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Subject: Re: Jeanette MacDonald (was Re: [OPERA-L] Kathryn Grayson, R.I.P.)
From: Sharon Rich <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Sharon Rich <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 22 Feb 2010 11:31:33 -0500
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May I recommend that you listen to Jeanette MacDonald's live Hollywood Bowl
Recital of 1948 before making a final judgment as to the "real" quality of
her voice. It was aired live on the radio and hence undoctored by Hollywood
technicians. The voice was far richer and stronger than detractors might
give her credit for. 

Also, I interviewed Rose Bampton, whose husband Wilfrid Pelletier helmed
MacDonald's Montreal opera debut. From my taped interview with Bampton (and
quoted in my book "Sweethearts"): "Pelle was surprised and impressed with
Jeanette....Pelle said she came so well prepared that she knew that role
perfectly when she got here for the rehearsals. Pelle had never worked with
anyone like that before. he said she was absolutely marvelous, he never
worked with an artist so eager to get things right. And he said she would
stop and say, 'Oh, maestro, that wasn't quite right, could we try it again?'
I never heard her performances because I was busy at the time, but if Pelle
said she was great, she was great. I would believe him over the critics. he
was very honest."

Regarding the quality (or lack thereof) of sound recording from her earliest
Paramount film, "The Love Parade" (1929), the film's music director Nat
Finston said the following: "Most of Jeanette's songs were sung live while
filming, recorded with hidden mikes. Sound film was still so new that
pre-recording and lip-syncing was unknown. We only pre-recorded one song in
'The Love Parade,' the 'Grenadier's march.' All the rest were recorded 'on
camera' or 'direct
recording.'....I loved Jeanette; I used to think to myself: 'That's the most
natural voice I've ever heard. Jeanette had a natural talent."

I don't discount the fact that her singing was weaker in later years. But
she wound down her own short-lived opera career in the late '40s due to ill
health, not inherent problems with her voice. She suffered at least two
heart attacks during that time period that I was able to document, as well
as miscarriages both in 1947 and 1948. While I knew from her sister Blossom that
MacDonald's heart problems began long before the public was aware of it,
imagine my surprise in reading one of her handwritten letters to an ex-beau,
Irving Stone. The letter was dated August 1929 and she noted that she was
still recovering from a heart attack. She was then 26 years old.

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