Episode 211. Janet Baker @ 90

This past week the opera world was plunged into mourning over the sudden death of Renata Scotto. Originally I had intended this week’s episode to be devoted to her memory. But I can’t even speak her name without bursting into tears. In other words, I need more time as I try to come to terms with her demise. I have decided to feature the matchless singing actor in the first episode of Season Five. In the meantime, we have another momentous occasion (and artist) to acknowledge: the 90th birthday of the English Rose: the phenomenal Janet Baker. Given that I could probably devote an entire podcast to Dame Janet, and given the wealth of material in my personal collection featuring this artist, much of it rare and unusual, I have chosen to feature this beloved artist in her third full Countermelody episode. There are few vocal artists in the history of classical music who have exhibited greater versatility than Janet Baker; this episode features many rare performances across the entirety of her long career of repertoire in which she had virtually no equal, as well as music in which she also excels but which might prove surprising. Thus we hear the expected mélodie, Lied, British song and Bach aria alongside Purcell’s Dido and pants roles by both Mozart and Richard Strauss. But we also hear such surprises as Monteverdi’s Poppea (sinuously and surprisingly sexy), Bellini’s Romeo (opposite Beverly Sills), William Walton’s Cressida (in the 1976 version of his opera Troilus and Cressida refashioned expressly for Baker), and a sublime extended orchestral song by Respighi, as well as the ultimate jaw-dropper, Rossini’s Cenerentola! We wish long life and continued health and vitality to one of the greatest mezzo-sopranos of the twentieth century!

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.