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Subject: Re: Helen Traubel: The loviiest Night of the Year (+ Farrel)
From: RAYMOND GOUIN <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:RAYMOND GOUIN <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 23 Aug 2017 23:09:04 -0400
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I agree with you fully as to Traubel's natural gifts.  Without distracting from the same, there was a significant down side to her career at the Met, as told to me by Francis Robinson who had to work with her for several years.  That is that she was one of the laziest singers that the Met ever had to work with.  To wit, whenever the Met wanted to schedule Traubel in a new or recuring role, they had to gird their loins in anticipation of fighting a pitched battle with her over her automatically responding by demanding cuts in the role.  She hated learning or restudying music; she hated spending time in rehearsal, and she did everything possible to avoid both.  Of course, her favorite target in this regard was Wagner.  Robinson facetiously commented to me that Traubel would have been most happy singing Isolde if she could have limited the role to singing the Liebestod at the end of the opera.  :)

As to Eileen Farrel,another great natural talent, Robinson advised that her significant downside was her total inability to take and follow stage directions.  No matter how hard or how long the Met tried, she was impossible to direct on stage.  Even putting supers on one or both sides of her on stage during performance to move/lead her to her next blocking position  (which was the Met's latch ditch effort) proved unsuccessful.  She was an immovable object when on stage.  It was for that reason and that reason alone that Farrel had so short a career at the Met.

To those of you who are not aware, as Assistant Manager of the Met for thirty years, Robinson was noted for his reticence in refusing to criticise singers (privately as well as publicly), even if they were no longer on the Met's roster. This further strngthens the import of his words and the depth of the impressions that these two singers made on him.

And then there was Helge Brilioth.  :)

Best.
Ray

***

> On August 23, 2017 at 9:01 PM Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> 
> Helen Traubel was plain and simple, one of the greatest voices of the
> twentieth century and one of the handful of truly great American singers.
> She had a rather strange career, mainly because of her nature - she first
> auditioned for Gatti Casazza in 1926 but turned down an offered contract
> because she felt herself unready.  She probably still felt herself unready
> when she finally accepted a Met contract to star in Damrosch's Man Without
> A Country.  Even her forays into Wagner seemed halfhearted.  She sort of
> fell into it because of Flagstad's return to Europe and Marjorie Lawrence's
> being struck down by polio.  She never received the respect she deserved.
> And of course, there was the contretemps with Bing.  He had the notorious
>  feud with Melchior and I don't think he was really interested in Traubel.
> When Flagstad returned, part of her agreeing to come back was her respect
> for Traubel and pointedly letting Bing know that she would not push Traubel
> out.  They shared Ring Cycles and Flagstad did Fidelio and Traubel sang the
> Marschallin.  Traubel herself was probably not interested in staying any
> longer, she certainly went out of her way to piss Bing off.  I'm sure she
> realized the top was continuing to disappear and in those days, star
> dramatic soprano's didn't usually become mezzo's or contraltos.  Very few
> went that route.  They usually retired.  In many ways, she was like Eileen
> Farrell. Similar voice types, similar personalities.  Both immense natural
> gifts.
> 
> Donald
> 
> On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 5:02 PM, Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> 
> > Call me an “easy” mark but Helen Traubel’s voice and manner in these
> > popular songs is Drop Dead Gorgeous – I expected more of a “shot and beer”
> > girl hiking up her skirts – but she never compromises the integrity and
> > grandeur of her essential gift.  There is the occasional misjudgment –
> > “Poor Butterfly ”  becomes “Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta voix…”   but even in
> > that case the voice is so opulent and the delivery so generous  you have no
> > choice but to give in.
> >
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