Dorothy Cole, 71, renowned opera singer

Dorothy Cole was a Valkyrie, a witch, a goddess — and an opera singer who lit up the stage.

Ms. Cole, 71, who died Sunday (Feb. 29) in Seattle of congestive heart failure, sang in leading opera companies, including those of San Francisco, Boston and Houston, and toured with such superstars as Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland.

She also had a part in most of Seattle Opera's most significant productions during the 1960s and '70s, including the first Wagnerian "Ring," which brought in fans and critics from around the globe.

"Everyone loved Dori," said Monte Jacobson, a former chorus member (now on the opera's public-relations staff) who often shared the stage with Ms. Cole.

"She really threw herself into those roles. Dori had such a full, rounded sound — a very beautiful voice. And she was a wonderful colleague."

Ms. Cole was born June 25, 1932, in Waukegan, Ill., and graduated from Waukegan Township High School at 15. Afterward, while visiting Seattle-area relatives, she happened to meet — and sing for — University of Washington conductor Stanley Chapple.

"He gave her a four-year scholarship on the spot," said Jolly Miller, Ms. Cole's husband of 37 years.

It was at the UW that Cole first met Miller — whose older brother was the late composer and pianist Hub Miller. They did not marry until 1966 — when Ms. Cole legally became Dorothy Cole Miller.

As a young singer, Ms. Cole worked at Mount Rainier's Paradise Inn, where her accompanist was future Seattle Opera colleague Gordon Grant. The two entertained diners every evening, when the grand finale was "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" — performed while famed mountaineers Jim and Lou Whittaker rappelled from the ceiling.

In 1956, Ms. Cole bested a field of 101 young singers in the first Northwest Regional auditions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council, and she went on to win the Met's national auditions, launching her opera career. She won a Fulbright grant to study in Europe, and subsequently moved to New York. Ms. Cole then came to the attention of Sutherland, who invited her on a six-month operatic tour of Australia with Pavarotti.

"Every night, they went back to the hotel, and Luciano made the pasta, and Dori made the salad," Miller said.

"Much later, when Pavarotti came to Seattle, he found out Dori was in the audience, and he invited us back to the hotel — where he made the pasta, and she made the salad."

Ms. Cole's Seattle Opera career began in 1964 and included roles in such operas as "Lohengrin," "Un Ballo in Maschera," "The Flying Dutchman," "Gianni Schicchi," "The Barber of Seville" and "The Black Widow."

She is best known here for her Wagnerian roles, including three characters in Wagner's four-opera "Ring": the Second Norn, the Valkyrie Waltraute and the goddess Fricka.

Besides her husband, Ms. Cole is survived by her son, Jason Miller of Winthrop, Okanogan County, and her sister, Elizabeth "Megan" Cole — an actress familiar to Northwest theatergoers — of Nehalem, Ore.

A memorial concert, including many of Ms. Cole's musical friends (as well as goddaughter Erika Nickrenz of the Eroica Trio), will be announced at a later date.

The family has asked that any contributions in Ms. Cole's honor be made to the Dorothy Cole Miller Memorial Endowment Fund, and mailed to: Metropolitan Opera Northwest Regional Council, Chairman Dennis Dunn, 1120 Eighth Ave., Apt. 2102, Seattle, WA 98101.

Melinda Bargreen: