Category Archives: Mezzo Madness

Episode 263. Contralto Central



Finally, the first in my long-promised series on the contralto voice! The contralto is a rara avis in the today’s opera and classical music scene, and yet back in the day, there seem to have been more of them before the public. And of course contraltos have always been a powerful presence on the popular music scene, whether in blues, disco, jazz, or as purveyors of the Great American Songbook. There is no way that I can cover all of the great (and near-great) contraltos in recorded history, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try! Today’s selections span a wide chronological range , even for this podcast: nearly 120 years, and include voices both fleet and monolithic (and sometimes both). We begin with a tribute to the late Polish coloratura contralto Ewa Podleś and along with way we hear the most famous contraltos like Kathleen Ferrier and Marian Anderson, and jazz and pop contraltos like Nina Simone and Cassandra Wilson. We also sample singers from the earlier twentieth century such as Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Cloe Elmo, Clara Butt, Eugenia Mantelli, Kerstin Thorborg, and Sigrid Onégin (about whom I spill some major tea!) Throughout the episode are sprinkled some of the most beautiful voices of any kind that I have ever heard: the Scottish Caroline Kaart, the Romanian Florica Cristofereanu, the Czech Věra Soukupová, the Dutch Aafje Heynis, the French Germaine Cernay, the British Norma Procter, and the Russian Valentina Levko. And if like me you have despaired of ever hearing another true contralto again in our lifetime, we hear in young Jasmin White cause for rejoicing. And if your favorites are not heard today, fear not, for this is the tip of the iceberg: many more great singers will follow when the series continues in two weeks.

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.


Episode 255. Art Songs for Holy Week



I return to you with one final episode for the month of March, again focusing on Holy Week. In this case, I present to you art songs on contemplative, Biblical, even Lenten themes. Composers represented include Dvorák, Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann, as well as Wolf and Brahms. The final works of both of these composers are song cycles, Wolf’s Michelangelo-Lieder and Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge. Both works are heard in their entirety in performances both celebrated and virtually unknown. Performers include, in order of vocal range, Edith Mathis, Věra Soukupová, Kathleen Ferrier, Pierre Mollet, Benjamin Luxon, Matti Lehtinen, Norman Bailey, Walter Berry, Kim Borg, George London, and Alexander Kipnis. Into the midst of this company enters also the young and extraordinarily gifted tenor Laurence Kilsby, not yet thirty but already displaying all the traits of great vocal artistry. Please enjoy this extra episode in the spirit in which it is given, with gratitude and love for the ongoing support of all of my listeners.

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.


Episode 254. Holy Week with the Romantics



Once again we have reached the climax of the penitential season of Lent, the most theologically significant week in the Christian calendar, namely Holy Week. Even for those who are not observant Christians, this period, standing as it does on the threshold of spring, the season of rebirth, can be a time of meditation and remembrance. To help support this contemplative moment I have compiled selections from some of the larger oratorios and liturgical works composed during the Romantic era performed by some of the greatest classical vocalists of the last century. Composers include Brahms, Dvořák, Rossini, Schubert, Franck, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Elgar; singers include sopranos Margaret Marshall, Leontyne Price, Pilar Lorengar, Judith Raskin, and Elizabeth Harwood; mezzo-sopranos Betty Allen, Alfreda Hodgson, and Shirley Verrett; tenors David Rendall, Alejandro Ramírez, and Richard Lewis; and bass-baritones Tom Krause and Franz Crass led by conductors Andrew Davis, Eugene Ormandy, James Conlon, George Szell, Rafael Kubelik, Michel Corboz, and Herbert von Karajan. No matter what your faith or belief system, there is an outpouring of beautiful music and singing contained in this episode that will fully engage your mind and spirit.

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.

 


Episode 243. Ethel Ennis (BHM 2024)



Today’s “Forgotten Diva” takes us outside of the realm of opera and into the rich musical field of jazz. I have been in musical heaven the past few days as I’ve been savoring the output of the great Ethel Ennis (28 November 1932 – 17 February 2019). In her native Baltimore she was known as the “First Lady of Jazz,” and while this might cause some persons to look askance at such a claim, I can only say that they have not yet sampled the vocal, musical and interpretive majesty that is Ethel Ennis! Because of her superlative gifts, worldwide fame kept nipping at her heels, and yet she had no interest in being “famous.” She just wanted to make music, and that’s exactly what she did, remaining in the city of her birth, where she performed regularly at certain clubs, including one she and her husband Earl Arnett ran in the 1980s called “Ethel’s Place.” She had recording contracts with both Capitol Records and RCA, for whom she released some monumental albums in the 1950s and 1960s, and later in her career, as her artistry become more refined, burnished, and inward-looking, she also recorded a number of spectacular live recordings on small, independent labels. Recordings sampled on this episode cover the musical gamut from the Great American Songbook to quirky non-standards, to contemporary pop. If you hear Ethel Ennis interpret just one song, I predict that you will become an immediate fan for life.

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.


Episode 240. Annabelle Bernard (BHM 2024)



Last week we celebrated the 97th birthday of our Ur-Diva, Leontyne Price. And today, continuing my Black History Month 2024 theme of “Forgotten Divas,” I present to you a Verdi soprano of similar repertoire and voice to Miss Price, Annabelle Bernard (1935-2005), whose career, unlike Price’s, was centered primarily in Europe, specifically at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, where she was a member of the company for nearly forty years. Born in New Orleans, she received her early musical training from Earl Hogan (uncle of the famous composer and conductor Moses Hogan) and Sister Mary Elise Sisson, whom Bernard herself credited with being her formative and primary musical inspiration. With the patronage of Edith Rosenwald Stern, an heiress to the Sears-Roebuck fortune, Bernard found early success in Europe, winning second prize in the Munich ARD Competition in 1960, settling in Berlin in 1962. Annabelle Bernard was married to the German tenor Karl-Ernst Mercker (1933-2021), who in addition to appearing alongside her in many performances and productions, was also a fierce advocate for his wife during her tenure in Berlin, when she would encounter racism. The two of them retired to New Orleans in 1998, where Bernard became a voice teacher at Xavier University, her alma mater. This episode includes rare live clips of the soprano in works by Verdi, Mercadante, and Dallapiccola, as well as from her sole commercial recording, excerpts from Porgy and Bess in German alongside the iconic African American baritone Lawrence Winters, released in 1964, the year before Winters’s untimely death. Mercker’s strong lyric tenor is also featured in a few brief excerpts, but the main focus is on the radiant voice and artistry of Annabelle Bernard. Believe me when I tell you that I remain on the lookout for further recordings of this magnificent artist!

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.


Episode 239. Gwendolyn Killebrew (BHM 2024)



This week’s “Forgotten Diva” is the mezzo-soprano / contralto Gwendolyn Killebrew (26 August 1941 – 24 December 2021), who made an indelible contribution to opera in particular during the active years of her career (1965 – 2009). Though the majority of her career was centered at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, she sang the world over with some of the most important opera companies (including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Bayreuth, Washington Opera, Santa Fe Opera, La Monnaie, and the Bayerische Staatsoper), conductors (Pierre Boulez, Gary Bertini, Michael Gielen, Herbert von Karajan, Zubin Mehta, Georg Solti), and stage directors (Patrice Chéreau, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, August Everding, Giancarlo del Monaco, Christof Loy, and John Dew). She had an enormous repertoire from Monteverdi and Handel to Henze and Fortner, excelling in particular in various Wagner roles. She was also a superb actor, who, through the use minimal gestures and stage business, made an enormous impact. This episode presents her in a wide range of material, including both live and commercial recordings ranging from Cavalieri to Zimmermann, alongside such fellow singers as Teresa Stratas, Carlo Bergonzi, Hermann Prey, Stuart Burrows, Sherrill Milnes, and Gail Gilmore led by conductors Leonard Bernstein, Gary Bertini, Bohumil Gregor, Berislav Klobučar, James Levine, Heinz Wallberg, and Eve Queler. Of special interest is a rare live recording of her prize-winning performance of “Asie” from Ravel’s Shéhérazade at the 1967 International Voice Competition in Montréal. The episode opens with brief memorial tributes to soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez and pianist Thomas Muraco.

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.


Episode 236. Howard Hart Introduces Christa Ludwig (Listeners’ Favorites VII)



My friend and fellow opera podcaster Howard Hart introduces the first of this week’s Listeners’ Favorites episodes, my 2021 tribute to the superb zwischenfach singer Christa Ludwig, who died nearly three years ago. Ludwig was a singer whose repertoire centered around the great German composers but who also sang Verdi and French repertoire with stunning results; a mezzo-soprano who was unparalleled in Wagner, Mahler, and Brahms, but who also sang the great soprano heroines of Richard Strauss; a Lieder singer of great perception and textual acuity whose supple technique nonetheless was centered on legato singing: the greatness of this artist simply cannot be overestimated. I focus on the key composers (Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Wagner) and conductors (Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, and Leonard Bernstein) with whom she was most closely associated, while also examining some roles that might surprise you: Cenerentola, Amneris and Marie in Wozzeck. Vocal guest stars include Gloria Davy, Victoria de los Ángeles, Reri Grist, Gundula Janowitz, Gwyneth Jones, and Ludwig’s one-time husband Walter Berry. Thank you, Howard, for lending your enthusiasm and passion to my podcast in your introduction of one of your (and my) favorite singers.

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.


Episode 235. Anna Tonna Introduces Teresa Berganza (Listeners’ Favorites VI)



Today’s Listeners’ Favorites episode of Countermelody is introduced by my good friend (and Countermelody fan) the marvelous mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna. In her introduction Anna tells about her first exposure to the podcast and introduces us to one of her favorite episodes: the one I published in May 2022 a week after the beloved singer died at the age of 89. The 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, knowing that she was one of Anna’s most treasured singers and role models, my goal was to see her through Anna’s eyes, and in the end, I was completely won over. This episode perfectly illustrates the podcast as a journey of mutual discovery for both me and my listeners.

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.


Episode 234. David Savran Introduces Carol Brice (Listeners’ Favorites V)



This Listeners’ Favorites episode serves a dual purpose: first it is a celebration the publication this week of my partner David Savran’s new book, Tell It to the World: The Broadway Musical Abroad, by Oxford University Press. (I’ll be doing two episodes with David on this book in March in conjunction with the book launch.) Second, David introduces us to one of his favorite Countermelody episodes, a 2021 Black History Month celebration of the life, voice, and career of the great African American contralto Carol Brice (1916-1985), whose career encompassed both Broadway and opera. It’s that very versatility that most attracted David to Brice’s work. He describes to us his first exposure to a variety of her recordings, from Falla to Finian’s Rainbow. I myself first heard Carol Brice in her recording of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” which exemplifies all her musical virtues: simplicity and directness of utterance, lack of sentimentality, and deep identification with both text and music. Add to this a voice of such depth and refinement and a technique so secure that she is almost without equal. From her early career outings as the first African American to win the coveted Naumburg Award, through her appearances on the Broadway stage and in Porgy and Bess, Carol Brice brought an emotional honesty to her performances such as is rarely encountered in any field of genre. On this episode I feature her in a wide range of live and commercial recordings from Marc Blitzstein’s Regina to concert pieces by Brahms and Mahler, focusing in particular on a matchless 1947 song recital with her brother Jonathan Brice as her collaborator. Brice’s second husband, the baritone Thomas Carey is also featured in a pair of recordings. Thank you, David, for re-introducing my listeners to this great artist, and congratulations on your monumental new book!

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.

 


Episode 232. Janet Williams and Paul Padillo Introduce Maria Ewing (Listeners’ Favorites III)



January 9 is already the second anniversary of the death of the iconoclastic (and iconic) Maria Ewing, who died of cancer in her home outside of her native Detroit on January 9, 2022. She was an artist both admired and derided during her lifetime, whose importance since her death has only become more apparent. It so happens that two of my most faithful listeners, Janet Williams and Paul Padillo, chose the episode that I published in her honor as their favorite episode. Paul is a passionate opera advocate who maintains a blog as well as a Facebook page in which he writes with extraordinary eloquence about the musical genre we all adore. Janet is celebrated throughout the world as one of the finest singers of her generation who has gone on to become one of the most important voice teachers in the world today, teaching, with compassion and common sense, a technique grounded in the essentials of bel canto. Their spoken introductions to the episode highlight different aspects of what made Ewing so special. For Paul, he became a lifelong fan after hearing her performance of Blanche de la Force in Poulenc’s operatic masterpiece, The Dialogues of the Carmelites. For Janet, it was a shared provenance (both were natives of Detroit) as well as a common mentor, the late David Di Chiera, who founded and ran Michigan Opera Theatre, the company featured both Maria and Janet in some of their first operatic appearances. Maria’s passing hit me particularly hard because at the time of her death, I was in the midst of creating a special episode in her honor and had been immersing myself in her fascinating performances, finding myself more and more in awe of her one-of-a-kind artistry. This tribute episode is simply not to be missed.

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.


Episode 230. Brian Castles-Onion Introduces Ira Siff: La Gran Scena and Beyond (Listeners’ Favorites I)



Welcome to Season Five of Countermelody! While I indulge in a much-needed break for the month of January (my first in four years!), I have asked a number of Countermelody fans and listeners to provide spoken introductions to some of their favorite episodes from the first three seasons of the podcast. Today conductor Brian Castles-Onion introduces an episode from June 2020, as we neared the height of the pandemic and the panic surrounding it. It is an interview with Ira Siff, artistic director of La Gran Scena Opera Company di New York, alter ego of the beloved “traumatic soprano” Vera Galupe-Borszkh, lecturer for the Metropolitan Opera Guild and Weekly Commentator on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. So much has changed for everyone since the interview was recorded in January 2020, most poignantly (as relates to this episode) the death of our beloved Chic Walker (who portrayed Dame Emily Post-Morddum and Alfredo Sorta-Pudgi in La Gran Scena) on 11 April 2022; and the passing of Renata Scotto on 16 August 2023.

My association with Ira Siff and La Gran Scena Opera Company di New York goes back more than thirty years, when Ira provided me with my first employment as a professional singer when my alter ego Daniela della Scarpone sang for two years with the renowned travesty opera company. I sat down with Ira in his East Village apartment in January 2020 for a wide-ranging interview in which we discuss his early days as a standee at the old Met (where some of his opera-going experiences included Maria Callas’s final Tosca performances, Renata Scotto’s 1965 debut as Madama Butterfly, and Leonie Rysanek’s wild traversals of Verdi and Wagner). He discusses his first performing experiences in the early 1970s in association with Al Carmines and others, the genesis of La Gran Scena and their development into a worldwide phenomenon, and his subsequent “legitimate” career as lecturer, stage director, vocal coach and voice teacher and commentator all stemmed from in his words, “getting in a dress and singing soprano,” which he dubs “the strangest part.” This is a free-wheeling and extremely Opera Queeny interview, peppered with Ira’s unique anecdotes and snippets from Gran Scena (and other!) performances.

Today’s guest host Brian Castles-Onion is one of Australia’s most exciting and well-known opera conductors. Completing his tertiary studies at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music, his outstanding achievements speak for themselves. He has worked at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Julliard School of Music and the Rossini Festival in Italy, and has held the position of Artistic Director of Canterbury Opera in New Zealand. He currently continues his long run association with Opera Australia. His conducting experience includes well over five hundred opera performances throughout Australia, Asia and New Zealand alone. He was on the podium for Opera Australia’s 40th Anniversary Gala and 60th Anniversary Gala, The Robert Allman Farewell Gala and conducted the Dame Joan Sutherland State Memorial Service – which was broadcast internationally on television and radio. His book Losing the Plot in Opera has been a Best Seller in Australia and the UK. Brian became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2017 Australia Day Honours List.

Today’s interviewee and subject, Ira Siff, is a native New Yorker, who grew up on the standing room line of the old Metropolitan Opera, worshiping the famous singers of the 60’s. A graduate of the Cooper Union, with a degree in Fine Arts, Mr. Siff began to study voice, and made his debut as a tenor in 1970. For the next decade, he performed roles in opera, operetta and musicals in New York, at The New York Shakespeare Festival, Circle in the Square, Playwrights Horizons, and many other venues. Turning to cabaret, Ira created an act using vocal parody of opera, jazz, and other styles of music, gaining critical acclaim, and a loyal following. In 1981, he founded La Gran Scena Opera Company di New York, the internationally acclaimed travesty troupe, whose gifted falsetto “divas” have spoofed opera with great affection for over two decades, in New York annually, and on tours to some of the great festivals, theatres and opera houses of the world.

In 2000, he turned to stage directing, gaining critical acclaim for his productions of operas at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Sarasota Opera, The Caramoor Festival, and the Tanglewood Music Festival. All in all, he has directed operas for companies in New Jersey to New Zealand, with stops along the way in Puerto Rico, Lima, Peru and Utah. Singers whom he has directed include Sumi Jo, Dolora Zajick, Aprile Millo, Eglise Gutierrez, Krassimira Stoyanova, and the late Marcello Giordani. Conductors with whom he has collaborated as a stage director have included Richard Bonynge, Christoph von Dohnányi, and James Levine.

For the past thirty years, Mr. Siff has been a voice teacher and interpretive coach, teaching in New York, Italy, Israel, Holland and China, giving Master Classes for the Metropolitan Opera Guild, and was on the faculty of the Renata Scotto Vocal Academy. Ira was a guest teacher of bel canto technique at The Royal Conservatory in Den Haag in 2008, and then at the Dutch National Opera Academy for five seasons, and at the Amsterdam Conservatory in The Netherlands where he returned annually, and was appointed Permanent Guest Teacher. He has also given master classes in bel canto and verismo for the Metropolitan Opera Guild every season since 2008 and has presented sold-out lectures for the Met Guild as well on a variety of operatic topics. These lectures can be heard on the podcast of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Ira also lectures on opera twenty times a season for two private classes, has been a contributor of reviews and features to Opera News since 1997 and has been Weekly Commentator on the Met Broadcasts since 2007.

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.


Episode 229. Happy Birthday, John Wustman



Today, Christmas Day 2023, is also the 93rd birthday of my teacher, the great John Wustman. I can think of no better way to conclude Season Four of Countermelody than with a tribute to the man who had the greatest influence on my development as a musician. He’s probably best-known for his work with Luciano Pavarotti and as the accompanist in more than thirty Music Minus One LPs from the early 1960s, as well as for his pioneering teaching of scores of accompanists. He has been called “the dean of American accompanists” and many other things, but to me he is and remains primarily my dear friend and mentor. From the late 1950s through the 1980s and beyond, he appeared with nearly all of the greatest singers on the planet, from Richard Tucker, William Warfield, Eleanor Steber, and Jennie Tourel; to Birgit Nilsson, Carlo Bergonzi, Régine Crespin, Nicolai Gedda, and Renata Scotto. He and Russian mezzo-soprano Irina Arkhipova won the 1973 Gran Prix du Disque for their legendary (and matchless) recording of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death, only one of his many commercial recordings. I have been searching the internet for sound documents of his many live recordings and I’m pleased to say that I have found some rare ones to complement my reminiscences of studying with him in the late 1980s. He wrote to me just this past week that he is currently preparing another live performance of Schubert’s Winterreise in early 2024. I am so thrilled to pay tribute to the man who, through his powerful example and influence, forever changed the way I play, sing, talk about, think about, and hear music.

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 227. A Golden Age Christmas



In the midst of our recent move, I came across a stash of old “mixtapes” (actually CDs and much other archival material. One such item which particularly moved me was one entitled “A Golden Age Christmas 2003” which I handed out to my colleagues and friends twenty years ago. Looking over the tracklist, I realized that this was a sort of early iteration of Countermelody: me sharing music that I particularly loved with people that I cared about. Today’s podcast uses as its basis that same CD (slightly trimmed in length) and features performances by a glorious group of singers ranging from Olive Fremstad, Charles Gilibert, and Margarete Matzenauer from the early years of the twentieth century to such later favorites as Elly Ameling, Beverly Sills, and Leontyne Price. I can’t guarantee that this episode will put you in the holiday spirit, but I sure hope it does!

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 226. Maria Callas: Singer of the Century



What is there to say about today’s featured artist, Maria Callas, who was born 100 years ago today? So many of my esteemed colleagues are weighing in with their Callas tributes today (both encyclopedic and deeply perceptive and knowledgeable) and there are all varieties of reconstituted Callas material also suddenly appearing, from newly-colorized films of Callas in action to virtual concerts with Maria as hologram, to some new biopic (goddess forbid!), to audio remasterings both laudable and ridiculous. I have nothing comparably “new” or erudite to add to the mix, so can only offer an episode predicated on my encounters with the voice and artistry of Maria Callas. There is no singer in the history of opera more important to me (and, I daresay, to opera in general) than Callas, who revolutionized bel canto and set completely new standards for every type of role she sang. I have chosen from among my favorite (live) Callas material to supplement my musings, going as far back as her Norma and Macbeth in 1952 and as late as her 1974 comeback and her last recording, made the year before her untimely death. In these musical excerpts, La Divina is joined by tenor colleagues (and Countermelody favorites) Cesare Valletti, Jon Vickers, and Franco Corelli. As I listened to Callas this week, I remarked anew at her creative genius, which sprang primarily from faithfulness to the written score, and a burning need to make every phrase she intoned “say something.” May this episode be as cathartic a listening experience for you as it was for me in preparing it. Maria per sempre!

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 225. Joya Sherrill



This week’s episode is the first in what I hope will be a series featuring vocalists who performed with Duke Ellington, Today’s artist is the playful and sophisticated Joya Sherrill (20 August 1924 – 28 June 2010) who, by a series of happy “accidents,” became one of the best-remembered and most enduring of Ellington’s songsters while still a teenager. For she was not only a musically- and vocally-gifted singer, she was also a lyricist and composer. She herself composed the lyrics to the Billy Strayhorn classic “Take the ‘A’ Train,” as well as another Ellington standard, “Kissing Bug,” she also was the first singer to record “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and numerous other Ellington and Strayhorn standards. Though she left the Ellington Orchestra before 1950, she continued to appear with them in various projects, including his 1957 television extravaganza A Drum Is a Woman (alongside soprano Margaret Tynes), and My People, his 1963 extravaganza commemorating the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. She also performed with the Benny Goodman Orchestra on their 1962 tour of Russia, and was the first African American host of a children’s television program, Time for Joya (later renamed Joya’s Fun School) which began in 1970 and ran in reruns until 1982 on local New York television. In this endeavor she was assisted by another powerhouse Black musician, Luther Henderson, who also arranged and conducted her altogether individual 1959 studio album, Sugar and Spice, which put a sophisticated spin on old Mother Goose rhymes. As late as 1994 she continued to perform and record the music of Duke Ellington and others. Here is an artist whose combination of élan and exuberance is well worth rediscovering and celebrating.

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 222. Shirley Verrett, Falcon Sfogatissima



It is hard to believe that it’s already been 13 years since the death of Shirley Verrett on November 5, 2010. It has also already been four years since I did a pair of episodes on this extraordinary and beloved artist, and this anniversary gives me the perfect excuse to revisit the work of this mezzo-soprano turned soprano who more than any other singer in my experiences (even soon-to-be birthday girl Maria Callas) was capable of singing nearly anything. This type of singer is sometimes referred to as a soprano sfogato (or a falcon, after the 19th century French mezzo-cum-soprano Cornélie Falcon. Since Verrett, like Falcon, sang both mezzo and soprano, I instead coin the term falcon sfogatissima to describe her vocal magic. This episode is chock full of examples of Verrett’s impassioned yet technically-grounded vocalism, from art songs by Brahms and Pasatieri to operatic roles by Handel, Gluck, Cherubini, Bellini, Puccini, and Verdi (including both soprano and mezzo roles in Aida and the Messa da Requiem and soprano roles in Ballo in Maschera, Macbeth, Don Carlo, and Otello). I close the episodes with Verrett’s astonishing but limited forays into the German operatic repertoire. Her collaborators on this episode include conductors Seiji Ozawa, Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, Zubin Mehta, Eve Queler, Georges Prêtre, Sarah Caldwell, and the late Kenneth Montgomery; and fellow operatic greats Sherrill Milnes, Luciano Pavarotti, James McCracken, Robert Massard (last week’s featured artist), and her frenemy the late Grace Bumbry.

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 221. Robert Massard



This is an episode I have been planning for years now! This past August 15, the great French baritone Robert Massard turned 98 years old. As many of my listeners know, I have a thing for baritones in general, and I have devoted episodes to artists of the baritone persuasion from world-renowned to virtually unknown to somewhere in-between. Just think of it: Gérard Souzay, Jorma Hynninen, Eugene Holmes, Andrzej Hiolski, Gabriel Bacquier, Will Parker, Gilbert Price: these and many more have already been featured with more (Hugo Hasslo, Eric Sædén) on the horizon for next season. But I would be hard-pressed to think of a baritone who possessed a more beautiful natural voice, a more refined technique, or a more elegant artistry than did Robert Massard, who in his thirty-odd years of career chalked up approximately 2,500 performances, including 1,003 at the Paris Opéra alone (the same number, he himself points out, as Don Giovanni’s conquests)! Massard also sang an incredibly varied (though primarily operatic) repertoire, and this episode presents highlights from both the standard to the more obscure repertoire, from Gluck, Gounod, Verdi, and Massenet; to Reyer, Milhaud, Lalo, and Diaz (who?). These recordings are supplemented by a number of excerpts from French operetta (Planquette, Varney, Messager, and Beydts) which provide unalloyed melodic delight, the Massard voice heard at its absolute peak. And the colleagues who appear opposite Massard are like a Who’s Who of great opera singers (French and otherwise) of the era: Régine Crespin, Mady Mesplé, Denise Duval, Shirley Verrett (subject of next week’s episode!), Andréa Guiot, Jean Giraudeau, André Turp, Marilyn Horne, Renée Doria, Jane Rhodes, Andrée Esposito, Rita Gorr, and the falcon Suzanne Sarroca, who died last month at the age of 96. And if you listen very closely, you will also catch fleeting glimpses of favorites Patricia Neway and George Shirley. I know I say this too often, but if you only listen to one episode of Countermelody, make it this 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 220. La Fiamma (The Haunted Opera House II)



A year ago, I posted an episode entitled “The Haunted Opera House” that featured a wide range of spooky, witchy, Halloween-appropriate 20th century operas from Prokofiev to Penderecki. This year I focus in on one of the works from that episode, Ottorino Respighi’s 1934 masterpiece La Fiamma, based on a 1908 play on witch hunts and witchcraft in 16th century Norway by the novelist and playwright Hans Wiers-Jenssen entitled Anna Pedersdotter, the Witch. This work also formed the basis for the Carl Dreyer film Day of Wrath. Respighi and his librettist Claudio Guastalla transferred the action to seventh-century Ravenna in the early days of Christianity. Musically the work combines Respighi’s interest with Gregorian chant, modal scales and harmonies, and the work of Claudio Monteverdi with his penchant for stunning orchestrations. The dramatically potent result was his most famous operatic work, but after an initial succès d’estime, it has only retained the slightest hold on the operatic fringes. Nevertheless, the heroine Silvana in particular is a role that great sopranos have made their own over the years, including Claudia Muzio, Gina Cigna, Giuseppina Cobelli, and Rosa Raisa (none of whom sadly recorded any excerpts) through Montserrat Caballé, Nelly Miricioiu, Ilona Tokody, Stefka Evstatieva, and Mara Coleva. I tell the story of the opera while offering substantial excerpts, which, in addition to the sopranos mentioned above, also include such operatic heavyweights as James McCracken, Carlo Tagliabue, Deborah Voigt, Giacinto Prandelli, Delcina Stevenson, Felicity Palmer, Juan Pons, Anna Moffo, and Mignon Dunn, among others. Just the thing to scare you out of your skin this Halloween!

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 218. Edith Piaf, storyteller



Today is the 60th anniversary of the death of Edith Piaf, the greatest singer in the history of French popular music. She died on the eve of my third birthday, and since I have always allowed myself to indulge in a favorite singer or topic for my birthday episodes, I am focusing on La Môme Piaf, whose uniquely powerful voice and interpretations have been of central importance to me since the first time I heard her. When I take on such an iconic figure for a podcast episode, I try to examine them from a unique or unusual perspective. Today vis-à-vis Piaf, I focus on her unique performing style which combined subtlety and dramatic understatement alongside violent emotions and extroverted vocalism as reflected in her live performances and recordings. In this regard, I find an unusually cogent comparison with the Korean tradition of pansouri singing, which is a topic addressed by my brilliant friend, the theatre scholar David Savran, in his new book, Tell It to the World, which is being published by Oxford in early 2024. But mostly I dissect a number of Piaf’s most powerful story-songs such as “L’accordéoniste,” “Les amants d’un jour,” “Milord,” and “La foule,” written by composers and lyricists such as Marguerite Monnot, Michel Rivgauche, and Michel Emer, who were powerful allies in her search for material that best suited her extraordinary and iconoclastic gifts, which have come to personify the heart and soul of la ville de lumière, her beloved Paris.

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 216. The Lieder of Joseph Marx



This week (inspired by an 10-inch LP in my collection of his songs performed by Anton Dermota and Wilma Lipp, both stalwarts of the Wiener Staatsoper in the 1950s) I present an introduction to the Lieder of Austrian composer Joseph Marx (1882 – 1964). His songs are most frequently compared to Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf and are distinctly post-Romantic in style and harmony, but they also exhibit traits unique to their composer. As with so many figures from this period in European history, his legacy is shadowed in controversy, which I discuss at length. In the end, I believe it is his contribution as an inspired composer, particularly of song, for which he should be most remembered. Alongside Lipp and Dermota, some of the other singers heard in the episode include Ljuba Welitsch, Irmgard Seefried, Angelika Kirchschlager, Leontyne Price, Lotte Lehmann, Waldemar Kmentt, John Charles Thomas, Florence Easton, and Arleen Augér. Pianists include Marx himself, as well as Erik Werba and Paul Ulanowsky, both of whom studied with him. If you only know one or two of Marx’s songs (or if you don’t know his work at all), you are in for a glorious surprise!

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 215. Trauer und Trost



This week’s episode offers music of both mourning and consolation performed by treasured artists, many of whom celebrate significant anniversaries this fall, and all of whom died before their time. Thus we hear singers Maria Callas, Jessye Norman, Fritz Wunderlich, Kathleen Ferrier, Judith Raskin, Arleen Augér, and Lucia Popp, and pianist Dinu Lipatti performing music of Bach, Schubert, Fauré, Bellini, and others. This episode may conform to my new streamlined format, but it packs an emotional wallop nonetheless. A bonus episode to be published later in the week will feature Tatiana Troyanos, Judy Garland, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Dusty Springfield, Renata Scotto and others in music designed, as in this episode, to console and comfort.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.


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 133. Never Forget (Black History Month 2022)



I bid a lingering farewell to Black History Month 2022 with the first of a two-part episode featuring singers, each of whom left a relatively small but invaluable recorded legacy. I begin with soloists from the Leonard de Paur Chorus, and continue with earliest recorded examples, more than a century old, of African American singers. I follow with a series of singers, each of whom made a mark in varied productions of Porgy and Bess, but all of them singing other material: by Mozart, Arlen, Bernstein, Cole Porter, Howard Swanson, and a US workers’ song translated into German. I conclude with a trio of exceptional Verdi sopranos of whom you may not yet have heard. Among the singers heard today are Charles Holland, Luther Saxon, Eugene Holmes, John C. Payne, Harry T. Burleigh, Evelyn Dove, LeVern Hutcherson, Inez Matthews, Todd Duncan, Florence Cole-Talbert, Kenneth Spencer, Martha Flowers, Bruce Hubbard, Helen Thigpen, Ella Lee, Ruby Elzy, Theresa Green Coleman, Edward Boatner, Betty Allen, and Sarah Reese. Prepare to have your horizons expanded and your consciousness raised!

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 126. Canadian Singers of Art Song (Great Canadian Singers)



After two weeks of so-called “deep dives” into the careers and recordings of Lois Marshall and Jon Vickers – two of the greatest Canadian singers – this week I offer a potpourri episode of great Canadian singers singing art song. Contemporary Canadian art song, mélodie, and Lieder: it’s all here, and sung by a bevy of Canadian beauties of all vocal categories: among others, sopranos Irene Jessner, Pierrette Alarie, and Teresa Stratas; mezzo-sopranos Maureen Forrester, Portia White, and Catherine Robbin; tenors Léopold Simoneau, Raoul Jobin, and Richard Verreau; baritones Victor Braun, Gino Quilico, and James Milligan; and bass-baritones George London, Joseph Rouleau, and Donald Bell. They perform work of Schubert, Loewe, Strauss, Weill, and Hindemith, Duparc, Debussy, Milhaud, Honegger, and Sauguet, as well as Canadian composers Oskar Morawetz, Godfrey Ridout, and Robert Fleming, accompanied by John Newmark, John Wustman, Allen Rogers, Glenn Gould, and others. The episode begins with tributes to two recently deceased singers: the early music tenor Nigel Rogers and the Verdi baritone Gianni Maffeo, as well as a teaser on next week’s episode on the extraordinary Maria Ewing. “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”

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 123. Lois Marshall (Great Canadian Singers)



Today is my first episode of the New Year, and the first in my three-part series this month on Great Canadian Singers. It is my contention that my first subject, Lois Marshall (1925-1997), is one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. If you haven’t heard of her (which is entirely possible, given the vagaries of posthumous fame and reputation), you are in for an enormous treat. Possessed of a rare musical scrupulousness, an interpretive honestly, directness, and integrity, as well as a finely-honed dramatic sensibility, Lois Marshall, in a better world, would have graced the world’s operatic stages. Alas, she was stricken with polio as a child, and though she managed to gain the ability to walk, staged opera was a genre which she only rarely attempted. Yet she worked with the world’s greatest conductors, among them Toscanini, Stokowski, and Beecham, and was a recitalist celebrated the world over. This episode offers an extended yet partial glimpse of the range and variety of her artistry, and includes recordings of arias by both Purcell and Puccini (the title role of Turandot!), Bach and Beethoven, as well as a dazzling array of recital repertoire from Debussy to folk song arrangements. Fellow Canadians Maureen Forrester and Glenn Gould are also featured. In my opinion, this artist is ripe for rediscovery, and I hope that you will join me on this extraordinary journey into the life and career of Lois Marshall.

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 122. Auld Acquaintance II



Part Two of my “Auld Acquaintance” mini-series on Countermelody continues the exploitation of even more artists who have already been featured on the podcast, but in rare recordings that have only recently come into my collection. Today’s episode begins with a tribute to the German-based African American mezzo-soprano Gwendolyn Killebrew, who died on Christmas Eve at the age of 80. Featured artists in the main episode include Paul Robeson, Magda Olivero, Edda Moser, Ileana Cotrubas, Carol Brice, Margaret Price, Igor Gorin, Josephine Baker, Eidé Noréna, Alberta Hunter, Thomas Carey, Christa Ludwig, Sylvia Sass, Francisco Araiza, William Warfield, and many, many more singing everything from reggae to Rigoletto. 2021 gets a better send-off than it deserves, what with these singers and this music that will certainly help us all to approach the upcoming New Year “keeping the song in our hearts!”

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 121. Auld Acquaintance I



This special episode, the first of two year-end celebrations, presents artists who have already been featured on Countermelody in rare recordings that have recently become available to me. A few of the artists heard include George Shirley, Heather Harper, Lawrence Winters, Elisabeth Söderström, Camilla Williams, Julia Migenes, John Raitt, Gloria Davy, Rosanna Carteri, Mirella Freni, Robert McFerrin, Margaret Marshall, Yi-Kwei Sze, Eileen Farrell, Shirley Verrett, Cathy Berberian, and many, many others in recordings, most from my personal collection, which you may not have heard before. This is a gift of love and gratitude from me to my listeners and supporters, a backward glance at all of the great singers who have been heard on the podcast over the past two and a half years, a theme which will continue next week. I look forward to continuing with new topics and new singers as we move into 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 119. Christmas (Art) Songs



It’s time for my third annual Christmas show! Can you believe that Countermelody has been around that long already? This year I am reviving last year’s theme, Christmas-themed art songs, but with all-new material this time around as sung by some of my very favorite singers, including Elly Ameling, Teresa Berganza, Norman Bailey, Irmgard Seefried, Lois Marshall, Benjamin Luxon, Jennie Tourel, Jorma Hynninen, Janet Baker, Peter Schreier, Sarah Walker, and many, many more. It’s an absolutely chock-full episode which focuses upon seasonal songs by Hugo Wolf, Joaquín Nin, Richard Strauss, Peter Warlock, Paul Hindemith, Peter Cornelius, Joaquín Rodrigo, and Maurice Ravel, among others. Attention is devoted to many of the characters in the original Christmas story: the Virgin Mary, the Shepherds, the Magi, and the Baby Jesus himself, while also not neglecting songs that address the less joyous aspects of the holiday season. I guarantee that your spirits will be uplifted, however, when Lotte Lehmann “drops in” to recite two of the poems from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Marienleben cycle. In addition, the episode begins with a tribute to Justino Díaz, who this past week received a Kennedy Center Honor.

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 116. Pop Songs by Lieder Singers



This week I feature nearly a century’s worth of recordings of pop music by singers who also, and in some cases primarily, were great singers of art song. Many of my favorite singers figure into the mix, including Hermann Prey (who was the inspiration for this episode), Grace Bumbry, Helen Donath, Roberta Alexander, Elly Ameling, Peter Schreier, Lotte Lehmann, Gérard Souzay, Brigitte Fassbaender, Bryn Terfel, Richard Tauber, José van Dam, Peter Schreier, Leontyne Price, Donald Gramm, and many, many others. They perform everything from Broadway standards to jazz to Deutsche Schlager to tangos to the Great American Songbook to 80s power ballads. This episode was such a joy to put together and I hope that you will enjoy this cornucopia of vocal and interpretive bounty.

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 111. Verdi auf Deutsch I



Today’s is a mammoth episode on a mammoth topic: historical performances of Verdi’s operas in German translation. I trace the historical and ongoing popularity of Verdi’s works in Germany, and include discussions of the works of Friedrich Schiller as Verdian subject matter; the co-opting of Verdi’s genius by the Third Reich; and the numerous African American Verdi singers, including Gloria Davy, Lawrence Winters, Lenora Lafayette, Betty Allen, and Grace Bumbry, who based their careers (or significant portions thereof) in German-speaking European countries. I include duets and trios from eight different Verdi operas; recordings featured were made between the years 1923 and 1973 and feature such native German-speaking singers as Richard Tauber, Margarete Teschemacher, Maria Cebotari, Josef Greindl, Meta Seinemeyer, Inge Borkh, Fritz Wunderlich, Annelies Kupper, Elisabeth Grümmer, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gottlob Frick, and Hilde Güden, among many others. Non-German singers such as Teresa Stratas, Sándor Kónya, Pilar Lorengar, Jess Thomas, Raymond Wolansky, and James King are also highlighted. This episode is an exploration of the greatest operatic composer of all time, but in unexpected garb.

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 103. Gilbert Price



Never heard of Gilbert Price? This episode will remedy that situation. With a voice that was easily produced, full-ranged, tonally refulgent, technically poised, the three-time Tony nominee Gilbert Price (1942-1991) deserves to be more fully remembered today for his deeply expressive portrayals, including a starring role in Leonard Bernstein’s failed Bicentennial musical, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He also starred in Timbuktu!, Promenade, The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, and Langston Hughes’s 1964 musical pageant Jerico-Jim Crow, which also featured the recently deceased Micki Grant in one of her first featured roles. I feature Gilbert Price in numerous live performances, both on stage and on television, as well as four obscure singles he made for Columbia Records, in addition to considering his tragic demise. The episode also features an 88th birthday tribute to Janet Baker as well as commemorations of Grant and other recently departed musicians.

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 only to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 95. Queer Blues and Beyond (Pride 2021)



For my second Queer Pride episode this month, I offer you a panoply of blues and other popular music sung by women of color over the past 100 years and over a wide range of the LGBTQ spectrum. The focus is on the queer and bisexual women of color who enlivened the Harlem blues scene in the 1920s, including the newly popular and celebrated Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, as well as other vital and iconoclastic singers of that era, including Bricktop, Lucille Bogan, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters, Victoria Spivey, Lucille Hegamin, and the fascinating Gladys Bentley. The net is further extended to include jazz (Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Dinah Washington), pop, rock ‘n’ roll (Big Mama Thornton), gospel (Sister Rosetta Tharpe), cabaret (Mabel Mercer, Joséphine Baker), soul (Carolyn Franklin) and folk (Joan Armatrading, Meshell Ndegeocello, Toshi Reagon, and Laura Love). Of course in this episode the musical categories are as flexible as are the sexual and gender boundaries, so expect to see a lot of genre-hopping as well among these subversive, innovative, and pathbreaking women of color.

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 only to Patreon supporters are currently available.


Episode 94. Odetta (Juneteenth 2021)



In honor of the first commemoration of Juneteenth as a national holiday, there is no artist more worthy of celebration than the great Odetta (1930-2008). The breadth of her influence and the scope of her accomplishment should be trumpeted from the rooftops. From her first appearance on primetime national television opposite Harry Belafonte, to her prominence as the artist at the forefront of the folk music revival, to the importance of her music as a centerpiece to the Civil Rights Movement, to her additional contributions to blues and gospel music (and even, less expectedly, jazz and soul), Odetta Felious Holmes remains one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century. From her first recording in 1954, to one of her final live performances, I present a wide-ranging portrait highlighting the significance of an artist who, for once, merits the designation “cultural icon.”

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 v