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Thread: Marilyn Horne Beginnings in Bel Canto Question

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    Default Marilyn Horne Beginnings in Bel Canto Question

    I know she did the first of her collaborations with Sutherland as early as 61, but is this the start of her taking up Bel Canto mezzo repertoire. i know she was singing lyrco and lyrico / spinto soprano roles before the mezzo career began. I am doing research for a speech and Wikipedia is lacking. I do know she was to sing Lucretia Borgia in NYC perhaps at Carnegie Hall but bowed out with pregnancy issues and Caballe made a huge debut in the role.

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    According to the discography at the back of her book "Marilyn Horne: The Song Continues" (with Jane Scovell) her last foray as a soprano was Nedda in "Pagliacci" a live recording with del Monaco and Bastianini in 1962.

    After that she entered the Age of Bel Canto, Giulio Cesare and Norma with Sutherland and Bonynge in 1963.
    From that point on she seemed to change to a mezzo.

    (highly recommended book)

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    As an aside, I found it interesting listening to an early recording of Marilyn Horne (1959) here:

    The timbre of her voice was a lovely clear soprano - between that and the limited top I thought of Victoria de los Angeles.

    One of the later examples of her singing bel canto soprano rep is an aria from Donizetti's La Figlia del Regimento from, I think, 1964


    There are unusual turns like this Wagner from 1969 as well despite all the bel canto operas around this time
    Last edited by Revitalized Classics; Jul-04-2020 at 14:03.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    As an aside, I found it interesting listening to an early recording of Marilyn Horne (1959) here:

    The timbre of her voice was a lovely clear soprano - between that and the limited top I thought of Victoria de los Angeles.

    One of the later examples of her singing bel canto soprano rep is an aria from Donizetti's La Figlia del Regimento from, I think, 1964


    There are unusual turns like this Wagner from 1969 as well despite all the bel canto operas around this time
    Her Immolation Scene was not a top notch performance BUT I loved hearing her voice singing it. It would have been better if she had had the opportunity to sing it many times to polish the interpretation. She didn't always have those secure A5s as the voice shifted down by her middle years.
    I was hoping to find out what her breakout mezzo performance was, when the world got that she was a mezzo and a great one. Perhaps the early outing as Jocasta in Oedipus Rex??? Perhaps it was simply her great work with Sutherland, who was a known commodity by then.

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    I think that, as her voice matured, the center of the instrument shifted to the “natural” placement of the voice, and she didn’t have the same facility “up high,” though she still had a fairly easy stop.
    A lot of mezzos still can encompass “soprano” high notes, but that’s not the most comfortable part of the voice. Horne enjoyed her low notes, too. If you listen to her in concert, she loved to punch down to the low notes as much as she enjoyed going to the top of her compass. She would finish a cadenza singing a note in middle voice, portamento to a high B, then plunge down into her chest for the final notes, punching the last one. (See below, at about 5:07 for example)

    Last edited by MAS; Jul-11-2020 at 01:29.

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    I don't know all the whys behind Horne's switch to mezzo, but I'm sure glad she did. I still enjoy her coloratura mezzo stuff way more than a lot of later singers of the same material (and some of those singers I love quite well in themselves, such as Frederika von Stade and Elina Garança).

    Kind regards,

    George

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barelytenor View Post
    I don't know all the whys behind Horne's switch to mezzo, but I'm sure glad she did. I still enjoy her coloratura mezzo stuff way more than a lot of later singers of the same material (and some of those singers I love quite well in themselves, such as Frederika von Stade and Elina Garança).

    Kind regards,

    George
    I also like Ewa Podles a lot and the counter tenor Franco Fagioli is a dynamite Arsace. It is hard to tell how big his voice is but Podles had a huge voice.
    With Horne I suspect her voice changed after childbirth, which often happens. I don't know if we would remember her as a soprano, but boy did she make her mark as a mezzo!!!

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    Yep, Podlés is a monster (in a good way) although I wish she would keep her head still when she sings. Fagioli ... is still a freak show to me. (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?) Watching him sing is sort of like, hmm, well, best metaphor I can think of is a giraffe giving birth.

    Kind regards,

    George

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barelytenor View Post
    Yep, Podlés is a monster (in a good way) although I wish she would keep her head still when she sings. Fagioli ... is still a freak show to me. (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?) Watching him sing is sort of like, hmm, well, best metaphor I can think of is a giraffe giving birth.

    Kind regards,

    George
    Both are incredible singers you buy tickets up in the rafters for so you can minimize their movements. Fagioli is actually cute in real life.

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    I don't have her biography but what is unusual is that it wasn't just the jump from soprano to mezzo roles that was a big change when she left Germany but her specializing in bel canto operas appears to have almost come out of no where. I don't think she sang any coloratura soprano roles in Germany. Does anyone know about this? I think singing with Sutherland was her big breakout gig. It is strange that she became almost overnight a bel canto sensation!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barelytenor View Post
    Yep, Podlés is a monster (in a good way) although I wish she would keep her head still when she sings. Fagioli ... is still a freak show to me. (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?) Watching him sing is sort of like, hmm, well, best metaphor I can think of is a giraffe giving birth.

    Kind regards,

    George
    I don't know if she was this way from the start but I saw Powdles do Julius Caesar late and she almost break danced on the stage as she sang coloratura ( which was still wonderful). Great description of Fagioli. I LOVE listening to him, though. You know he is actually rather cute under all those grimmaces LOL

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    I don't have her biography but what is unusual is that it wasn't just the jump from soprano to mezzo roles that was a big change when she left Germany but her specializing in bel canto operas appears to have almost come out of no where. I don't think she sang any coloratura soprano roles in Germany. Does anyone know about this? I think singing with Sutherland was her big breakout gig. It is strange that she became almost overnight a bel canto sensation!
    Seattleoperafan, it was certainly not “overnight!” Horne sang with Sutherland in 1961’s Beatrice di Tenda, but didn’t follow through with another bel canto immediately. In 1965, Semiramide with Sutherland in Boston. She famously missed her next one in 1965’s Lucrezia Borgia, when Caballé subbed for her at Carnegie Hall.

    Covent Garden debut was in Wozzeck, 1964. La Scala in 1969 Oedipus Rex. Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera wasn’t until 1970 as Adalgisa in Norma with Sutherland. And she still did not become a specialist, or General Horne.

    In her future was still her 1972 opening night at the Metropolitan as a very butch Carmen - which was a substitute for the planned Tannhäuser, even more removed from the bel canto realm! She was so versatile that nobody could fit her in any slot.

    I think it was in the 1980s, after the Metropolitan Opera Rinaldo with Samuel Ramey in 1984 that she decided to switch - but I can’t be sure.
    Last edited by MAS; Aug-06-2020 at 01:48.

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    Well I have a fun story. I did a speech on her for my Toastmasters Club and not only was it well received, but the two cutest, straightest young men wrote to me and both said Marilyn gave them goodbumps. There is hope!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    Seattleoperafan, it was certainly not “overnight!” Horne sang with Sutherland in 1961’s Beatrice di Tenda, but didn’t follow through with another bel canto immediately. In 1965, Semiramide with Sutherland in Boston. She famously missed her next one in 1965’s Lucrezia Borgia, when Caballé subbed for her at Carnegie Hall.

    Covent Garden debut was in Wozzeck, 1964. La Scala in 1969 Oedipus Rex. Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera wasn’t until 1970 as Adalgisa in Norma with Sutherland. And she still did not become a specialist, or General Horne.

    In her future was still her 1972 opening night at the Metropolitan as a very butch Carmen - which was a substitute for the planned Tannhäuser, even more removed from the bel canto realm! She was so versatile that nobody could fit her in any slot.

    I think it was in the 1980s, after the Metropolitan Opera Rinaldo with Samuel Ramey in 1984 that she decided to switch - but I can’t be sure.
    Aren't you kind to write all that out!!!!

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    @Seattleoperafan, I was trying to find a performance annals on Horne, but there isn’t one. Your question got me curious, because her ability in coloratura roles wasn’t reflected in most of her repertoire until later, even after she met up with the Bonynges.
    She wasn’t known to have re-trained (a deceased friend of mine was a longtime friend of hers), but the coloratura facility is astonishing for someone who hadn’t been schooled that way. She sort of fell in to the fach, if it is even that.

    And I still don’t know!
    Last edited by MAS; Aug-06-2020 at 22:08.

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