (occupation - land lady) , Leslie's widowed father John Harvey Sr. (February 12, 1838 - November 18, 1928) and younger sister Bessie (occupation - stenographer) in residence.

Lyla Kathryn Harvey, destine to become world famous in the performance, writing and teaching of classic opera, was born in the family home on Main Street in the city of Oconto, May 14, 1909. Grandmother Julia was almost certainly a major influence on the young girl since she was a professional music and voice instructor for many years before living with the Harvey family in Oconto. At this time, Oconto County was richly adding significant talent to a vast variety of performing and graphic arts.

Kathryn Harvey retained her Wisconsin ties, often speaking of her Oconto childhood.  Until 3 years before her death, she visited family each year in Wisconsin.

Adult Life

As an outstanding international talent, Kathryn Harvey acquired a great many friends in her active years. One close friend and student was Ph. D. John Frykman who attended her until death.  He describes a charming, youthful looking woman who was always filled with energy. Standing a tiny 5 feet 1 inches in height with dark hair, once the the music began, she was an imposing figure. Kathryn Harvey had a good sense of humor, was social and independent, driving her car until age 94 and singing until her death. In her later years she used email with the address "High C".  At the age of 95 years, she moved into assisted living after living independently her entire adult life. Katheryn Harvey experienced a health crisis at the end of her days.

She gave private voice lessons during which she developed unusual ways to help her students sing better, often saving their voices in the process. 

Arturo Toscanini
Born March 25, 1867
 in Parma, Italy
Died January 16, 1957
in New York, NY

Kathryn Harvey performed with the New York Philharmonic in radio broadcasts, under the direction of the renowned Arturo Toscanini.  At Covent Gardens in London, England, she was asked to substitute only days before the opening of Der Rosenkavalier (English title: The Knight of the Rose) by Richard Strauss. She performed the part in German to rave reviews. At another time in post World War II Germany, she sang the part of Bess from "Porgy and Bess" in German.  

The movies in Hollywood, California, used her voice as the lead soprano of the all girl orchestra in 1945's "Here Come the Co-eds". She also sang in the 1960 movie "Song Without End", about the tumultuous life of composer Franz Liszt.


Kathryn Harvey performed numerous leading roles in Europe's major opera houses for 30 years; performed in oratorio and lieder; taught at the State Conservatory in Nurmberg, Germany; recorded in Zurich; taught masters classes at the University of Iowa; was part of the faculty at  San Francisco State University in California and Dominican University in San Rafeal. She  was an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Associa­tion of Teachers of Singing as well as giving private voice lessons.Working with the University of Alaska Arts Festival, in 1982 Kathryn Harvey also began years of work to help establish, teach workshops and coordinate the Opera and Musical Theatre Program for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival in Alaska.

Kathryn Harvey was auditions judge for Metropolitan Opera, in New York.

She had committed,  to memory,  more than 150 operas, and could sing then until her death just one week short of her 99th birthday. 

From the "International Journal of Opera" in 1965 (translated from German):

"......born in Wisconsin, USA,  Kathryn Harvey has already dedicated  years of serious study to music, playing piano and violin, and even further study with outstanding teachers in singing, composition and directing.

She graduated from Northwestern University earning a Baccalaureate of Arts Degree.  After a state examination, she was allowed to direct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performing her own composition. With this beginning, her difficult vocational  struggle began; starting as a piano accompanist and organist, then, after completing advanced studies,  as a brilliant lyric Coloratura Soprano in broadcast, films and stage performance in concert halls, as well as for record production.

She sang in New York and in the most prestigious cities of North America under the direction of Toscanini and Bruno Walter;  later in Covent Garden, London, under Kleiber and Klemperer. From there she came to Zurich, then over to Wiesbaden, Mannheim, Frankfurt/M. and Amsterdam; on to Wien, Munich,  and finally on the impressive stage at Nurnberg, Furth.

Today KH (Kathryn Harvey) has accomplished a repertoire of  the parts, numbering almost 100 different characters, of which she has sung over 70 on stage.

Her gift is the outstanding quality and modulation rich voice. Above all, however, one finds a core of powerful lung capacity and mature organizational strength that predestinates her for exceptional song and oratorio singing. In song, Europe became her new homeland. 

Apart from an expanded Brunen, and concert activity Kathryn Harvey, with enthusiasm and outstanding success, has overseen (taught) a training class for solo singing over some years, at the prestigious conservatoire of the Music -  Nuremberg."


Grandparents of (Lyla) Kathryn Harvey

John Harvey Sr.     
    born: February 12, 1838 in New York
    died: November 18, 1928 in Wisconsin, 
    buried: Evergreen Cemetery, Oconto, Wisconsin
+ Martha ?
    born: June 16, 1845 in Massachusetts
    died: October 17, 1902
    buried: Evergreen Cemetery, Oconto, Wisconsin


John L. Perkins
    born: 1810 in Massachusetts
    died: between 1871 and 1880 in Jefferson County,
+ Julia F. ?  Perkins Babcock
    born: August 23, 1829 in New York

Parents of (Lyla) Kathryn Harvey


 Leslie C.
     born: October 25, 1869 in Brown County, Wisconsin
     died: October 28, 1948 in  Oconto, Wisconsin
June 23, 1897 in Oconto County
Nellie M. Perkins
     born: November 24, 1871  - Jefferson County, Wisconsin
     died: December 23, 1961 -  Oconto, Wisconsin

Children: all born in Oconto, Wisconsin 
Clifford (April, 1899 - also known as Lyle)
Robert C.  (1901 - September 12,  1981)
Lyla Kathryn (May 14, 1909 - April 2, 2008) 
John Jr. (1917 - )

Career Photographs

Please left click on each photograph for a full size view:

contributed by Aimee Puentes

contributed by Aimee Puentes

contributed by Aimee Puentes

Please left click on each photograph for a full size view:

contributed by John Frykman

Photo from the
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival 1984
contributed by Jo Ryman Scott - Founder and Executive Director
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival - Opera and Musical Theater Program 2008
dedication to Kathryn Harvey's years of work.

Photo contributed by Aimee Puentes

Performance Photographs

Please left click on each photograph for a full size view:

contributed by Aimee Puentes

contributed by Aimee Puentes

contributed by Aimee Puentes

Abduction from the Seraglio

contributed by Aimee Puentes

Cosi Fan Tutte

contributed by Aimee Puentes


contributed by Aimee Puentes

Julius Caesar

contributed by Aimee Puentes

Pelleas and Melisande

Photo  contributed by Aimee Puentes

Madama Butterfly

contributed by John Frykman

Brochure From Germany
in German
Please left click on each photograph for a full size view:

Kathryn Harvey 
May 14, 1909 - April 2, 2008

A regaled soprano at European Opera houses and treasured mentor of (San Fransico) Bay Area singers, Kathryn Harvey has died, just short of her 99th birthday.

Having devoted her­self to music since child­hood in Oconto, WI, Lyla Kathryn Harvey earned a degree from Northwest­ern University in compo­sition, conducting, and voice, and conducted the Chicago Symphony in a performance of her com­position. Launching her singing career in New York City, she got important exposure at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and sang under such notables as Toscanini and Bruno Walter.

With her lyric, colora­tura versatility and dra­matic flair, Kathryn mas­tered 100 operatic roles, singing throughout north­ern Europe for some 30 years. Primary tenures were at Zurich, Frankfort, Nurnberg, and Munich, also Paris and Covent Garden, where she sang under Kleiber, Klemperer and Stravinsky. She also performed regularly in oratorio and lieder, taught at the State Conservatory in Nurnberg, recorded with Zurich Radio, and appeared in two films: a biopic of Franz Liszt and an Abbott and Costello comedy. Returning to the U.S. for an extensive teaching career,

Kathryn taught at the University of Iowa, San Francisco State, and Dominican (San Rafael) Universities, and Fair­banks Summer Festi­vals for the University of Alaska. Always, she imparted her gifts with passion, generosity, and an indomitable spirit.

Kathryn is survived by her niece Ann Harvey of Oconto, WI; grand nephew, Jack Harvey of Newark, NJ, and his life partner, Al Burgermeister (both for­merly of San Francisco); and other great and grand nieces and nephews.Among many long­standing friendships, Kathryn especially cher­ished John Frykman and Cheryl Arnold, to whom she entrusted her needs for increasing care in recent years. Others who loved her with great gen­erosity include Bob Hirsch, Jim and Diane Hannum, and Carmen Zeni. Devoted former students Aimee Puentes and Devon Hard-wick stayed at her bedside faithfully, for her last 10 days. Thanks also for the good care from Aegis Corte Madera, Arcadia, Kaiser,  and Hospice of Marin.A celebration of Kathryn Harvey will be held on Sat­urday, April 26, 5:00 p.m. For more information, call (415) 387-1305.

 Memorial gifts may be sent to San Francisco State Univer­sity, Dept. of Music, 1600 Holloway Ave., SF, 94132; or SF Bay Area Chapter of the National Associa­tion of Teachers of Singing, c/o Audrey Howitt, 2840 Adams St., Alameda, CA 9450