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Subject: A bittersweet post from the past - Robert White and his experiences in opera
From: E J Michel <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:E J Michel <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 18 Dec 2016 21:53:24 -0500

text/plain (175 lines)

in memoria, r.i.p. robert
Subject: How old are you?
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 2010 06:02:13 -0400


I wanted to thank James Lamb for starting this thread, which as I write
this has 34
postings (you can search the archives with  "How old are you?" in the
Some of the people are regular posters, some less so, but unlike most
lists, the responses t say "How has opera been part of your life."  After
the recent
article in Opera News about Opera on the net, I've spent quite a bit of
time  with
our "competitors."  Be it Parterre or Standing Room,  each of the outlets
has its
own character, and  for the richness of knowledge of participants and
Opera-L holds up very well.

I'm 63, and my first operatic encounter was This is Cinerama at the age of
6.  For
years I thought  the Aida Triumphal Scene  was from Caracalla; as I read
from IMDB,
it is from La Scala, though no soloists are identified.  Maybe I should
track down
some histories of Cinerama to find out more; if it were Tebaldi or other
singer, we would probably already know.

My first staged opera was at 10 at an elementary school in Dallas, with a
truncated Hansel and Gretel, but the prayer stayed with me.  Next came the
class with Eoline Jack (still 5th grade) where she introduced our class to
courtesy of Spike Jones and his City Slickers (Carmen worked in a bubble gum

Though my family had zero interest in opera (discounting my mother's
affection for
Nelson Eddy, but no farther), my first  appearance at the opera was 1958
for Callas'
Medea in Dallas.  Lucky for me that I lived in Dallas 1946-1964,
1964-1977, and northern New Jersey 1980-;  the 1977-1980 time in Providence
bleak for opera.  And Newark has more than a few glory performances  under
from the 60s through the 90s which linger  for me.

The role of television was very great in those 1950s and 60s for all manner
"classical music"  which is unheard of today.  Jackie Gleason introduced
Kraus nationwide in 1962, and I already knew his name from my record
which began in earnest in 1960 with mostly symphonic repertoire.  Ed
Sullivan was
obviously working subliminally on us every Sunday night, but I want to
throw in a
mention for two orchestra series: Music from Chicago and a series of
concerts I
believe from Jordan Hall with the BSO; on these long before You tube, and
before I
was ever in Carnegie or Symphony Hall, I saw Beecham and Monteux more than
live up
to their reputations, and tracked down Monteux at Tanglewood.  To see the
who had premiered Rite of spring, Petrouchka, and Daphnis and Chloe in the
environment of Tanglewood was heady stuff for a 16 yo.

Radio played its part with the regular New York Philharmonic concerts on
nights (delayed from the live performance in the afternoon) as well as the
Met broadcasts.

Dallas not only had the final stage appearances of Callas in the USA; it
featured the Met on tour (my first Met  opera  was a tour performance of
Salome with
Brenda Lewis, Blanche Thebom, and Morley Meredith.  It didn't quite match
Nilsson Solti Salome on London  (later Decca/London)  with the inimitable
(covered in Opera-L) which had been issued 2 weeks before.  The Dallas
which had numbered Antal Dorati and Walter Hendl among its conductors got
Solti  After a tiff with Los Angeles because a board member had hired Zubin
Mehta as
his assistant without his knowledge, Solti made room for 8 weeks in 1962
and 3 weeks
the following season.  Glory concerts indeed.  Dallas regularly saw major
through the Community Concerts; there I saw the Bach Aria group with Jan
Peerce and
Eileen Farrell, but most memorably a recital with Regine Crespin and John
Wustman on
her first American recital tour where I was lucky enough to be the page
What an evening that was in the fall of 1962. Her Voice of Wagner record
has just
come out, and I was mesmerized.

Most traumatic experience was clearly the series of performances
surrounding the
Kennedy assassination.  Scheduled opera: Un ballo in maschera.  A few days
Jack Ruby shot Oswald shortly before the Carmen matinee (Resnik,
Filacuridi, Treigle) was about to begin.  A November 30 Messiah with
Mancini (mezzo arias in English!!!), Vickers, Treigle brought closure to a

First Met opera in the old house.  New Production premiere of Samson et
Dalila in
1964  with Rita Gorr, Jess Thomas, and Gabriel Bacquier under Pretre.
Bacquier and
Pretre were making their debuts and the production by Merrill and O'Hearn

First Met opera in the new house.  Matinee of Frau ohne Schatten with the
spectacular original Met cast: Rysanek, Ludwig, Dalis, King, Berry under

Other special evenings:  Solti 3/4 Ring (it was spread over 3 weeks so
Gotterdammerung) at Covent Garden in 1970;  Marton with Solti in Elektra
1994 (went
to 2); Nilsson with Solti and Chicago in concert Salome; Simon Boccanegra
at La
Scala 1971 (3d performance of the legendary production); Bayreuth 1978
 with Chereau
Ring (3d season), Dutchman, and Tannhauser.  Many, many evenings in
Academy of Music, but especially the Crespin/Vickers  Walkure and
Ghiaurov/Kraus/Ligabue Mefistofele with the Lyric and Irene Kramarich's
Azucena with the Grand.

The special evenings don't come quite as frequently, but they still happen,
Messrs. Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, R. Strauss et al. guarantee encounters that
with remarkable music.

Sorry I missed Bjorling and Warren live (well Flagstad, Melchior and
Ponselle too,
but they would have required Mr. Peabody's Wayback machine), but I got more
than my
fair share of post WW2 singers, many at their absolute peak.


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