Episode 199. Tina and the Expats



If you’re like me (and I hope that, at least in this way, you are!) you have adored Tina Turner since you first became aware of her. In my case, it was circa 1971, seeing her perform “Proud Mary” on television. At the time I was a pretty snooty (and snotty) kid much more prone to Mahler and Britten than I was to pop music. But something about Tina got to me. And when, against all odds, her star rose again in the 1980s, I was once again drawn into her orbit. So when she died last week in Switzerland, aged 83, I was really thrown for a loop. For a week I racked my brains about how I could pay proper tribute to a figure who, as one of the biggest pop stars in the world, not only changed the face of music, but also of our culture in general. Normally I prefer to stay focused on an artist’s work, but in Tina’s case, her compelling personal story also commanded attention, and in a way the two are inseparable. As much as we rightly revile Ike Turner for his inexcusable abuse and torture of his wife and everyone else around him, he was also a musical innovator in the rock ‘n’ roll scene and one who, one hopes at least, recognized the genius of Anna Mae Bullock, whom he plucked from obscurity to assume the persona of his wife and co-creator. Even if his contributions are now irreparably tainted, it was Tina who was the lifeblood of that duo, and who became known as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. In my podcast I often focus on US artists, predominantly those of color, who chose to relocate to Europe and forge careers there. I have devoted a lot of time, space, and research to the Black opera singers who came here, but there is an equally fascinating story to be told about the pop singers of many eras and genres, who also chose to make Europe their home. Though this episode focuses primarily on Tina and some of the less-explored material throughout her career, I seek to contextualize her by also discussing the many African American singers, from Adelaide Hall to Joséphine Baker, from Donna Summer to Dee Dee Bridgewater, who either spent formative time in Europe or settled there permanently. Along with the aforementioned favorites, I also focus on lesser-known artists such as Beauty Milton, Vickie Henderson, Betty Dorsey, Salena Jones, and Bertice Reading (my latest mega-discovery). It has been cathartic and inspirational for me to create this episode; I hope it provides a similar experience for you.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 198. Cesare Valletti



Today’s episode celebrates the Italian tenore di grazia Cesare Valletti (18 December 1923 – 13 May 2000), perhaps the last in a lineage of Italian lyric tenors. Valletti studied under his illustrious predecessor Tito Schipa and rapidly conquered first the Italian opera houses, and then the world stages, with his small-scale but superbly produced voice and his spontaneous yet exacting musicianship. From 1953 through 1960 he was a mainstay of the Metropolitan Opera and also performed at opera houses and festivals worldwide under some of the greatest conductors and at the side of the greatest singers of his day. We hear a sampling of his greatest operatic roles, including duets with Eleanor Steber, Rosanna Carteri, and Maria Callas, as well as the repertoire in which – nearly unique for an Italian singer – he excelled: art song. The combination of his Italianate timbre with his scrupulous and imaginative musicianship makes for an ineffable and deeply satisfying artistic experience. He made five LPs of recital repertoire, including two live recitals from the stage of Town Hall in New York City, excerpts of which are all offered here. The episode begins with a tribute to the beloved Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Tina Turner, who died on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 197. Theatre Dreams



I’ve been plotting an episode on the subject of Dreams for a while. Given the profusion of music that references that altered state of consciousness, my challenge was narrowing down the topic. I chose to focus today on theater music (opera, operetta, and musicals) that references actual rather than figurative dreams. Even within these parameters, there was a plethora of material and as usual my repertoire choices are strangely and uniquely my own. So on this episode you’ll hear everything from a 1965 recording of Tevye’s Dream from Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, from the first Israeli production of the musical; Renata Scotto in late career essaying the haunted dreamscapes of Arnold Schoenberg’s monodrama Erwartung; Mattiwilda Dobbs in a rare 1952 recording of “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben” from Mozart’s Zaide; excerpts from unusual French and German operettas featuring Robert Massard and Charles Kullman, respectively; birthday tributes to Birgit Nilsson and Richard Tauber; and the great Welsh bass Geraint Evans in a live performance of Bottom’s Dream from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And much, much more, including a teaser of next week’s subject the Italian lyric tenor Cesare Valletti; and Janet Baker live in recital in 1966, a preview of the first in a series of bonus episodes that will feature rare LPs from my personal collection. As always, thanks for your support; enjoy!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 196. Grace Bumbry In Memoriam



This past week the world of opera was plunged in mourning at the news of the death of the unique, the irreplaceable Grace Bumbry (04 January 1937 – 07 May 2023), an artist equal parts daredevil and refined, whose artistry enchanted us for more than sixty years. In recent months many of us anxiously awaited news of her health after she suffered a stroke last October, from which she miraculously if temporarily rebounded. Though the news of her death was therefore not unexpected, it is both momentous and sombre in that it signals the end of an era. In October I produced a pair of episodes in her honor, the second of which, published exclusively on Patreon, celebrated her prowess as a Lieder singer. As such, she carried on the tradition and bore the mantel of the great Lotte Lehmann, her teacher and mentor; Bumbry said of her: “Lotte Lehmann will always remain for me the most important person in my entire musical life.” The episode features examples of Bumbry’s Lieder singing over the course of more than forty years, with a particular focus on her rare 1976 EMI release with pianist Geoffrey Parsons of Songs by Schumann and Schubert, which is heard in its entirety. Though I am bereft at her passing, I celebrate her mastery of a subtle and refined art form which formed the cornerstone of her artistry.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 195. Forgotten Broadway III



Last summer, I produced a miniseries of episodes on Countermelody entitled “Forgotten Broadway,” the third and final segment of which was originally published as a bonus episode for my Patreon supporters. This week, my last one for the moment in New York City, is a busy one, so I have decided to pay tribute to the city by publishing that third Forgotten Broadway episode for all of my listeners. As I was preparing the series last summer, I enlisted the input and expertise of my dear pal John Coughlan. Like the first two episodes in the sequence, this one is once again, a veritable potpourri of delights, vocal, interpretive, and musical. It begins with a tribute to birthday icon Carol Burnett, who, at the beginning of her career, appeared in two different Broadway musicals, the second of which, 1964’s Fade Out Fade In, is featured. Additional shows presented include, among many others, Salvation, Raisin, Mack and Mabel, Redhead, I Had a Ball, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Baker Street, performed by such favorites as Lisa Kirk, Melba Moore, Gwen Verdon, Robert Weede, Mary Tyler Moore, Rosemary Clooney, Liz Callaway, and Peggy Lee, alongside such lesser-known lights as Diana Davila, Walter Willison, Salena Jones, and Gilbert Price. In addition, there is the “added plus” [sic] of Bea Arthur delivering a comic monologue from the 1955 Shoestring Revue that will have you in absolute stitches. And just for the gays (and all those with equally good taste), Judy and Liza each stop by, Judy to deliver a Frank Loesser show-stopper, while Liza offers more of “A Quiet Thing,” from her first Broadway show Flora the Red Menace.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 194. Great Mozart Tenors



Today’s is a mammoth episode, one of my longest ever, so I suggest you listen to it in easily digestible segments. It’s mammoth because it’s a gigantic subject: great Mozart tenors of the 20th century, covering more than 100 years of recorded documents of the finest examples of tenorial interpretations of the big Mozart operas as well as some of his lesser-known works, including his concert arias. You will be dazzled (and that is a promise and a guarantee) by performances by Fritz Wunderlich (for many of us, the ne plus ultra of lyric tenors), George Shirley, Richard Tauber, Anton Dermota, Léopold Simoneau, Nicolai Gedda, Gösta Winbergh, John McCormack, David Rendall, Peter Schreier, and countless others, including lesser-known figures such as John van Kesteren, Kálmán Pataky, and Wiesław Ochman, and duets featuring Pilar Lorengar, Leontyne Price, Roberta Alexander, and Margaret Price. I also feature a peek into the future with a special salute to the young tenor Alex Banfield, whose work has impressed me enormously. The entire episode is dedicated to the memory of my friend Jerry Hadley, one of the supreme Mozart tenors of all time.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 193. Alexander Kipnis



If I were to indulge in the foolish task of dubbing certain artists the “Greatest Ever,” I would have little hesitation in naming Ukrainian-American bass Alexander Kipnis (1891–1978) “the greatest” in several categories: greatest Wagner bass, greatest low-voiced Lieder singer, just maybe even the greatest bass ever captured on recording. Though I am trying to wean myself of these designations, I have no difficulty in naming Kipnis my favorite bass. In this episode, his operatic impersonations, though legendary, are touched on but peripherally: the focus instead is on his contributions in art song, specifically Lieder. Despite his heavily-accented German (which to my ear only increases the power of his interpretations in songs like Schubert’s “Aufenthalt” or Wolf’s Michelangelo-Lieder), Kipnis was as keenly attuned to text and its musical setting than any singer of art song before or since. As usual of late in my episodes, I begin with several short contrasting examples that illustrate the “why” question: why was this artist so important, and why does he remain so? There follow a few all-too-brief examples of Kipnis in opera, including examples stretching back to his earliest recordings in 1916, when he was barely 25 years old. Then follow a further examination of Kipnis’s Lieder recordings, including a rare 1943 radio broadcast of Schumann’s Dichterliebe accompanied by Wolfgang Rosé, the son-in-law of Gustav Mahler, as well as recordings issued under the aegis of the Hugo Wolf Society and the Johannes Brahms Society, and his matchless early recordings of the songs of Franz Schubert, which were my introduction not only to Kipnis’s magisterial voice, but also the songs themselves. In all of this material, whether tender, ardent, humorous, or transcendent, Kipnis’s dignity and humanity shine through.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 192. Virginia Zeani: The Soul of the Voice



A number of significant classical and opera singers have died in this calendar year, and this episode pays tribute to three of them. First, James Bowman, the most significant British countertenor since Alfred Deller, who died on March 27th in his 82nd year. Second, Melitta Muszely, the Austrian jugendlich dramatisch soprano of Hungarian origin who died in her native Vienna at the age of 95 on January 18. And finally, a loss which reverberated around the operatic world with particularly poignancy and finality, the great Romanian soprano Virginia Zeani, who died on March 20 at the age of 97. While the focus of the episode is on Zeani, I also discuss the significance and contributions of Bowman and Muszely in detail, as well as offering examples of some of their best recordings. In the case of Zeani, I offer a thorough career and biographical overview, including excerpts from her rare studio recordings as well as live material from both the early and late years of her performing career. Also included are recordings by her teachers Lydia Lipowska and Aureliano Pertile, and her husband, the Italian-Russian bass Nicola Rossi Lemeni. And leave it to me to find a way of bringing three such disparate artists as Bowman, Muszely, and Zeani together at the conclusion of the episode!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 191. Music for Holy Week



Welcome to all listeners both old and new to the podcast! This week I am focusing on music related to the Christian observation of Holy Week: oratorios, motets, cantatas, songs and song cycles, even operas from Renaissance to contemporary, performed by a wide range of singers. Alongside podcast favorites Jennie Tourel, Roberta Alexander, Eugene Holmes, Hugues Cuénod, Mitsuko Shirai, Muriel Smith, and others, I also feature performances by recently departed vocal giants Virginia Zeani and James Bowman (both of whom will be foregrounded in next week’s episode), as well as the sublime British mezzo-soprano Diana Montague, who celebrates her birthday this week. We also hear her husband, the magnificent tenor David Rendall, as well as their extraordinarily gifted son, baritone Huw Montague Rendall, whom I was privileged to meet in Berlin this past week. We also hear a variety of settings of the 13th century Stabat Mater text from Giovanni Felice Sances in the 17th century to the more thorny twentieth-century idiom of the Swiss Frank Martin and the African American Julia Perry. Contemplative art songs by Schubert, Wolf, Hindemith, Finzi, and Andriessen round out the episode.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 190. Make Your Own Kind of Music: Verdi Edition



It’s time for my fourth annual April Fools Day episode! The first one that I published exactly four years ago, entitled Alternate Universe Bel Canto, has proven to be one of my most popular, and one that was the gateway episode for many of my most devoted listeners. Furthermore, this one came specifically at the request of one of my newest Patreon supporters (hint, hint to those of you who are not yet supporting the podcast there!) Instead of an overview of all those “outsider music” opera singers out there, I have chosen to focus in on three sopranos in particular whom I find to be the most original, entertaining: Mari Lyn (AKA Marilyn Sussman), Olive Middleton (AKA Olive Townend), and Natália de Andrade. Each of these women created her own platform. Mari Lyn was the Singing Hostess of the 1980s New York-based cable network series The Golden Treasury of Song. After a career in the 1920s singing roles such as Musetta under Thomas Beecham at Covent Garden, British soprano Olive Middleton became, much later in life, the lead diva of New York’s La Puma Opera Company, giving quixotic performances with that company well into her seventies (and well past her vocal expiration date!), performances that gained her a fanbase that included lead singers of the Metropolitan Opera as well as the fussiest of opera queens. And the Portuguese soprano Natália de Andrade (my favorite!) gained fame and notoriety in her native country and beyond for her self-financed recordings, particularly the late-career ones published in the 1980s, which gained her the grudging respect given to those most deluded of holy fools. And lest one think that this episode deals only with sopranos, I also give a nod to the raucous-voiced American mezzo-soprano Sylvia Sawyer, who appeared in the 1950s on complete opera recordings issued on the Capitol Records label and produced, incredibly, under the auspices of the Rome Opera. To be clear: though I find each of these deluded divas to be, each in her own distinctive way, hilarious, in the end, each of them earns my respect for her enterprising undertakings, her firm belief in her own talent, and her unique approach to tuning, phrasing, and language, here perpetrated exclusively on the music of Giuseppe Verdi, who must surely be turning over in his grave right about now!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 

 


Episode 189. Marni Nixon



Today, in another of my Women’s History Month episodes, I present to you the extraordinarily versatile, even chameleon-like singer and actor Marni Nixon (22 February 1930 – 24 July 2016), who is no doubt best-known today as the so-called “Ghostess with the Mostest.” Born into a musical family in California, she became involved from an early age with the movies, and by a marvelous set of circumstances became The Voice for a number of Hollywood actresses not known for their singing voices, among them Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Her skill in matching the vocal and speech characteristics of each of these performers is exceptional, but she was so much more than that. She pioneered the work of many 20th century giants, including Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Ives, and Anton Webern. She hosted a local Seattled children’s television program called Boomerang that netted her four Emmy Awards. She performed on opera stages and concert platforms around the world. She recorded widely, everything from Mary Poppins to Pierrot Lunaire, and in the mid-1970s was the first singer to perform and record Schoenberg’s cabaret songs, his so-called Brettl-Lieder, works that are now standard repertoire. She studied with Viennese soprano Vera Schwarz as well as the iconic Lotte Lehmann, and actively performed and recorded for more than 50 years. Her late career saw an extraordinary return to the musical stage, where she starred in both new work and revivals both on and Off-Broadway. Guiding us along the trajectory of her career is my good friend Thomas Bagwell, currently a coach and conductor at The Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, who was a colleague and good friend of Marni Nixon’s for the last 25 years of her life. His anecdotes and reminscences are interspersed with examples (often familiar, more often rare) of Marni’s vast recorded legacy, which give testament not only to her versatility, but to her flawless musicality and depth of expression.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 188. Sarah Reese



Greatness expresses itself in different ways. Sometimes in indisputable artistic talents, and other times in profound displays of humanity. And sometimes, as in the case of today’s subject, Sarah Reese, it’s both. The soprano, who just this week celebrated a landmark birthday, is a singer of rare gifts whose career encompassed some of the world’s greatest stages and concert halls who later in life returned to the region where she grew up (in Sarah’s case, South Carolina), to give back to the community as a music teacher and choir director, in which capacity she has positively impacted the lives of countless students who came into contact with her warmth, skill, and generosity of spirit. Earlier on in her personal saga, Sarah made history when in the late 1960s she was the first female Black student at Furman University in Greenville. Through her persistence, courage, and determination, she rose above the ostracism and abuse she experienced there to become enshrined as a legend, with the school’s theater recently permanently renamed in her honor. Though her voice and artistry were acknowledged worldwide, her recorded legacy is small, with only one commercial recording (Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard) which nevertheless won a Grammy award in 1993. It is our great good fortune that in recent years a number of precious live recordings have emerged that show quite clearly the range and extent of her gifts. I present all of them here on this episode: from a concert recording of Verdi’s rare 1848 opera Il corsaro co-starring legendary Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, to a broadcast concert with the Detroit Symphony led by Isaiah Jackson in which she sings Mozart and Verdi arias, as well as Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. The episode concludes with a recently resurfaced 1988 performance of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem led by Herbert von Karajan the year before his death, one in which Sarah Reese’s heavenly soprano bestows a comforting benediction upon us all. Blessings upon this living legend, and gratitude galore!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 187. Elly Ameling Sings Bach



An artist whose singing has been with me throughout my entire life journey is Dutch soprano Elly Ameling, who on February 8 celebrated her 90th birthday. Ameling was most celebrated as a singer of art song, and justly so, but another repertoire she performed with particular grace and aplomb was the music of the baroque, specifically the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. This, the first of a pair of Ameling episodes planned for this season, presents her exclusively in that repertoire, in live performances and recordings over the course of her career’s prime, from the mid-sixties through the mid-eighties. I have chosen to focus on three works which she performed frequently and for which we have more than one recorded example extant: Cantata 51, “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen”; Cantata 202, “Weichet nur,” the so-called Wedding Cantata; and the St. Matthew Passion. I feature extended excerpts from each of these works as well as a smattering of Ameling performances of other Bach works, as well a song once wrongly attributed to Bach, “Bist du bei mir.” Throughout this episode, Ameling’s key artistic virtues are on full display: a crystalline voice of ineffable purity; an impeccable vocal technique that encompassed long-limbed cantilena as well as rapid-fire coloratura; and a verbal acuity that, even in such technically challenging music, always put the words first and foremost. She is the ideal Bach singer, and, dare I say it, maybe the finest Bach soprano that ever lived.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 186. Roberta Alexander in Opera



Today it is with the utmost excitement that I bring you an episode devoted to one of my favorite singers of all time, soprano Roberta Alexander, who celebrates her birthday today, March 3rd! I remember first encountering this radiant voice of burnished silver back when I was in graduate school when I discovered her early recordings of art song, including albums devoted to Charles Ives and Richard Strauss. Over the course of a long and successful career she has sung in all major opera houses around the world and in concert halls under the batons of countless distinguished maestri. What is it that makes this voice so special? Alongside a rock-solid vocal technique that has allowed her to sing well into her seventies, she is also gifted with impeccable musicianship and staggering stylistic versatility. For me it is not only the unusual color of the voice, both shimmering and profound (the chiaroscuro!), but even more so, her dedication to communication through clarity of diction and razor-sharp dramatic precision that sends her into the realm of the all-time greats. This episode focuses on Roberta’s versatility and prowess on the operatic stage, featuring live and studio recordings over more than thirty years of works by composers from Handel, Gluck, and Mozart, through twentieth century masters such as Janácek, Gershwin, and Berthold Goldschmidt. We also hear an excerpt from one of Roberta’s favorites among her recordings, a rare 1982 live performance of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder. Speaking of Lieder, an upcoming episode this spring will focus on our diva on the concert platform. It was my great honor to meet Roberta in person when she was performing in Berlin in 2022 and therefore it is also to her as a friend that I extend my heartiest good wishes for a happy birthday. I had to remind myself not to fan girl as I was recording the narration for this episode, but I’m not sure I succeeded!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 185. Black Pop Icons auf Deutsch (Black History Month 2023)



There are advantages to being one’s own boss, and one of those is that when Frau Corona (AKA Madame Covid) comes to visit, one can reshuffle and recalibrate one’s plans to fit the exigencies of the moment. Hence today’s episode, a watered-down version of the larger topic (Black Emigré Pop Singers) which I intended to address today. Instead, I offer you many of your favorite Black pop artists of the 1950s and 1960s performing songs in German. Some of these are versions of chart toppers with new German words; some of them are songs specifically composed for these artists for the German market. The common variable of these songs, whether they are known or unknown, is that they are all delightful, and that one of those delights is seeing how these artists come to terms with the difficulties of the German language. Featured are jazz singers (Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald), pop groups (The Supremes, The Temptations) and solo artists (Nat King Cole, Marvin Gaye, Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, and Dionne Warwick). Ms. Warwick is further featured in a number of less-familiar classics by the late Burt Bacharach which she recorded not only in German, but also in French and Italian. (Say it with me now: Geh’! Geh’!… Geh’! Geh’!)

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 184. Eugene Holmes (Black History Month 2023)



Eugene Holmes (1932 – 2007), baritone supreme, should be remembered as one of the most significant voices of the Twentieth Century and a Black singer on a par with the most revered and celebrated. Though he participated in the creation of some important work (including by Gian Carlo Menotti, Gunther Schuller, and Frederick Delius), and performed with San Francisco Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, New York City Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera Regional Company, his career remained centered for more than thirty years at his home company, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. The rare recorded documents that we have of Eugene Holmes, including two self-produced LPs of spirituals and three different recordings of Delius’s rare opera Koanga (two of them live), reveal a voice of rare magnitude, range, power, and sensitivity, qualities which made him one of the premier Verdi baritones of his day. But due to a number of factors, including his modesty and his unwillingness to travel far from home, he did not achieve the international recognition that he deserved. I have pulled together all of the recorded material of Eugene Holmes that I could find, and present excerpts from these varied sources. Guest vocalists appearing opposite Holmes include sopranos Claudia Lindsey, Gwyneth Jones, and Barbara Carter, and tenors János B. Nagy and Giorgio Aristo. In the production of this podcast, I was greatly aided by reminiscences provided by his colleagues Bonita Hyman, the German-based African American mezzo-soprano; Stephen Harrison, the retired musical director of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein; and Heribert Klein, member of the committee of UNICEF Deutschland, an organization to which Eugene Holmes was deeply committed.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 183. Martina Arroyo (Black History Month 2023)



Last week on Feburary 2, the beloved African American soprano Martina Arroyo turned 86 years old. Although the Countermelody birthday tribute to Ms. Arroyo is a week late, it is nonetheless profoundly heartfelt. I have always valued the artistry and voice of this artist who often referred to herself as “The Other One” (because she was so frequently confused with today’s birthday diva, Leontyne Price). In preparing this episode, however, I flipped over into fan girl mode: was there anything that Martina Arroyo could not do? Of course she was celebrated as one of the premiere Verdi sopranos of her day (or, indeed, of the twentieth century), and there are ample examples on the episode that give testament to her supremacy in that repertoire. But she was also an intrepid performer of contemporary music, creating important works by both Karlheinz Stockhausen and Samuel Barber. Her performances of baroque music, while very much following an earlier style of performance practice, are vivid and insightful. Her affinity with French grand opera style is off the charts, as evidenced by an excerpt from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. She also could have pursued a path as a Mozart and Strauss singer, and selections by both of these composers prove her mastery of this genre as well. She also had the power to be a full-fledged dramatic soprano, as shown by her live performances of Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder and the title role in Puccini’s Turandot. And yet her subtlety as a recitalist is shown in live and studio Lieder performances. And the fervor and vigor of her performance of spirituals is a thing of joy. This episode is full of surprises but one thing is not surprising at all: the degree of dedication and commitment of this artist, which continues to this day with the performance and education initiative of the Martina Arroyo Foundation. (The episode begins with a brief tribute to Burt Bacharach, who died yesterday at the age of 94.)

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 182. Dorothy Maynor (Black History Month 2023)



I lead off my new episodes for Black History Month 2023 with one of the most glorious voices ever captured on recordings, Dorothy Maynor (03 September 1910 – 19 February 1996), one of the most glorious lyric soprano voices ever captured on recording. Discovered by Serge Koussevitzky in the late 1930s and championed by him and a host of other conductors (including Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy), she became renowned as a recitalist but, because of restrictions of the era placed upon Black singers, never sang on any operatic stage. Nevertheless, her studio recordings of arias by Mozart, Debussy, and Charpentier are legendary. Our appreciation of Maynor the singer is greatly enhanced by the presence of live radio recordings as well as a recently-issued live 1940 song recital from the Library of Congress. It is one of the great injustices of musical history that gifted Black singers of Maynor’s caliber from that era were outrightly denied the opportunity to perform in staged opera performances at venues like the Metropolitan Opera. Dorothy Maynor nonetheless persevered and left an incredible legacy, and not just a vocal one: in 1963, the year of her retirement from singing, she founded the Harlem School of the Arts, for which, before she stepped down as President in 1979, she raised more than $2 million dollars for the construction of a new facility for the institution. She also was the first African American singer to perform at a presidential inaugural (both for Harry S. Truman in 1949 and Dwight D. Eisenhower four years later), as well as the first African American to sit on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera. This episode features Maynor in live, studio, and radio recordings of repertoire by Bach, Handel, Schubert, and Mendelssohn, as well as some of the finest recordings of spirituals ever made. Also heard are the songs of three Black composers, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Cecil Cohen, and R. Nathaniel Dett, the latter of which Maynor studied with at the Hampton Institute, whose work Maynor frequently programmed on her recitals. The episode opens with a joyous birthday tribute to next week’s subject, Martina Arroyo, whose 1974 album of spirituals was backed by the Choir of the Harlem School of the Arts conducted by Maynor herself.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 181. Nicolai Gedda in Song



Today’s episode is a special request from one of my most dedicated listeners, and one with which I am happy to comply. It is already seven years this month since the death of the great Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda (11 July 1925 – 8 January 2017). One of the most cultivated singers of the twentieth century, Gedda not only had a rock-solid technique and an instantly recognizable timbre, but he was a brilliant musician and a polyglot of the first order, singing a wide range of repertoire and styles in a host of languages. He was also a prolific recording artist. Though he sang an enormous range of operatic roles, in this episode, I have decided to focus entirely on a slightly lesser-known aspect of his career: his work in art song. Gedda was a master of French style, but also celebrated for his performances of Russian music. And one of the three languages he spoke while he was growing up was German, which lends his work in that language a real authenticity as well. In listening to recordings of song repertoire, I was struck by the frequent added spontaneity and commitment of his live versus his studio performances, so the episode features a large number of selections culled from Gedda’s live recitals. Gedda is accompanied by some of the most exceptional pianists of his time: Alexis Weissenberg, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Gerald Moore, Geoffrey Parsons, Dalton Baldwin, Erik Werba, Hermann Reutter, and his compatriot and most frequent collaborator Jan Eyron. Another extraordinary aspect of Gedda’s singing was his longevity. We hear him in songs by Strauss, Berlioz, Schubert, Janáček, Duparc, Grieg, Schumann, Fauré, Respighi, and Gounod, recorded over a period of nearly 40 years. Here is another singer who was active into the twilight of his life and sang into his seventies with both the intimacy and clarion power that were his musical trademarks.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 180. Anna Moffo Reappraised



The Italian-American lyric coloratura soprano Anna Moffo (1932-2006) is, for many, one of the great singers of the past century. My first exposure to this artist was one of two, frankly, disastrous recordings released in the mid-1970s, in which the voice was a mere shadow of its former self, and in which her vocal defects and mannerisms had overtaken the intrinsic beauty of her voice. But there are so many exceptional qualities to Moffo as an artist, musician, and media star, that I felt compelled to do a frank reappraisal of her contribution to the lyric art. And am I glad that I did! I discovered an artist of great integrity who, in her best work, attained a similar level to any of the other great singers performing during that period. Unlike any other opera singer that I can think of, she conquered three distinct markets with equal success: first in Italy (where she rose to overnight stardom in the late 1950s and went on in the 1960s to become the star of her own eponymous television series); then in the United States throughout the 1960s; and finally, in the late 1960s and 70s, in Germany. But hers is also a cautionary tale of “too much, too soon” and the potentially destructive power of the media which has significance also in today’s opera world. Throughout the episode, live and studio examples of Moffo’s work, both bad and (mostly) good over the course of more than twenty years, are offered to support my discussion of her importance and influence as an artist, one that continues to this day. Vocal guest stars include tenors Carlo Bergonzi, Rudolf Schock, Giuseppe di Stefano, and Sergio Franchi, and musical collaborators include Tullio Serafin, Gerald Moore, Lorin Maazel, Hans Rosbaud, Fernando Previtali, Lehman Engel, Oliviero de Fabritiis, René Leibowitz, Kurt Eichhorn, Berislav Klobučar, and Franco Ferrara. For those who love Moffo, for those who hate her, and for those who find themselves somewhere in between, this episode is (dare I say it?) required listening.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 179. The Pop Stylings of Maria Ewing



A year ago, as I was preparing my memorial Countermelody episode dedicated to Maria Ewing I was struck anew at just how naturally she had mastered the often messy “crossover” genre. Perhaps that’s because she never “crossed over” at all: this material formed part of her essence. I thought it would be a lovely thing to give a more complete picture of her work as a pop singer, using three primary sources: first, her 1990 studio pop album entitled “From this Moment On,” featuring arrangements by Richard Rodney Bennett; second, a rare release entitled “Simply Maria,” which comprises a live concert she gave at the Barbican Centre in London in 10 May 1997; and third, live and studio recordings that she made in in the early 2000s with the jazz combo Kymaera, led by guitarist Simon James. The range of material is dizzying, from Broadway classics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Jule Styne, Harold Arlen, Cy Coleman, Kurt Weill, and George and Ira Gershwin to jazz stylings by Tom Jobim, eden ahbez, and Billy Strayhorn, with more than a few surprises along the way, and her mastery of it all is exceptional, with all of the intense commitment she showed in her operatic portrayals (and none of the condescension or preciousness associated with certain other crossover artists). I’m so thrilled to share this less well-known side of one of the great operatic singing actors of our time.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 178. Andrzej Hiolski



This week I have been tantalizing my followers with the promise of a tall, dark, handsome singer who was born on January 1. I shall keep you in suspense no longer: he is the great Polish baritone Andrzej Hiolski, born in Lvov in New Year’s Day 1922 and died in Krakow on 26 February 2000. I have known of Hiolski for years because of his association with the works of the late Krzysztof Penderecki, but I began digging deeper into his legacy a few years ago and was absolutely stunned at what I found: a singer with a near-perfect technique with a powerful voice with a slightly burred timbre characterized by both beauty, range, and subtlety of expression. I have been collecting his recordings for a few years now and have featured him at every possible opportunity on the podcast, including twice already in the current season. But this episode is devoted entirely to him and it may well serve, strange as it may seem for an artist who is so revered and treasured in his native country, as an introduction for many of my listeners to one of the great baritone voices of the twentieth century. The episode features recordings and performances, many of them exceedingly rare, ranging over more than 50 years, and includes music by Verdi, Wagner, Schubert, Mahler, Bach, Leoncavallo, Mozart, Tosti, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Giordano, but also a generous helping of music by Hiolski’s compatriots, including Karol Szymanowski, Frédéric Chopin, Augustyn Bloch, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Stanisław Moniuszko, Tadeusz Baird, Tadeusz Szeligowski, as well as, of course, Penderecki. Guest vocalists include the supercharged Greek-American mezzo Tatiana Troyanos and the delectable Polish soprano Alina Bolechowska, as well as the venerable Polish bass Adamo Didur, an early mentor of Hiolski’s. who now joins company with Jorma Hynninen and Gérard Souzay in the triumvirate of my favorite baritones of all time!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 177. Great Singers at Twilight



For the last episode of 2022, I begin a series of episodes which was one of the reasons I began Countermelody in the fall of 2019: a celebration of great singing from great singers in the late years of their lives and careers. In the early years of the recording industry, a long-retired artist such as Adelina Patti would consent to leave recorded documents of their voices for future generations to experience. Oftentimes a cherished artist will make a guest cameo appearance at an important event (think of Leontyne Price coming out of retirement at age 74 and singing “God Bless America” at the September 30, 2001 memorial concert at Carnegie Hall). Other times, artists like Johnny Mathis, Regina Resnik, or Helen Donath, simply never retire, but continue to bestow their artistry upon us decade after decade. Sometimes, as is the case of Lotte Lenya, a performer finds herself later in her life on a mission which demands that she resume performing, in Lenya’s case, as a means of securing the musical legacy of her late husband Kurt Weill. There is also, in the case of someone like Alberta Hunter or Elisabeth Welch, the thrill of a jazz or pop artist at the end of her life experiencing a career resurgence at the end of a long life. In the classical world, artists late in their lives can still give extraordinary performances of art song, which makes fewer demands on their voices than taxing operatic roles, while allowing full display of their deepened artistry and experience. There are also operatic roles specifically designed for the more mature artist: roles like Schigolch in Lulu, or the Countess in Pique-Dame, among many others, which are sampled here in performances by Hans Hotter and Rita Gorr, respectively. There are also those rare and exceptional artists who are able to perform movingly even into their nineties, like the Ukrainian bass Mark Reizen, or the verismo soprano Magda Olivero; or after having suffered catastrophic physical setbacks, like the German tenor Karl Erb, the African American baritone Robert McFerrin, or the pop icon Joni Mitchell. These artists (along with many others) and this topic seems deeply appropriate as 2022 draws to a close and we look forward to the inevitable challenges, the blank slate, the looming horizon, of the year to come.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 176. Helen Donath



Today’s episode is a celebration of the Texas-born, German-assimilated soprano Helen Donath. Very few singers can boast of a career lasting more than 50 years which yielded such consistently superb vocalism and artistry. Donath began as a soubrette with lyric-coloratura capabilities which blossomed into a jugendlich dramatisch voice capable of successfully assuming roles in Wagner, Strauss, and Weber. Today’s episode has two “gimmicks,” the first of which is that all of the selections are sung in German, even if they were originally set in French or Italian. The second gimmick is that strewn in amongst the other selections, there is a smattering of holiday-related material including works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Humperdinck, and Pfitzner. Other composers heard include Otto Nicolai, Friedrich von Flotow, Paul Hindemith, as well as numerous examples of Donath’s peerless Mozart singing and a generous helping of operettas by Lehár, Millöcker, and Johann Strauss II. Vocal guest stars are legion, and include Julia Varady, Siegfried Jerusalem, Anna Moffo, Peter Schreier, Edda Moser, Theo Adam, Werner Hollweg, and Günther Leib in performances conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Kurt Eichhorn, Rafael Kubelik, Herbert Blomstedt, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bernhard Klee, Otmar Suitner, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Gerd Albrecht, and Willi Boskovsky, as well as Klaus Donath, Helen’s husband since 1965.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 175. The Young Fritz Wunderlich



I’ve heard and enjoyed many a German lyric tenor, but if there was ever a greater one than Fritz Wunderlich (26 September 1930 – 17 September 1966), I’ve never heard him! What is it about this singer, who first of all, possessed a voice of such matchless visceral beauty, and who conveyed such joy and enthusiasm in the sheer act of singing, that cannot fail to engage us. My beloved “not-boyfriend” refers to Wunderlich’s voice and artistry as possessing more “face” than nearly any other singer in history, and I do think he’s on to something. The very simplicity of his utterance conveys a sort of “Everyman” quality to everything he sang. This, alongside the precision of his delivery of text pulls the listener in and almost compels them to listen. In today’s episode, I offer recordings from the 1950s, when Wunderlich was just beginning his career. His early musical experience centered around popular music of the time, and we hear him in this repertoire, as well as operetta, Lieder, so-called “early music,” as well as the more standard operatic repertoire (Mozart, Puccini, Strauss), the majority of which were recorded before 1960. His partners in song in this episode include names both familiar (Anneliese Rothenberger, Pilar Lorengar, Hilde Güden) as well as those who are less well-remembered (Trude Eipperle, Helmut Krebs, Herbert Brauer, Friederike Sailer) who nevertheless are equally memorable. As a tribute to the season, there are a number of excerpts from Puccini’s La Bohème, the first act of which which is set, of course, on Christmas Eve. If these selections alone do not bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye, you’d do well to check your pulse! The episode begins with a tribute to the late tenor John Aler (04 October 1949 – 10 December 2022).

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 174. Song of Songs



This week is a continuation of my memorial tribute to my dear friend and colleague Susan May Schneider, who died last week after a long struggle with cancer. Susan’s husband Gary, a composer and conductor, wrote a stunning song cycle for Susan using texts from the biblical Song of Songs, and this episode is bookended with their live 2000 performance of two of those songs. I supplement this with further material which all use texts based on the Song of Songs. This includes choral works by composers from Brumel and Palestrina, Walton and Bairstow to Penderecki and Daniel-Lesur; pop songs by India Adams and Kate Bush; orchestral song cycles, cantatas, and oratorios performed by Lois Marshall, Elly Ameling, Jennie Tourel, Leontyne Price, Eleanor Steber, and Suzanne Danco; and works from such surprising compositional sources as Stockhausen and Vangelis.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 173. Orchesterlieder I



This week is the first of a series of episodes focusing on songs with orchestral accompaniment. The genre is almost a contradiction in terms: the intimacy and textual focus of art song with the sometimes strenuous vocal demands of singing over an orchestra. The most celebrated and successful of such songs (by Berlioz, Mahler, Ravel, Barber, Strauss, and others) are heard over and over on symphonic concerts when vocal soloists are the featured guests. And rightly so, for they are among the most glorious classical music written for the human voice. Typically for Countermelody, however, today’s episode, however, will focus on repertoire and composers that are less celebrated to the point of being virtually unknown. Composers heard include Frank Martin, Alexander Zemlinsky, Jean Sibelius, Giuseppe Martucci, Franz Schreker, Othmar Schoeck, Antonín Dvořák, Alberto Ginastera, Alphons Diepenbrock and the two Andrés, Jolivet and Caplet, alongside many others, performed by such favorites as Gwyneth Jones, Phyllis Curtin, Peter Schreier, Gundula Janowitz, Yi-Kwei Sze, Mirella Freni, Francisco Araiza, Elisabeth Söderström, and Bernard Kruysen. Also heard are Helen Donath and Andrzej Hiolski, singers soon to be featured on their own episodes, alongside lesser-remembered names such as Arthur Loosli, Irene Gubrud, and Colette Herzog. Conductors include Kurt Sanderling, Antal Doráti, Herbert Kegel, Bohumil Gregor, Hermann Scherchen, and Lorin Maazel. I “guarantee” that your ears will be enchanted and your musical horizons will be expanded by this episode.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 172. Ned Rorem In Memoriam



Greetings to all from my former home of Manhattan! Upon landing here a week ago, I was greeted by the news of the death of Ned Rorem, the man previously known as “America’s Greatest Living Composer,” who just last month had celebrated his 99th birthday. Though he won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1976 for his orchestral work Air Music, Rorem was most celebrated for his vocal music, in particular his art songs. In this episode, I will delve into that aspect of his output, from his earliest published work to his extraordinary late masterpiece Evidence of Things Not Seen. The episode features singers who collaborated closely with the composer, including Phyllis Curtin, Donald Gramm, Beverly Wolff, Regina Sarfaty, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, Kurt Ollmann, and others. Many other singers were also drawn to Rorem’s songs, including Leontyne Price, Jan DeGaetani, Martina Arroyo, and Laura Aikin, all of whom are represented here. As celebrated as a frank and forthright diarist and essayist as he was as a composer, Rorem (like his British counterpart Benjamin Britten) had extraordinary taste in the poetry and texts he chose to set. In this episode alone, we hear compositions set to words of Sylvia Plath, Paul Goodman, Walt Whitman, Paul Monette, Theodore Roethke, Frank O’Hara, and others. The episode concludes with a tribute to another musician who died earlier the same day, the American collaborative pianist David Triestram, who accompanies his dear colleague and friend Roberta Alexander in Leonard Bernstein’s poignant and timely song “Some Other Time.”

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 171. November Birthday Gals



Tomorrow morning I leave for three weeks and I’ve been desperately trying to come up with topics that would be a bit easier to produce while I’m away. What could be easier than birthdays for this month and next? Well… leave it to your intrepid producer to make that as complicated as it could be. But there’s a good reason: so many exceptional singers have birthdays this month and next! In fact, November is so chock full of such artists that I decided to focus exclusively on the Birthday Girls. And what a lineup! Iconic divas like Joan Sutherland and Victoria de los Ángeles; tragically short-lived singers like Saramae Endich and the beloved Lucia Popp; forgotten artists like Kjerstin Dellert, Caterina Mancini, and Geneviève Touraine; exceptional Black artists like Barbara Hendricks and Marietta Simpson: all are represented. And let’s not forget the pop divas, both celebrated (Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt), and less well-remembered (Chi Coltrane, Bonnie Bramlett). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So lift a glass, cut a piece of Geburtstagkuchen, and tune in to Countermelody in celebration of these exceptional women! [n.b. This episode was posted before the death of Ned Rorem, who will be properly commemorated in next week’s episode.]

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 170. Oralia Domínguez



Earlier this year, in an episode entitled “Women of Color Sing Mahler,” I provided many of my listeners to their first exposure to the Mexican contralto Oralia Domínguez (25 October 1925 – 25 November 2013). Domínguez is famed for her collaborations with such musical giants as Maria Callas and Herbert von Karajan, but on her own terms, she ranks alongside those monumental true contraltos like Marian Anderson and Kathleen Ferrier. Though there is no question that she was underrecorded, she left a handful of classic commercial recordings, and a plethora of recorded live performances which an artist both technically grounded and fearless in expression, one whose legato singing exuded repose just as her phenomenal coloratura singing generates genuine excitement. I cannot say enough about this artist, who has rapidly become one of my very favorites! The episode features Domínguez in a wide range of material, from Monteverdi, Handel, and Vivaldi to the meat and potatoes roles in the standard operatic repertoire (Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti, Ponchielli, Saint-Saëns, Massenet) as well as less familiar fare by Michael Tippett and Mexican composers Silvestre Revueltas and Salvador Moreno. Along the way our Earth Goddess is joined by fellow singers Joan Sutherland, Martina Arroyo, Mirella Freni, József Simándy, Monica Sinclair, and, of course, Maria Callas. A bonus episode published concurrently on Patreon presents Domínguez in extended operatic scenes and further rare song material.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 169. Grace Bumbry



Though the great diva Grace Bumbry has often been featured on Countermelody, I have not yet done a full episode on this incomparable artist. Today’s episode seeks to remedy that, and to celebrate a singer whose contribution and influence extends back many decades and continues to this very day. Normally when I consider an artist so well-renowned, I try to offer a perspective that sheds different light on that singer. So today’s Bumbry celebration considers three aspects of her artistry that have received somewhat less attention. While her successes in a wide range of mezzo soprano repertoire are well-known and well-documented, her soprano assumptions have been somewhat more controversial. I highlight numerous scenes and arias, including from Macbeth, Salome, Turandot, and Nabucco, in both live and studio performances, that shed light on the enormous prowess and fearlessness with which she confronted these roles. Alongside such larger-than-life impersonations are Bumbry’s intimate and detailed performances as a Lieder singer, a tribute to her training under that matchless singer and teacher Lotte Lehmann, with whom Bumbry studied at the Music Academy of the West. Recordings of art song by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss, Liszt, and Berlioz, made over the course of 45 years are also a testament to Bumbry’s vocal longevity and technical prowess. In recent years, Grace Bumbry has devoted her time to the care, nurturing, and training of young singers under the aegis of a program she has named “The Bumbry Way.” The episode closes with a definitive performance of the song “My Way,” which incorporates and encapsulates all the colors of this extraordinary singer in all her fearlessness, self-assurance, determination, vulnerability, and strength. Evviva “The Bumbry Way!”

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 168. The Haunted (Opera) House



This week’s episode celebrates Halloween while at the same time initiating my new ongoing series on Twentieth Century Opera. From Dvořák’s Rusalka, premiered in Prague in 1901, through Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, premiered in New York in 1991, there is a wealth of operatic material, some barely remembered today, that touches upon various aspects of the occult, be that witches, devils, exorcisms, demonic possessions, or those that conjure the dead. Alongside the aforementioned works, this episode also features work by Benjamin Britten, Gian Carlo Menotti, Igor Stravinsky, Ferruccio Busoni, Franz Schreker, Serge Prokofiev, Ottorino Respighi, and Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by Teresa Stratas. Tatiana Troyanos, George Shirley, Anna Moffo, Mack Harrell, Maralin Niska, Gwendolyn Killebrew, Jane Rhodes, and others in performances recorded between 1949 and… nearly yesterday. Some of it is folksy, some humorous, some creepy, some horrific, but it is peopled by characters that either haunt or are haunted.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 

 


Episode 167. Denise Duval



Denise Duval, whose 101st birthday we posthumously commemorate on October 23, will forever be associated with the music of Francis Poulenc, and specifically his operas, in which the lead soprano roles were either created by her, or were written with her in mind. This episode not only presents Duval in excerpts, in live concert and stage performances, of all three roles: Thérèse in Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Blanche de la Force in Les Dialogues des Carmélites, and the unnamed heroine in his searing 1959 monodrama La voix humaine, alongside her performance in the world premiere of her final creation for Poulenc: the brief 1961 monologue La Dame de Monte-Carlo. But Duval was a versatile singer whose many and varied roles may surprise you. I present her also in both French and Viennese operettas by Lehár, Kálmán, Planquette, Messager, and Hervé, as well as operatic roles by Ravel, Debussy, and Saint-Saëns, concert works by Florent Schmitt and Louis Durey, and, from a joint recital with Poulenc, a breathtaking excerpt from Debussy’s Proses lyriques. Duval’s unusual voice and artistic profile defy classification, but this episode seeks to present as full a portrait as possible of this great singer and actor. Heard alongside Duval are tenors Jean Giraudeau, Alain Vanzo, Michel Hamel, and Jean Pomarez; baritones Jacques Jansen, Robert Massard, and Hans Wilbrink; and in an amusing turn, Francis Poulenc himself.


Episode 166. Dan’s Picks



This week I celebrated my birthday, so today is the second of this month’s birthday celebrations. A number of my listeners have been asking me for a while to post an episode featuring my favorite singers and recordings. So here it is! We lead off with a brief memorial tribute to Angela Lansbury, who died in the early California morning of my birthday. The rest of the episode features many recordings that I first got to know as I began exploring the world of great singing on records. Leontyne Price, Maria Callas, Alexander Kipnis, Elisabeth Söderström, Richard Lewis, Renata Scotto, Adele Addison, Gundula Janowitz, Margaret Price, Teresa Stratas, Gérard Souzay: all of these artists were formative figures in my early listening experience. My appreciation of some others came later: Hina Spani, Brigitte Fassbaender, Georges Thill, Sylvia Sass, Nicolai Gedda, Kirsten Flagstad. By this late date, all of them have been favorite artists of mine for decades and are represented on the episode by some of their greatest recordings. The episode concludes with a brief tribute to the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams on the occasion of his 150th birthday, also celebrated this week.

P.S. Two years ago I did another Happy Birthday To Me episode, which featured performances by some of my favorite pop divas. The episode can be found for a limited time at the top of my LinkTree chain.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 165. Giuseppe Verdi: A Libran Birthday Tribute



The great Giuseppe Verdi was born this week in 1813. Since his birthday occurs in the same week as mine, and since I firmly believe that I was a Verdi soprano in a former life, I am paying tribute to him this week with a series of excerpts from his works performed by exceptional singers whose birthdays also occur in the month of October. It’s astounding how many great Verdi singers were born at the time of the harvest moon: Luciano Pavarotti, Tito Gobbi, Camilla Williams, Jon Vickers, Rolando Panerai, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Sena Jurinac, and many, many more. I have assembled a setlist featuring more than 20 such singers, including more than a few surprises (the young Irmgard Seefried singing the soprano solo in the Requiem; and a few choice artists that you may have forgotten about, among them Irene Dalis, Delia Rigal, and John Alexander). This whole month will be a birthday extravaganza and this is a marvelous way to start off the celebration, if I do say so myself!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 164. Mabel Mercer (Season Four Premiere)



Welcome to Season Four of Countermelody! My long-time listeners know a few things things about the podcast. First, the most important quality in a singer is not voice, but communicative skills. Second, I have posted episodes in the past on singers that I dub “voiceless wonders,” artists whose primary virtue is exactly that ability to convey the meaning of the words. Third, though the music I play is primarily opera and so-called classical music, I often explore genres that move outside of those boundaries. Fourth, from the very beginning of my podcasting career, I have made it a point to highlight the careers of artists of color as well as queer artists. Throughout this season of the podcast, I will also be focusing on great singers in their later years. All these aspects are in evidence in today’s subject: Mabel Mercer (1900-1984), the doyenne of cabaret. Born to a teenage mother of Welsh heritage whose father was an itinerant African American musician, Mercer first pursued a career in British music hall. From there, she made her way to Paris, where she soon became a fixture at a nightclub run by her pal Bricktop (AKA Ada Smith). As WWII loomed on the horizon, she made her way, with the help of her friend (and possible lover) the wealthy and eccentric lesbian Joe Carstairs, to New York, where she soon established herself at the pinnacle of cabaret culture by virtue of her impeccable diction, intimacy of delivery, sense of story-telling, and unbounded repertoire of upwards of a thousand songs. Most of Mercer’s recordings represent the artist well into her middle age, when her once beautiful soprano voice had become little more than a croak. And yet, perched regally on a chair at the Café Carlyle and other nightclub venues, she gave definitive performances of nearly every song she touched. The episode offers a hint of the interpretive depth displayed in repertoire ranging from the traditional Great American Songbook (especially the songs of Cole Porter) through Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon. Guest artists heard include Kaye Ballard, Bobby Short, and Julie Wilson, as well as Bricktop and Madame Spivy, both nightclub hostesses and close friends of Mercer’s who were celebrated performers themselves.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 163. Season Four Preview



Today Countermelody is in limbo: balanced between Seasons Three and Four. Over the past few months I’ve been planning the course of the upcoming season and this episode consists of musical tidbits (bocconcini, if you will) of some of the singers and themed series that I am planning for Season Four. Included are retrospectives of singers Judith Raskin, Roberta Alexander, Sammy Davis, Jr., Helen Donath, Hugues Cuénod, Anna Moffo, Denise Duval, and Nicolai Gedda, all of whom are “sampled” today. I’m also planning programs on; “Great Singers We’ve Never Heard Of;” the music of Alec Wilder; the Black male singer as European émigré; “Behind the Iron Curtain;” explorations of both Orchestral Songs and Rare Twentieth-Century Operas; and “Great Singers in Old Age;” as well as, naturally, a closer examination of many of those New York City Opera divas to whom I provided an introduction last week. The new season will also be more interactive, with livestream interviews planned with various fascinating (and legendary!) figures in the world of opera and classical music. Thanks to all for your continued support, friendship, and listenership; see you next week for the debut of Season Four of Countermelody!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 162. NYCO Divas: An Introduction



Today is the final regular episode of Season Three of Countermelody, as well as the last of my summer series documenting musical life in New York City during the years 1950 through 1975. I am thrilled to start what I hope will be an occasional series of episodes that will drop throughout Season Four, which begins in two weeks. I present to you a small sampling of the extraordinary singing actors that peopled the stage of New York City Opera during the years in question. The most famous of these, of course, is Beverly Sills, and she is aptly represented in her most radiant early prime. But there are many other singers as well, including African American divas Carol Brice and Veronica Tyler, preceded by Camilla Williams (the first Black singer to be awarded a standing contract with a major US opera company… in 1946!). City Opera was celebrated for presenting an absolute slew of new American work in its heyday, and we hear works by Carlilse Floyd, Robert Ward, Douglas Moore, Marc Blitzstein, and Jack Beeson in performances by Phyllis Curtin, Frances Bible, Brenda Lewis, and Ellen Faull. Other divas strutting their stuff include Olivia Stapp, Johanna Meier, and the three mesdames Patricia: Brooks, Wells, and Wise. The episode is capped by some of the rarest live recordings from the stage of City Opera by three singers who made their mark during their heyday, and would be the biggest stars in the world were they singing today: Gilda Cruz-Romo, Maralin Niska, and Carol Neblett, all of whom will be featured in her own episode during Countermelody’s upcoming season. A fitting way to end Season Three, as well as a harbinger of vocal delights to come! (Next week will be a preview of the upcoming season!)

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 161. Janet Baker: Subject of the Queen



The world changed yesterday with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, whose subjects in the United Kingdom just this summer celebrated the 70th year of her reign. How do I, as a progressive (and non-British) person, neither a royalist nor an imperialist, commemorate her passing with the respect that she deserves? I found my answer, as I so often do in other of life’s conundrums, in the artistry of Janet Baker, who celebrated her 89th birthday on 17 August, and who, in her day was often known as “the English Rose.” There is something about Baker’s artistic personality: her nobility of utterance, her gravitas, her humanity, that made her a particularly striking interpreter of various queens in the operatic literature, from Alceste and Dido to Mary Stuart. And because, from the time of her Carnegie Hall debut in 1966 until her final appearance there in 1989, seven years after her official retirement from the operatic scene, she was a fixture of the New York concert scene, she also fits quite comfortably into the framework of this summer’s celebration of musical life in New York between the years 1950 and 1975. Her towering operatic performances of roles by Gluck, Donizetti, Berlioz, and Purcell, are balanced with her profoundly moving performances of music by Bach, Gurney, and Schubert. Queen Elizabeth II is further memorialized by an excerpt from the world premiere performance of Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana, composed for, and premiered six days after, her coronation in 1953.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 160. Donald Gramm



Dear ones, I present to you today the extraordinarily versatile bass-baritone and my fellow native Milwaukeean Donald Gramm (1927-1983), one of the central house singers at both the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera from the 1960s through his premature death at the age of 56. Gifted with an intrinsically beautiful voice, an impeccable technique and an expansive range, he also was a crackerjack musician whose repertoire easily encompassed musical styles from florid Baroque music through the thorniest contemporary idioms. He is probably best celebrated these days for his commitment to American art, and this episode features him singing songs by Ned Rorem, John Duke, Richard Cummings, Douglas Moore, and Paul Bowles, with a particular emphasis on texts by Walt Whitman. What is perhaps less well-remembered today is how versatile an opera singer he was, singing roles from Osmin to Scarpia, with a strong emphasis on both bel canto and buffo roles by Rossini and Donizetti. The episode also explores his collaborations with Igor Stravinsky, Glenn Gould, and, perhaps most significantly, Sarah Caldwell, another important musical figure from that era who is strongly deserving of reappraisal.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 159. Forgotten Broadway II



The follow-up episode to my previous Forgotten Broadway episode is an epic one, chock full of fascinating composers, lyricists, performers and shows. We begin with a tribute to birthday boy Leonard Bernstein, a song from Peter Pan sung by gay Broadway icon Larry Kert. From there we encounter shows by Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb, Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields, Strouse and Adams, Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Schmidt and Jones, Vernon Duke, Mary Rodgers, Sigmund Romberg, Harold Rome and Leroy Anderson, among others, performed by Jane Powell, Pat Suzuki, Melba Moore, Rita Gardner, Jack Cassidy, Rebecca Luker, Cesare Siepi, Susan Johnson, Dody Goodman, Pearl Bailey, Ezio Pinza, Elaine Stritch, Shannon Bolin, and others. Diverse topics discussed include the Broadway revue, queer subjects and performers, and the place of performers of color on Broadway. This is a long episode that I recommend listening to in segments! And please be aware that an equally mammoth third segment on Forgotten Broadway will be published this weekend for my Patreon supporters!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 158. Russell Oberlin



Hearing the voice of countertenor Russell Oberlin (1928 – 2016) as a soloist with the Robert Shaw Chorale was one of the formative experiences of my early life. I doubt that I would ever have become a countertenor myself had it not been for that beacon of a voice as my shining ideal and example. Many years after his early retirement from singing he extended kindness and generosity to me in a way that has always remained with me. Since I have begun the podcast and with rare exceptions, I generally shy away from discussing other countertenors. Today I break my silence on the topic to present to you the greatest countertenor of them all in all his uniqueness. From his early days as a founding member of the New York Pro Musica and his series of medieval and renaissance music, through his electrifying stage appearances as Oberon in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, through his standard-setting appearances in Handel and his unexpected but charming expertise as a singer of art song and reciter of poetry: all these aspects of Oberlin’s versatility and artistry are herein represented. A special vocal guest is the tenor Charles Bressler (1926 – 1996), like Oberon a founding member of the New York Pro Musica, who is heard in four duets with Oberlin. Perhaps Oberlin’s greatest achievement lies in the simplicity and nobility of his performances of the music of Henry Purcell, who is also well-represented here. This episode is a must for all lovers of great singing in general and specifically for all who want to hear what well-equalized, technically balanced and secure countertenor singing sounds like.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 157. Forgotten Broadway I



Today I begin Forgotten Broadway, a new miniseries within my summer series “Musical Life in New York City 1950-1975.” This wildly eclectic (some might say chaotic) program, the first of three, concerns itself with several different aspects of “forgotten” Broadway: forgotten songs, forgotten shows, and forgotten performers; as well as all imaginable combinations of the above. For instance, many might not remember the show Drat! the Cat! but will remember quite well the song “He [originally She] Touched Me.” Everyone remembers Ethel Merman and Angela Lansbury, but I would bet that fewer remember their less successful shows Happy Hunting and Dear World. This episode includes songs by Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne, Bob Merrill, Wright and Forrest, and Comden and Green, as well as lesser known composers and lyricists such as Claibe Richardson, Bill and Patti Jacob, and Ervin Drake, sung by such stalwarts as Leslie Uggams, Barbara Cook, Alfred Drake, and Barbra Streisand, as well as such blazing (but less remembered figures) such as Alice Playten, Dolores Gray, Mimi Hines, and June Carroll. Such recently departed figures as Micki Grant, Kenward Elmslie, Sally Ann Howes, and Donald Pippin also receive airplay. Part II will be published in two weeks, and Part III will soon be available as a bonus episode for my Patreon subscribers.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 156. Barely Sang at the Met II



This week is the conclusion of my presentation on world-class singers who made a minimal number of appearances at the Metropolitan Opera. My arbitrary parameters for this episode were singers who appeared (approximately) between the years 1950 and 1975 and sang fewer than ten performances in total at that venerable institution. Among the artists featured are the British singers Josephine Veasey and Anne Howells (both of whom we lost earlier this year), as well as Stafford Dean and Alberto Remedios; the French-Canadian tenors Léopold Simoneau and Richard Verreau; the Romanians Ludovic Spiess and Marina Krilovici; the US-American dramatic coloratura Margherita Roberti; the Australian super-soprano Joan Carden; the Italian sopranos Maria Chiara and Luisa Malagrida; the French falcon Jane Rhodes; the Austrians Eberhard Wächter and Otto Wiener; the Finnish heldentenor Pekka Nuotio; and the Germans Josef Greindl, Walburga Wegner, Erna Schlüter and Christel Goltz. Met stalwarts Monserrat Caballé, Shirley Verrett, Ramón Vinay, and Jorma Hynninen are featured as vocal guest stars; conductors include such greats as Dimitri Mitroupoulos, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, Thomas Beecham, Carlo Felice Cillario, and Arthur Rodziński..

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 155. Barely Sang at the Met I



Today’s brain teaser: What do world-class singers Irmgard Seefried, Virginia Zeani, Piero Cappuccilli, birthday girl Gundula Janowitz, Galina Vishnevskaya, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Felicia Weathers, Elisabeth Grümmer, Wolfgang Windgassen, Pavel Lisitsian, and Arlene Saunders, have in common? If you need a hint, it’s in the title of today’s episode: each of them sang at least one and not more than ten performances at that venerable institution, the Metropolitan Opera. These and a number of other artists will be featured on this week’s episode, to be followed by more world-class artists who, for one reason or another (though certainly not talent, skill, or ability) “barely sang at the Met.” We hear music of Mozart, Strauss, Verdi, Stravinsky, Wagner, Puccini, and Weber, led by conductors who either were fixtures at the Met (Thomas Schippers, Nello Santi, Dimitri Mitropoulos), appeared occasionally at the Met (Leopold Ludwig, Charles Mackerras), or never appeared there (Wolfgang Sawallisch, Ferdinand Leitner, Joseph Keilberth) or appeared there only once (John Barbirolli, who led a single gala concert there in 1940).

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus cotent including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 154. Adele Addison @ 97



This Sunday, 24 July 2022, the great African American lyric soprano Adele Addison observes her 97th birthday. This Countermelody tribute presents this great artist in live and studio recordings during the glory years of her career, including performances conducted by three of her most important conductor collaborators, Robert Shaw, Charles Munch, and Leonard Bernstein. Addison might be best remembered today as providing the ghost voice for Dorothy Dandridge in Otto Preminger’s controversial 1959 film of Porgy and Bess, but her greatest artistic achievement undoubtedly centers on her concert and recital work. Among countless world premieres in which she participated, the most significant was probably the Gloria of Francis Poulenc, first heard in Boston in January 1961. Other contemporary composers represented in this episode are Aaron Copland, Lester Trimble, Lukas Foss, and Benjamin Lees; Addison’s exceptional performances of Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Debussy are also featured. Vocal guest stars include Robert McFerrin, with whom she duets in an excerpt from Porgy; the eminent recitalist Povla Frijsh, who was her voice teacher and coach; and Dawn Upshaw, probably her most renowned student. Please join me in celebrating the long life and legacy of this exceptional artist and teacher.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 153. Eleanor Steber I



July 17 is the 108th birthday of Eleanor Steber, surely one of the all-time greatest singers that the United States has ever produced (as well as one of the most versatile and technically-accomplished!) In long overdue Countermelody tribute to this exceptional artist, I present the first of two very special episodes honoring Eleanor. After the “usual” career overview featuring mostly live highlights from her operatic appearances all over the world, I turn the stage (or in this case the mic), over to my dear friend Michelle Oesterle, founder and conductor of the Manhattan Girls Chorus, who was also Eleanor Steber’s stepdaughter. As such she spent time (especially in the summer months) with her father and Eleanor at Melody Hill, Eleanor’s estate on Long Island. She provides us with an unparalleled intimate portrait of Eleanor as woman and as singer and describes the profound influence that Eleanor had in her life, as well as the characteristics that combined to make her the profoundly appealing and moving interpreter that she was. She also addresses the white elephant in the room, that is, Eleanor’s alcoholism, and makes a plea for tolerance and understanding vis-à-vis this serious disease. The Steber tribute will continue with a further episode sometime in the next month. For now, let us raise our glasses (of sparkling mineral water), in tribute to this phenomenal artist, the like of which we will never see again. Musical selections range from Victor Herbert to Alban Berg and everything in between. Thank you, Michelle, and evviva Eleanor!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 152. Patricia Neway



Today begins a new summer series on Countermelody, celebrating mid-century music-making in New York City between the years 1950 and 1975. We begin with a celebration of Patricia Neway (1919-2012), one of the towering figures of the operatic – and Broadway – stages. Two of her greatest assumptions, in fact, took place on the Broadway stage: Magda Sorel in Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera The Consul, which premiered on Broadway in 1950, and the Mother Abbess in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final stage music, The Sound of Music, for which Neway was awarded the 1960 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Neway combined an unusual voice of startling, sometimes raw, power, with an acting ability rarely seen, especially on the operatic stage. Neway’s range easily encompassed contralto roles as well as dramatic soprano parts. This episode features audio excerpts from rare kinescopes of her performances of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites as Menotti’s Maria Golovin, as well as her galvanizing portrayal of Magda Sorel from a 1960 film. She also displays her stunning musical versatility in music by Buxtehude, Barber, Gluck, and the late Carlisle Floyd, as well as settings by Israel Citkowitz, John Gruen, and Thomas de Hartmann of texts by James Joyce from a rare 1959 recording. In addition, I dispel forever the fake news, all pervasive claims to the contrary, that Patricia Neway and someone named Frances Breeze, an exact contemporary of Neway’s, are one and the same person.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 151. Cole Porter [Pride 2022]



Because I’m still on the road, I’m posting an old bonus episode in place of a new one this week, and I’m posting it early. This was originally published about two years ago, in tandem with an episode that did on Cesare Siepi, which highlighted Easy to Love, his 1958 album of Cole Porter songs. Among my listeners, most of whom adored that episode, there were a few naysayers, including my own not-boyfriend, who felt that Siepi did not do justice to Porter’s insouciant wordplay. So I decided, as one of my first bonus episodes, to offer an “antidote” to Siepi’s song stylings. This is the episode that resulted. It features a wide range of performers, from Mabel Mercer to kd lang (many of them coincidentally queer), offering their own distinctive take on Porter’s brilliant output. Many of the songs are offered in contrasting versions, including Fred Astaire singing “Night and Day” in his original recording from the 1930s, followed by his 1950s version with a jazz combo led by Oscar Peterson. Or Ethel Merman singing her original recording of “I Get a Kick out of You” from the time of the original production of Anything Goes, followed by her infamous version decades later from The Ethel Merman Disco Album. Please enjoy and I’ll see you again at the end of next week.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 150. Francis Poulenc and Pierre Bernac [Pride 2022]



Something about this week’s episode has really gotten to me. I guess I’m just madly in love with the melodies of Francis Poulenc, and as a result, increasingly in love with the artistry of Pierre Bernac. These two formed an artistic partnership similar in intensity to that shared by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, except that in the case of the Gallic couple, this alliance did not include a romantic element. In spite of that, the pair achieved an artistic intimacy that is sometimes almost painfully honest. Maybe it’s that part of their story that so moves me: that two gay men, neither one sexually involved with the other, still achieved, on an altogether different plane, the deepest kind of intimacy. This episode features performances of the duo in melodies by Poulenc set to texts by Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Éluard and Louise de Vilmorin, as well as songs by Chabrier, Debussy, Chausson, and Samuel Barber. We also hear Bernac performing Bach and Schumann in collaboration with Robert Casadesus, Charles Munch, and Roger Désormière; and Poulenc accompanying singers Denise Duval, Hugues Cuénod, Geneviève Touraine, and Bernard Kruysen in both live and studio recordings. The episode features extensive discussion, mostly from Bernac’s book on Poulenc and his songs, of Poulenc’s devotion to poetry and his very particular compositional method of getting to the heart of a poem.


Episode 149. Music Black and Queer



Over the course of history, for Persons of Color who also happen to be queer, the interface between these two populations is sometimes an enormously challenging one, but one which also frequently produces path-breaking musical artists of enormous courage and originality. In celebration of Juneteenth this coming weekend, and as a follow-up to my Queer Blues episode published last year, I once again pay tribute to an extraordinary array of Black and Queer musical artists across a wide spectrum of popular musical styles, be it Blues, jazz. middle-of-the-road pop, musicals, rock ‘n’ roll, disco, and folk. Artists represented include Billy Strayhorn, Billie Holiday, Johnny Mathis, Tracy Chapman, Mabel Mercer, Joan Armatrading, Nona Hendryx, Sylvester, Joséphine Baker, Jackie Shane, Carmen McRae, Billy Preston, Esquerita, and Carolyn Franklin, Michael R. Jackson, the 2022 Tony Award winner for A Strange Loop, is introduced by my dear friend the theater scholar David Savran, who describes what makes this piece and its creator so daring and original.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 148. Judy Garland @ 100



On Friday 10 June 2022, Judy Garland celebrates her 100th birthday. My Pride 2022 series kicks off with a close examination of Judy’s status as gay icon, as well as my claim that Garland was, is, and remains the world’s greatest entertainer of all time. As always with Countermelody, the proof is in the performances, and I share a generous sampling of recordings, primarily from the final years of Judy’s life, that bolster that claim. Included are performances of songs by Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Ted Koehler, Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Jule Styne, Burton Lane, Alan Jay Lerner, Cole Porter, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, Gilbert Bécaud, Wright and Forrest, Schwartz and Dietz, Charles Chaplin, and others, in live recordings from The Judy Garland Show, which ran for a single season in 1963-64; live concert performances from New York, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Philadelphia, and Copenhagen; and a smattering of rare studio recordings. I also discuss the impact of Judy’s enormous talent impact on my own life, as well as her still-substantial numbers of worldwide fans. Vocal guest stars include two other classic gay icons, Barbra Streisand, and Judy’s own daughter, Liza Minnelli.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 147. The Young Gabriel Bacquier



Two years ago last month, the great French (bass-)baritone Gabriel Bacquier died just four days short of his 96th birthday. At that time I offered a brief memorial tribute which opened my eyes to aspects of his artistry and voice with which I had been previously unfamiliar. Like his near-contemporary, the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi, Bacquier was one of the supreme actors of the operatic stage, whose voice coarsened somewhat over the course of his long career, even as his mastery as an actor and interpreter increased. By the time he retired, his repertoire consisted almost entirely of buffo parts. But in the earliest years of his career (and also like Gobbi), he possessed a baritone of velvety beauty that might surprise those who know only his later comic roles. This episode, which commemorates the second anniversary of Bacquier’s death as well as his (posthumous) 98th birthday, focuses on the three different musical genres in which, in those early years, from 1953 through 1968, he excelled in equal measure: opera, of course, but also mélodie and operetta. The operatic portrayals represented include the title roles in Don Giovanni and Orphée et Eurydice; Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de perles; the Count in Le nozze di Figaro; Iago in Otello; Golaud; and his incomparable Scarpia, which he sang opposite every great Tosca of the 1960s with the exception of Callas. Complementing these live and studio recordings are recordings of melodies by Duparc, Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc; and operetta arias by Sigmund Romberg, Franz Lehár, Johann Strauss II, and Reynaldo Hahn, all deliciously sung in French. Vocal guest stars include Mirella Freni; Alain Vanzo; Bernard Demigny; Janine Ervil; Yvonne Gall, with whom Bacquier studied at the Conservatoire de Paris; and the late Renate Holm, the renowned German soubrette who died in April at the age of 90. In all this repertoire, Bacquier, who insisted on the appellation “acting singer” rather than “singing actor,” displays his commitment to clear yet full projection of text, which serves as a mirror into the music and not the other way around.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 146. Women of Color Sing Mahler



Say their names: In Uvalde: Nevaeh Bravo, Jackie Cazares, Makenna Lee Elrod, Jose Flores, Eliana Garcia, Irma Garcia, Uziyah Garcia, Amerie Jo Garza, Xavier Lopez, Jayce Luevanos, Tess Marie Mata, Miranda Mathis, Eva Mireles, Alithia Ramirez, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, Maite Rodriguez, Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, Layla Salazar, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Rojelio Torres. In Buffalo: Celestine Chaney, Roberta A. Drury, Andre Mackniel, Katherine Massey, Margus D. Morrison, Heyward Patterson, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Ruth Whitfield, Pearl Young. All gunned down by young men who should have had no access to an assault weapon in the first place. I have no meaningful response to such cruel slaughter. When I am in the most profound mourning, I turn to the composers whose music directly confronts that despair. Today that composer is Gustav Mahler. Since the victims were almost exclusively people of color, today for solace I turn to the extraordinary voices of women of color singing the music of Mahler. Roberta Alexander, Marian Anderson, Carol Brice, Oralia Dominguez, Jessye Norman, Florence Quivar, Shirley Verrett, Lucretia West provide balm for the depths of despair that we are all feeling right now. They are joined on the podium by some of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century: Leonard Bernstein, Christoph von Dohnányi, Bernard Haitink, Paul Kletzki, Hans Knappertsbusch, Erich Leinsdorf, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Monteux, Fritz Reiner, and Frieder Weissmann.

This episode is also offered in memory of and in gratitude for the life of the great Lucretia West, who died on 21 February 2022 at the age of 99.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 145. Teresa Berganza In Memoriam



A week ago today the beloved and revered Spanish mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza, died at the age of 89. This episode pays tribute to her artistry through the exploration of her operatic roles, from Neris in Medea opposite Maria Callas, through her matchless Mozart and Rossini portrayals, through her fascinating and highly individualized portrait of the title heroine of Bizet’s Carmen. Special emphasis is given to her performance of Spanish music, from the zarzuelas of Ruperto Chapí and Federico Moreno Torroba, to art songs of Manuel de Falla and Fredric Mompou. Vocal guest stars include Mirella Freni, Pilar Lorengar, Lola Rodríguez Aragón, Franco Bonisolli, and the incendiary Callas herself, an early mentor and supporter of Berganza. I began the preparation for this episode with an incomplete appreciation of Berganza’s voice and artistry, but she won me over and I am now, even if belatedly, a huge fan.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 144. Mad about Mesplé



Two years ago this month, the world lost the great French soprano Mady Mesplé at the age of 89. Celebrated as the finest French coloratura of her era (and one of the best examples ever of that dying breed), Mesplé was officially diagnosed in 1996 with Parkinson’s, which had already gravely affected her health for years. For me there is a personal connection here, as next week it is eleven years since my own father died of the same disease. The focus this week, however, is on not on Mesplé’s disease, but her extraordinary vocalism, musicianship, and versatility. Not only was she unmatched in the operatic repertoire for which she was justly celebrated, she was also a mistress of the mélodie, a charming interpreter of French operetta, and a fearless interpreter of contemporary repertoire. This episode examines her contributions in all of those genres, as well as celebrating her delicious expressions of musical humor, and her surprising depth, even profundity, in examining the darker recesses of human experience. On this episode, Mesplé is aided by fellow singers Gabriel Bacquier, Michel Dens, Jane Berbié, Alain Vanzo, and Michel Trempont; pianists Aldo Ciccolini, Jeanine Reiss, Dalton Baldwin, Gabriel Tacchino, and Michel Legrand; and conductors Georges Prêtre, Pierre Dervaux, Michel Plasson, Jean-Pierre Marty, Gilbert Amy, and Jean-Claude Hartemann.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.

 


Episode 143. Pelléas Part Deux



Today I conclude my examination of my favorite opera, Claude Debussy and Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande, with an expanded roster of singers which includes return visits from some of last week’s interpreters (Camille Maurane, Gabriel Bacquier, Gérard Souzay, Françoise Ogéas, Jacques Jansen, and Michèle Command) alongside other, equally magnificent singers (George Shirley, Janine Micheau, George London, Elisabeth Söderström, Henri-Bertrand Etcheverry, Irène Joachim, André Vessières, and others) under the batons of Jean Fournet, Pierre Boulez, Armin Jordan, as well as last week’s master helmsmen Roger Désormière and Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht. I also foreground the young lyric baritone Huw Montague Rendall, who just last season sang his first Pelléas and who has already earned a place for himself among these other great artists. My further discussion of the opera includes discussions of Wagner, Mussorgsky, Edgar Allan Poe, and toxic masculinity, as each pertains to this piece. So many listeners wrote to tell me how last week’s episode changed their mind about this opera. Evidently I’ve done my job well. We need fewer Pelléas haters out there, and more, many more, Pelléas lovers!

 


Episode 142. The Thrill of Pelléas



In (relative) relief over the recent French election result, I kick off my miniseries devoted to French singers and French music. Today’s episode will be the first of two devoted to my favorite opera, Claude Debussy and Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande, which has enchanted, fascinated, and, yes, thrilled me since I was ten years old. If, like me, you adore this opera, then this episode is obviously for you. If you are among the many naysayers out there who find Pelléas to be boring, this episode is even more for you, because it puts the lie to the old saw that this masterpiece is static and motionless. Going back to near the dawn of recorded sound, I offer extant examples of the creators of the principal roles, Mary Garden, Hector Dufranne, Jean Périer, Jeanne Gerville-Réache, and Félix Vieuille. I also feature performances by other figures associated with the opera in its first decades of performance: Maggie Teyte, Charles Panzéra, Germaine Cernay, Claire Croiza, Vanni-Marcoux, Jacques Jansen, Paul Cabanel, and Armand Narçon, most of whom are featured on early recordings of the opera from the 1920s, and from its first complete recording led by Roger Désormière in war-torn Paris in 1941. From the next generation of great Debussy interpreters, I also present Suzanne Danco, Camille Maurane, Françoise Ogéas, Gérard Souzay, and Jean-Paul Jeannotte in various live performances led by the legendary conductor Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, and from more recent decades, performances by José van Dam, Michèle Command and the late Maria Ewing and Gabriel Bacquier led by Claudio Abbado and Serge Baudo. These artists all are keenly connected to both the words and drama, and wring out the passion, playfulness, and despair to be found in this work, which represents to me the perfect fusion of words, music and drama. Prepare to have your preconceptions challenged as I step into the world of Pelléas, that dramatic fusion of sunlight and shadow, which will continue next week with recorded performances by even more great singers and conductors.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 141. Chansons d’avril



This week’s episode is a musical celebration of all things spring. As in all episodes of this sort, it features a wide range of singers in performances recorded over the course of many decades, all singing about the delights (and sometimes the heartbreak) of spring. Artists include Carmen McRae, Beniamino Gigli, Elisabeth Söderström, Helen Morgan, Leontyne Price, Judy Collins, Eartha Kitt, Emma Calvé, Eileen Farrell, Kaye Ballard, Gérard Souzay, Patricia Neway, and Edith Piaf, among many others, singing songs of Tommy Wolf, Fran Landesman, Georges Auric, Hugo Wolf, Lerner and Loewe, Dietrich Buxtehude, Alec Wilder, and Paolo Tosti. A vernal feast for the ears!

The Countermelody podcast is devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 140. Universal Passion



For Christians, this week is probably the most central to the theology of their faith, focusing as it does on the story of the Passion of the Christ. My dear friend, the choral conductor and singer Kristina Boerger posted a fascinating meditation this week about her “complicated” relationship with this theology, and how the performance of music for Holy Week over the years has given her insight into some universal tenets about human nature and behavior. She very kindly agreed to read her essay for me to use as the basis of this week’s podcast, which features music written for, and associated with, the Passion. Composers featured include, from the Baroque era, Couperin, Schütz, Handel, and Bach (with Pergolesi right on the cusp); from the 19th century, Beethoven, Schubert, and Wolf; and from the 20th century, Hindemith, Szymanowski, Poulenc, Penderecki, Frank Martin, and Arvo Pärt. Featured singers include Régine Crespin, Irmgard Seefried, Peter Schreier, Gundula Janowitz, Richard Lewis, Florence Quivar, Andrzej Hiolski, Judith Raskin, Jorma Hynninen, Margaret Marshall, Benjamin Luxon, Muriel Smith, Walter Berry, Edda Moser, and Adele Addison, plus further encounters with several of the Swiss singers we explored last week (Hugues Cuénod, Maria Stader, Eric Tappy, Pierre Mollet, and Ernst Haefliger). Whether you are Christian, agnostic, atheist, Muslim, Jew, or fall into a different category altogether, there will be something here for you of value in this episode.

The Countermelody podcast is devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 139. Swiss Misses and Misters



A few months ago, David and I paid a visit to Zurich. The weather was glorious, we ate well, saw interesting theater, and I found a great used record store that was probably the one inexpensive place in the entire city. I had been thinking of doing an episode on Swiss singers ever since I started the podcast nearly three years ago and this experience provided the needed impetus to put this together. It helps that, to paraphrase the bigot, “Some of my favorite singers are Swiss.” Because of the unique polyglot nature of the country, there are many different stylistic trends to be found in Swiss music and Swiss singers. As with my recent episode on Ukraine, I decided to foreground not just the singers, but also the composers, of the featured country. So not only do we get to experience the singing of such favorites as Lisa Della Casa, Charles Panzéra, Ernst Haefliger, Heinz Rehfuss, Hugues Cuénod, and Eric Tappy (with a special nod to Gloria Davy, Ira Malaniuk, and Maria Stader, all naturalized Swiss citizens), but we hear the music of Ernest Bloch, Othmar Schoeck, Arthur Honegger, Frank Martin, Hermann Suter, and others. This is just a dip of the toe into the pure waters of Swiss music and singers: episodes on individual favorites will no doubt follow in due time!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 138. Cabaret Risqué: Broadway Edition



At Countermelody, this April Fool’s Day begins with a dirty musical joke, and a great one! The episode continues with nearly a century’s worth of performances of risqué songs, most but not all of them from musicals. Among the composers and lyricists, the great Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Brecht and Weill, Comden and Green, Carolyn Leigh, Alec Wilder, Stephen Sondheim, Bolcom and Weinstein, Fred Barton, the late Francesca Blumenthal, my friends Richard Pearson Thomas and Lawrence Rush, and the mysterious Durwood Douché. Among the performers, who really let their raunchy side out, Pearl Bailey, Eddie Cantor, Judy Holliday, Mabel Mercer, Gertrude Lawrence, Ann Miller, Vivienne Segal, Marlene Dietrich, Elisabeth Welch, Martha Wright, Raul Julia, Gertrude Niesen, Chita Rivera, Nina Hagen, Mary Martin, Julie Wilson, and Lea DeLaria, among many others. Fasten your seat belts: this is a long episode, but a beautifully down and dirty one!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 137. Ukrainian Singers and Composers



Here finally is my long-promised and long-overdue episode on great Ukrainian singers. Because I am so historically oriented, I begin the episode at the dawn of recorded sound and present singers from the early twentieth century all the way through to the present day. The first voice heard is the Ukrainian-Jewish bass Alexander Kipnis, still after all these years the noblest voice that I have ever encountered. There follow Teresa Arkel, Salomea Krushelnytska, Elena Ruszkowska, Lydia Lipovska and the extraordinary heldentenor Modest Menzinsky: all voices from the distant past, though much renowned in their day. Along with the exploration of Ukrainian singers (including Boris Gmyria, Ivan Kozlovsky, Yuri Mazurok, Mark Reizen, Misha Raitzin, Ira Malaniuk, Paul Plishka, Yuriy Mynenko, Anatoly Kocherga, and Bela Rudenko, among many others), I also provide a tip-of-the-iceberg introduction to the (for me, as I suspect for many of us) nearly unexplored world of Ukrainian composers, including Reinhold Glière, Mykola Lysenko, Yevhen Stankovych, Mykola Leontovych, Kyrylo Stetsenko, Vasyl Barvinsky, Boris Lyatoschinsky, Mykola Arkas, and Valentin Sylvestrov, their work often bolstered by the powerful poetry of that 19th century bard and figurehead of Ukrainian independence, Taras Shevchenko. Some of the greatest discoveries for me in preparing this episode were the tenor Anatoliy Solovyanenko and the baritones Mykola Kondratyuk and Dmytro Hnatiuk. I trust you will have your favorites as well. I offer this episode in tribute to, and in solidarity with, the people of Ukraine. Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season. Resources for learning more about Ukrainian music: Myron Yusypovych’s website on Ukrainian composers The Ukrainian Art Song Project Natalya Pasichnyk’s documentary Ukrainian Rhapsody: A Journey into Ukrainian Classical Music Viktor Ostafeychuk’s astonishing YouTube channel, featuring many historical live performances from the Kiev Opera Ukrainian Vinyl, another invaluable YouTube channel, with rare and priceless recordings    

Episode 136. Puccini en Français



This week’s episode is a counterpart to my ongoing exploration of the practice of performing opera in translation which includes the “Verdi auf Deutsch” [www.countermelodypodcast.com/index.php/2021/10/17/episode-111-verdi-auf-deutsch] and “Polyglot Wagner” [www.countermelodypodcast.com/index.php/2020/11/29/episode-63-polyglot-wagner] episodes. With its soaring cantilena lines, Puccini’s music lends itself quite naturally to performance in French. The characteristics of the so-called “French school” of singing, with its frequent focus on bright-timbred, slightly nasal tonal production, lends Puccini’s music a peculiarly French quality when performed in that language. This episode features arias and duets from Madame Butterfly, La Vie de Bohème, and La Tosca, as they are known in French, supplemented by arias from Manon Lescaut and Turandot. These are sung by some of the most famous singers of the twentieth century (including Ninon Vallin, Georges Thill, Régine Crespin, Germaine Lubin, Gabriel Bacquier, Alain Vanzo, and Lily Pons) with contributions by equally impressive but less celebrated French, Corsican, and Belgian artists (including Yvonne Brothier, Berthe Monmart, César Vezzani, José Liccioni, Marthe Nespoulous, Paul Finel, Michèle Le Bris, Martha Angelici, Germaine Martinelli, Jane Rhodes, Georges Jouatte, and the long-lived Géori-Boué [1918-2017], Renée Doria [1921-2021], Suzanne Sarroca [b. 1927], and Robert Massard [b. 1925]). Also heard are foreign singers whose singing nevertheless defines the French method (the Australian Albert Lance, the Canadian Raoul Jobin, the US-American Arthur Endrèze, and the Ukrainian Joseph Rogatchewsky). This episode is a foretaste of a mini-series coming in May on great French lyric artists, including Mady Mesplé, Martial Singher, and Gabriel Bacquier.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.


Episode 135. A Woman’s Winterreise



Today in honor of Women’s History Month and the people of Ukraine, I present a compendium of eight different Liedersängerinnen singing Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise, set to poems by Wilhelm Müller. When I am in despair, I turn to Schubert, who, even in such a bleak piece as Winterreise, offers incomparable insight and empathy into our shared humanity. Though it is often held that this is a cycle that should sung exclusively by men, these eight women put the lie to that faulty premise. Featured singers are Lois Marshall, Brigitte Fassbaender, Lotte Lehmann, Elena Gerhardt, Christa Ludwig, Margaret Price, Mitsuko Shirai, and Alice Coote. Pianists are Paul Ulanowsky, Erik Werba, James Levine, Hartmut Höll, Julius Drake, Coenraad Bos, Aribert Reimann, Wolfram Rieger, Anton Kuerti, and Thomas Dewey. This is an episode that I have been planning for some time, and with so many people forced to take precarious and life-threatening winter journeys, there was no time like the present than to share this music, and these singers, with you. Warning: This is at least a six-hanky episode!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.