Kolassi, Irma

Greek-French mezzo-soprano, b. 1918

Biographical notes:

She was born in Athens to a family of musicians who set themselves up in Paris a few months after her birth. Her first language was French, and her uncle, a violinist who studied with George Enesco, provided her iniation into music. Back in Athens around the age of eight, she took her first piano lessons from her grandmother, and then entered the Athens conservatory to study piano, where she carried away a brilliant first prize at the age of 14, playing Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel. At her uncle’s house, she met Dimitri Mitropoulos several times. He recognized straight away that she was an accomplished musician. As he was leaving Greece to embark on an international career, he recommended her to soprano Maggie Karadja. She went to Karadja’s singing class and was exposed to French song. The young pianist was overcome with  passion to sing, which led her to present a canzone by Tosti. Maggie Karadja was conquered and became her singing teacher and instilled in Irma Kolassi her unique and precise vocal technique. After three years of study, with the piano still playing an integral role, the jury decided to award her the first prize in singing for the year 1938. Without the benefit of a scholarship, Irma Kolassi left for Rome in 1938, where she took singing and piano lessons with Casella and Edwige Ghibaudo. World War II caused her to return to Athens and she appeared on stage. But she was not happy at the opera and decided instead to teach (she worked with Maria Callas about the role of Fidelio in 1944!). After difficult years she returned to France in 1948. From then on, her career blossomed. She worked with all of the great musicians of her day (von Beinum, Rosbaud, Monteux, Münch, van Otterloo, Krips, Giulini, to name but a few). She was also very successful in works by Schönberg, Berg, Mussorgsky and Stravinsky, not to forget works of modern composers. She became a well-known teacher and gave masterclasses in Europe and Japan.



Mélodies Françaises (by Duparc, Fauré, Leguerney, Bizet, Dalgroze, Martini, Hahn, Messager, Severac, Koechlin)


Chausson - Poème de l’Amour et de la Mer (Danco, Micheau)


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol. 4



Conoisseurs of French song know her and love her. She left behind only a limited discography. She recorded a magnificent Poème de l’amour et de la Mer by Chausson and fortunately, there is a portrait on the label LYS with French songs.

We associate “French Singing” with a clear, bright and forward tone; elegance of phrasing and diction, an equal concern for tonal beauty and eloquent declamation.

Irma Kolassi is a refined and cultivated singer. Her declamatory style focuses more on dynamics than color, and her expressive register, varied as it is, always command a nobility of tone. Her direct predecessors in this repertory had been Claire Croiza and Jane Bathori.

 L’invitation au voyage (Henri Duparc-Charles Baudelaire / 1957 live)