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Subject: Norman Treigle (was Re: singers who should have had big international careers - but didnt)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Sun, 1 Oct 2017 23:06:04 -0400

text/plain (47 lines)

I was a bit surprised to see Norman Treigle on your list of "discoveries."  Of course, I'm glad 
you discovered him, but he was hardly unknown, being one of the most prominent singers 
in the United States for many years and the leading bass-baritone of the New York City 
Opera.  He was one of the greatest singing actors of his time, with a phenomenal presence 
on stage and a great, black bass voice - not conventionally beautiful, but powerful and 

He made major recordings of "Mefistofele" (IMO the cream of the crop for that opera), "Les 
Contes d'Hoffmann," and "Giulio Cesare."  He also sang in a production of "Faust" at Covent 
Garden in 1974 (his reception was mixed, as he was ill and had also broken a foot), as well 
as a semi-staged concert performance of "Mefistofele" at Festival Hall.  In his time he was 
one of the greatest performers in the world in the roles of Mefistofele (Boito), 
Mephistopheles (Gounod), the Four Villains in "Les contes d'Hoffmann, and Boris Godunov.  

He was an important artist in my operatic awareness, as I saw him in a number of his great 
roles in my early opera-going days in San Antonio, including Mephistopheles, the Four 
Villains, Boris Godunov (he was titanic in that part), King Dodon in "Le coq d'or," and 
Escamillo.  Alas, I never saw him as Mefistofele.  

Treigle was a truly great artist (people who saw his Mefistofele at the NYCO say it was 
unforgettable) but an unhappy man in his personal life.  He smoked and drank a lot and 
took a lot of barbituates.  He died at 47 of an accidental sleeping pill overdose, far too early 
for such a great artist to be taken from us.  Would he have had more of an international 
career had he lived?  Interest in him abroad was picking up in 1974, and in addition to 
Covent Garden he had offers from Rolf Lieberman in Paris, and also Karajan, who wanted 
him for a recording of "Faust" with Freni.  Also, the Met had been trying seriously to engage 
him since before Bing left in 1972 (Bing did not like Treigle's voice and generally had a 
snotty attitude toward singers who sang at NYCO, including Sills).  But Treigle kept turning 
down these offers for a variety of reasons, so who knows what would have happened had he 
lived longer?  Maybe nothing much outside of the U.S.  Apparently he did not like to travel.  

Recollections of Treigle on stage by those who saw him would be welcome, I am sure.


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