Category Archives: French Opera

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 134. Legacy (Black History Month 2022 Postlude)



This is the second part of my final episode of Black History Month 2022, continuing the exploration of the legacies of more than two dozen mostly underrecorded African American artists. Each piece of this aural mosaic fills in gaps in the recorded history of these artists. After opening memorial tributes to Josephine Veasey, Antonietta Stella, and Betty Davis, the episode is broken into several sections: first, recordings of Baroque music by Aubrey Pankey, Carmen Balthrop, Adele Addison, Betty Allen, Seth McCoy, Marvin Hayes, and a rare live recording by Marian Anderson, whose 125th birthday was observed this past week. There follow recordings of concert repertoire sung by Dorothy Maynor, Louise Parker, and Grace de la Cruz, with William Pearson and Julius Eastman leading us briefly into the bizarre world of the extended vocal techniques of the 1960s. There follow recorded performances of art song by Helen Colbert, Rhea Jackson, John Riley, Clamma Dale, Ellabelle Davis, Marvis Martin, and Cynthia Haymon, whereupon the episode concludes with some rare performances of operatic repertoire with Gwendolyn Killebrew, Claudia Lindsey, Dagmar Průšová, and Gwendolyn Walters, capped by an exquisite a cappella performance of “A City Called Heaven” by the great Mattiwilda Dobbs.

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 131. Happy Birthday, Reri Grist! (Black History Month 2022)



The great African American coloratura Reri Grist was born on leap year 1932. We celebrate her upcoming 90th birthday with a tribute featuring many of her greatest roles and recordings. After appearing as Consuelo in the 1957 Broadway premiere of West Side Story, and encouraged by Leonard Bernstein, Grist began a career in opera that took her around the world to all of the greatest opera houses. Reri Grist was the perfect exemplar of the so-called “-ina” roles: soubrette parts in Mozart and Strauss operas (Blondchen, Susanna, Despina, Zerlina, Zerbinetta, and Sophie), as well as the comic operas of Donizetti and Rossini (including Adina, Norina, and Rosina). This episode features her in most of these roles and concludes with the glorious finale of the second act of Richard Strauss’s 1935 comedy Die schweigsame Frau, one of her most notable successes. Vocal guest stars today include Christa Ludwig, Luciano Pavarotti, Sena Jurinac, Nicolai Gedda, Gwyneth Jones, Luigi Alva, Judith Raskin, Donald Grobe, and Richard Lewis. Whether you are celebrating 90 years or 22-and-a-half leap years, we celebrate you, Frau Grist, and offer heartfelt thanks for the joys that you have offered us.

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 127. Maria Ewing in Memoriam (Black History Month 2022)



The exceptional, distinctive Maria Ewing died of cancer on January 9 at her home outside of her native Detroit at the age of 71. Even before her death, I had been planning an episode on Maria Ewing, who last fall received an enormous amount of press as the mother of actor and director Rebecca Hall, whose latest film, Passing, was hitting the screens in a big way. The film is about two light-skinned Black friends in the 1920s, one of whom makes the conscious decision to present as white. The implication in much of the press was that Maria Ewing had done the same and was being taken to task for having done so. In actuality, Maria Ewing spoke frequently about her father’s apparent African American roots, and never actively tried to hide her (at times murky) family history. But, I submit to you, this is not the real story. In this episode, the first of my Black History Month 2022 series, I attempt to present as full a musical portrait of the artist as possible, allowing listeners to experience the unique musical and dramatic genius (and I use the term advisedly) of this fascinating artist. Few singers can survive comparison with Maria Callas. Maria Ewing, for all her demonstrable flaws, was one of the few artists that merit such a comparison. In this episode we hear Ewing in a wide range of material, from Purcell’s Dido to Puccini’s Tosca, with a nod to her two most famous roles, Carmen and Salome; an emphasis on both her Mozart portrayals and a focus on her aplomb with French music; and a sampling of her flair for pop music and jazz. I also discuss her sometimes controversial vocalism and role assumptions which in turn led to her blanket dismissal by her detractors. But in the end, it is her fascinating combination of carnality and innocence which made her unique. I remain, as I always have been, a devoted member of Club Ewing. This is a long-overdue Countermelody tribute to a unique and irreplaceable singer.

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 125. Jon Vickers (Great Canadian Singers)



Our series saluting great Canadian singers continues with a tribute to one of the greatest singers I have ever seen in performance, the Saskatchewan-born tenor Jon Vickers. Not only was he a profoundly imaginative and creative singing actor, he was also one of the most problematic personalities to appear on the operatic stage in the second half of the twentieth century. I discuss many of the controversies surrounding Vickers the man, in particular his virulent homophobia and sexism, while still giving full attention to his unmatched artistry. I feature both live and studio recordings over the course of his entire career, encompassing both opera and art song, focusing on what are probably his four greatest operatic roles: Florestan, Otello, Peter Grimes, and Tristan. Vocal guest stars include Maria Callas, Eileen Farrell, Joan Carlyle, Leonie Rysanek, and Renata Scotto; conductors include Colin Davis, Otto Klemperer, Tullio Serafin, Rudolf Kempe, Nicola Rescigno, William Steinberg, and Herbert von Karajan.

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 113. Edda Moser



On 27 October the great German dramatic coloratura Edda Moser celebrated her 83rd birthday. Celebrated as the greatest Queen of the Night ever, Edda Moser’s operatic career was centered on the music of Mozart but also included so much more. I present, it is true, two rare live examples of her singing the music of Mozart, but I also include her performances of music by Henze, Lehár, Verdi, Handel, Gluck, Johann and Richard Strauss, Offenbach, and Boris Blacher, as well as precious examples of her singing of Lieder, including songs by Brahms, Schubert, and Clara Schumann. I conclude with her reading of a beloved poem in tribute to her ongoing commitment to German language and culture. Vocal guest stars this week include Kostas Paskalis, Alfredo Kraus, José van Dam, Arleen Augér, and Theo Adam. Geliebte Frau Moser, wir erfreuen uns an Ihrer Kunstfertigkeit als begnadete Sängerin und Ihrem Vorbild als kulturelle Fahnenträgerin.

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 112. Barry McDaniel



This past week would have been the 91st birthday of Barry McDaniel (1930-2018), the great US-American Berlin-based lyric baritone whose artistry encompassed opera, oratorio (particularly the music of Bach), art song (particularly Lieder), and contemporary music, as well as delicious forays into operetta. This episode celebrates all aspects of this exceptionally fine singer, whose immediately recognizable voice, allied to a firm technique, superb diction, superior musicianship, and devotion to his craft yielded finely-hewn, distinctively inflected performances in a career which spanned nearly fifty years. The episode features him singing music of Strauss, Bach, Rossini, Schubert, Reimann, Ravel, Henze, Rossini, Mozart, Debussy, Millöcker and more. Vocal guest stars include Alfredo Kraus, Agnes Giebel, Kurt Böhme, Arlene Saunders, Mack Harrell (who was McDaniel’s teacher), and Edita Gruberová, to whom we pay especial tribute after her tragic death early last 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 108. Christiane Eda-Pierre



Today’s episode is a memorial tribute to the great Martinique-born French soprano Christiane Eda-Pierre on the first anniversary of her death. When this artist died on 6 September 2020 at the age of 88, I posted this episode as a bonus exclusively for my Patreon subscribers. Because a number of my listeners have inquired if I have ever devoted an episode to this artist, I have decided to release this episode to the general public. Researching Christiane Eda-Pierre was a journey of discovery for me, as I only knew the soprano’s commercial recordings and live performances from the Met. But believe me, there is so much more to this singer than this. From the French baroque repertoire through contemporary works dedicated specifically to her, Christiane Eda-Pierre brought extraordinary gifts: a voice of beauty and clarity, well-modulated from top to bottom, a near-perfect technique capped by a flawless trill, a profound musical sensibility, and a searing dramatic intensity that surprised me. I present excerpts from the full range of her repertoire, from Rameau and Handel in the Baroque period through the bel canto of Rossini and Bellini, to the glories of 19th century French opera, a genre that, in my opinion, represents her at her absolute best, to contemporary masterpieces written expressly for her by Charles Chaynes and Olivier Messiaen. It is my fervent wish that you find as much delight in this great artist as I have.

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.” Occasional guests from the “business” (singers, conductors, composers, coaches, and teachers) lend their distinctive insights. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. And please head to my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 8: Williams and Williams



Episode 8: Williams and WilliamsAs a supplement to the first part of my interview last week with Janet Williams, I offer a cache of rare studio recordings by Camilla Williams, supplemented by live material sung by Janet Williams from the artist’s private archives. Among other material featured are excerpts from Camilla’s rarely-heard album of spirituals on the MGM Records label, and a concert given by Janet Williams in her home town of Detroit in 1989, capped by a stunning rendition of Undine Smith Moore’s arrangement of the spiritual “Watch and Pray,” dedicated to Camilla Williams.

Countermelody is a new podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. 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 interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please also visit the Countermelody website for updates, additional content, and to pledge your support. www.countermelodypodcast.com