Monday, April 14, 2008

Where I've been/CyberSing 2008

It's been a long time since I've posted. I've been working very hard on my various writings for children. I'm putting finishing touches on the ninth (!) of my picture books, and am on the fourth chapter of a hard-hitting young adult novel. :-)

And I did a recital at KHPR, the Public Radio Station in Honolulu (the tan has already fated from my pasty-white skin) and I am really excited about my latest performance effort: an evening of songs by Edith Piaf. Sounds weird, but believe me, it seems to work. I've tried a few out on three different audiences now, and the response has been tremendous.

But enough about me. I did want to post this information about CyberSing, the Lotte Lehmann Foundation's art song performance vocal competition. I'm not the publicist for the Foundation, but I am the vice president of the Board of Directors, and I'm dedicated to getting the word out (ever the proselytizing minister's son!)

In the meantime, sending all the best to my sometime readers. I do promise to get back on the blog bandwagon ere too long. There are so many great singers I'm eager to share with you. Just lately: Janine Micheau, Galina Vishnevskaya, Berta Kiurina, Rosanna Carteri, Hugo Hasslo, Francesco Merli... ah, the list goes on and on!

But for now, here's the press release:

The Lotte Lehmann Foundation has released the new rules, regulations, and dates for CyberSing 2008, its fourth biannual art song performance competition.

The stated objective of CyberSing is “[t]o recognize and award performance of art song by singers and pianists throughout the world.”

Entrants to the competition may enter in one of two Divisions: Division One, for singers 23 years of age and younger, and Division Two for singers over the age of 23. Prizes will include a Top Prize of $1,000 for the Division One winner, and a Top Prize of $5,000 for the Division Two winner. Prizes for best individual song performances will also be awarded in each Division.

Singers of both divisions will submit audio recordings of a range of art song repertoire, including German and French art song, a required song composed expressly for CyberSing by Larry Alan Smith, which is available for download exclusively at the CyberSing website.

In past competitions, entrants were judged exclusively on their submitted audio recordings of a prescribed art song repertoire. This year, for the first time, finalists will be requested to submit a performance DVD. The final round will be judged exclusively on these submitted DVD recordings.

The Foundation is accepting applications now through August 31, 2008. Finalists will be chosen by October 15, 2008, with a November 15, 2008 submission deadline for finalists’ DVD recordings. The winners will be announced on or before January 31, 2009.

Daniel Gundlach, the vice president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors stated, “CyberSing has always been a crucial element of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation’s activities. We are all thrilled with the new parameters of the competition, which will enable the judges to more completely and accurately evaluate the performances of the participants.”

Repertoire requirements and complete rules and regulations for the competition, as well as application forms, are available on the Foundation’s website: or at

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Rose is a rose is a rose

I've been away from the blog for a while. I did want to say a word about the passing of Rose Bampton. There's not much factual that I can add to the marvelous obituary by Paul Driscoll on the Met's site, but I might add a few comments.

Bampton is another of those singers who apparently crossed from mezzo to soprano. Gwyneth Jones, Grace Bumbry, Stephanie Friede, Faith Esham, Martha Mödl and Shirley Verrett come immediately to mind. I think it's more common for singers to make the transition from soprano to mezzo, particularly as they enter the final stages of their careers (La Rysanek, Helga Dernesch, Felicity Palmer, Regina Resnik). Of course Christa Ludwig, an exceptional case in more ways than one, mixed and matched mezzo and soprano roles at the height of her career. (For those who do not know her Ariadne, the soprano role she sang least frequently, I highly recommend digging up a copy, either of the studio or the live performance, either complete or excerpted.)

Those singers that make the shift from mezzo to soprano before one's international career is in full swing probably found it easier to maintain career momentum. So often those who make this change are judged harshly, as if they didn't know their voices well enough in the first place. But it is perfectly natural for a full-voiced mezzo with a good top to make this transition. I know a lot of singers who have attempted to switch fachs only to find themselves suddenly considered "unhirable". Ah, the great imaginations of so many company administrators! Don't even get me started on that.

From Bampton's Met debut as Laura in Gioconda on November 28, 1932 (an event which coincided with her twenty-third birthday), the brilliance of her upper register was noted. I am too lazy to look up when she made her debut as a soprano (I do know that it was as Sieglinde) but she did so easily and with great success. She is the Leonore on Toscanini's broadcast Fidelio and there is a live recording of her Alceste from the Met that used to be available in this country on Naxos. One can also find a live recording from Buenos Aires of her Daphne with Erich Kleiber. I was delighted to find just now that there is also a recently released Lebendige Vergangenheit issue on Preiser records. This issue includes some of the recordings that I have on my VAI recording of Verdi and Wagner which is apparently no longer available.

I knew virtually nothing of Bampton's singing until I obtained this last recording. Evidently these recordings were made in the spring and summer of 1940 in New York and Philadelphia. They were released as part of a series of "World's Greatest Operas" with the singers unidentified. When I first heard them, I was quite favorably impressed. It's a well-equalized voice of good size and not a little beauty. In relistening to this recording yesterday I found the Wagner excerpts to be much more successful than the Verdi. One can appreciate her patrician musicianship and her lovely voice, but in many of these recordings, I found something lacking. Driscoll states in his obituary that "her voice, though an instrument of impressive size and quality, lacked the final measure of charisma that marks a great star" and I would probably agree.

There is reprinted in the liner notes a marvelous story. Evidently Bampton was a great admirer of Lotte Lehmann and they shared more than a few roles. When Melchior and Bampton sang Walküre together, Bampton found it hard to completely abandon herself in the highly erotic music of the end of the first act. In Bampton's words, Lehmann once said to her, "'I don't think you know the least thing about love.' I told her, 'Well, I certainly do, but I don't have to go around advertising that.' And she said, 'That's where you make a big mistake. Every experience that you have in life, you've got to use when you sing.' She broke down that barrier for me."

Of the recordings that I have heard, the one that best illustrates Bampton's greater sense of emotional freedom is her Liebestod from Tristan from those aforementioned 1940 recordings. She doesn't quite match Lehmann's insane ardor, but it is a beautiful performance nonetheless, and very well-sung at that, superior to Lehmann's from that standpoint only.

One amusing aside: I have no idea if this is true or not, but it always made me laugh. Even into old age, Bampton retained almost preternaturally unwrinkled skin. She made a elegant old lady, that's for sure. A friend told me that it was said that she retained her marvelous complexion by going overseas (was it Switzerland) every summer to have chicken blood injections. So whenever I would hear her name, that was what I would think of. In going back over the past few days, I'm happy to say that I'll remember her for more than just the purported injections.

I am looking forward to hearing more of her recordings. And the next post I write, I am absolutely going to introduce at least one of three favorite sopranos I have been meaning to write about for some time now: Florence Quartararo, Rose Ader and Meta Seinemeyer. But now I see that hours have passed since I began writing this and I must fly! (There he goes...)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Adorable vs. Uproarious

I encountered two amusing things over the past couple days that I simply must share.

Being a great Lotte Lehmann aficionado (as well as a board member of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation... shameless plug for the foundation, I was searching on youtube for an excerpt from her single Hollywood film, Big City for MGM (which I did not find on youtube, but which I actually found on the Lehmann Foundation website (click on this link to view it in QuickTime... and DO watch the clip; her warmth and charm come through like gangbusters).

I also found this clip on youtube of footage from Lehmann's Australian tour in 1937 and it is adorable. Always wondered what a laughing kookaburra really sounded like!

Someone in my building has been discarding boxes of old LPs. I have retained a childhood fascination for the long playing record. There was something so satisfying about going through bins of LPs, a peculiar mystique that CDs cannot match. Anyway, there were some real treasures among those LPs, including a 1959 Maureen O'Hara album on RCA entitled "Love Letters from Maureen O'Hara" and a 1958 Abbe Lane album, also on RCA, entitled "The Lady in Red" with Sid Ramin's orchestra.

My two favorite album covers in the lot, though, were two on the Audio Fidelity label, both with Jo Basile, his Accordion and Orchestra. One is called "Cafe Italiano" and the other is entitled "Accordion de Paris." My scanner won't accommodate the entire album cover, but I was able to capture the essence of each and I hope they will delight you as much as they did me, particularly "Accordion"...

One of the best things is that they clearly used the same table and chairs for each photo (even though the table cloths appear to be different colors and the chairs may have been spray painted between photo shoots)! Just throw some sausages and cheese on the table ed eccoci, siamo in Italia. Merely replace with a bottle of wine and two half-empty glasses, et voilà, nous sommes transportés à Paris!

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