Stella Beder, one of the major contributors and shining stars of the South African musical scene over a number of decades passed away last month at the age of 88 and 8 months following a fire at her home in Melrose, Johannesburg.

Stella was a leading opera singer (Mezzo Soprano) with PACT for many years. Stella always recounted that she could not remember a time when she did not sing. She first sang publicly with her Aunt Ann Zulman at the age of 10 for soldiers returning from the Second World War. She went on to sing with the Jewish Youth Orchestra conducted by Solly Aronowsky at the age of 15. Stella undertook a legal secretary role in a firm of Attorneys and worked for Oliver Tambo who quipped with clients that while she was not the world’s best secretary she sang like a nightingale.
Tambo asked her to sing for him every day in the office. It was only several years after this that Stella began her illustrious opera career often singing for audiences of over 2000 people.

Stella played her first lead in the Gypsy Baron and went on to perform in a wide range of musicals singing in Night in Venice and playing Nancy in Oliver. She moved on to Opera , singing firstly as a Soprano and in later years as a Mezzo. She sang in over 100 performances of The Marriage of Figaro. Other Operas included Madam Butterfly, The Flying Dutchman, Nabucco, Jenufa, Peter Grimes, Hansel and Gretel, Cosi van Tuytte and Andrea Chenier. She also sang the Mezzo solo in Oratorio including Beethoven’s 9 th Symphony and the Bach B Minor Mass and Misse Solemnis.

Stella engaged in several recordings making 3 LP records including Yom Huledet, Days We Remember (Chag Vashir) and Let’s Make Music. She also formed and sang the Mezzo part in two popular vocal groups performing at private and public events. The first of these was “Music 7”. This was followed by the formation of a similar group, “Take 6”. The piano part was performed by her long term friend and accompanist Evelyn Green of Jewish Male Choir fame.

Over her 88 and a half years, Stella and her Attorney husband Ernest hosted numerous beautiful musical evenings at their family home “Serenata” in Houghton. Stella sang for charity on countless occasions throughout her life bringing pleasure to those young and old, continuing in recent years to sing for the “old folk” even though most of those for whom she sang were young enough to be her children!

Known lovingly as “The Fairy Godmother” she never had a bad word to say of anyone, always searching and finding the good in everything and everyone.
Stella will be sorely missed by her many fans, her cherished friends and her loving family. She leaves behind three sons Andy, Laurence and Brendan, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Above all she will be remembered as a selfless, loving and caring person, someone her children feel blessed and privileged to call their mother.

We all face challenges with advancing age, Stella’s being her mobility. When asked how she was, Stella would reply “we carry on regardless” and implore anyone facing difficulty to “take it in your stride.”


Stella wanted nothing more from life than to help others. She died of smoke inhalation following a fire in the middle of the night. May this be a wake up call to all those living alone, caring for family or friends or those charged with looking after or accommodating the elderly – to ensure that good quality, reliable smoke and CO2 alarms and heat detectors are installed at suitable locations to prevent this from happening again and to ensure that other families do not have to mourn the loss of a parent in this way. Stella would want this to be part of her legacy. With immobility, mental and physical frailty, the elderly are at particular risk should a fire go undetected.

Stella with her musical family – happily singing at the piano


  1. I will always remember Stella as the warm and always interested mother of my good friend friend Brendan. Although I am not the biggest opera fan, going with Brendan to see Stella in the Marriage of Figaro is something I won’t forget, as well as Brendan’s comment at the time that as a mezzo she gets to play all the witches, evil sisters etc.! Stella even tried including me in singing despite me being tone deaf, which she finally relented and reluctantly agreed.
    Condolences to Andrew, Laurence, Brendan and their families.

    1. Thank you Mark! Lovely memories. Wishing you and family well and hope to see you when you are next in the UK. Be well.

    1. Thank you Prof. Mom always remembered with great joy the time you spent together at the time of your respective engagements with your fine young men! Best wishes to Bev and all the family. Be well.

      1. It was such an homiur to know Stella..always the young soprano..lovely heart and spirit.

  2. A great tribute to a remarkable woman whom I remember very fondly from many afternoons at Seranata. My condolences to the family and wishing Stella’s children grandchildren and great grandchildren long life.

    1. Thank you for your meaningful message of condolence Matthew. Many wonderful memories during the KES years. Be well and hope to meet up soon.

  3. I will always remember with great affection she was my daughter in law Eunice, aunt and she will be greatly missed. My sincere condolences to her whole family. Lorna sarif

  4. Brendon I have only just seen this and am devastated. We spent so many hours singing together, shared so many tears in her flat and I looked forward to our Saturdays before Covid forced that to change.

    She never failed to ask about my children, my youngest has been asking when we are allowed to play games with her again.

    I can’t say enough about such a beautiful soul. She will be dearly missed!

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