Tag Archives: Aida

Episode 260. Robert McFerrin Revisited



In the very first season of Countermelody I presented an episode which featured both Lawrence Winters and Robert McFerrin, two of the most significant baritones of the twentieth century, and both trail-blazing African American singers. Last week I revisited the life, career, and recordings of Lawrence Winters, and this week, as a companion to that episode, I present today his contemporary Robert McFerrin (19 March 1921 – 24 November 2006), the first African American male to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. He made his first appearance with the company as Amonasro in Aida on Thursday January 27, 1955, twenty days after Marian Anderson’s legendary debut there. McFerrin sang only ten performances of three roles under the banner of the Met, eight of them in the house, and two on tour. His final performance there, also as Amonasro, took place almost exactly two years after his debut there. Five months later in June 1957, McFerrin went into the studios of Riverside Records, and, accompanied by the pianist Norman Johnson, and over the course of two days, recorded this legendary album of spirituals, his only solo album, which is heard in its entirety in this episode. I am not alone in considering this a classic of the genre. My presentation of all fourteen tracks of this album is supplemented by three recordings that McFerrin made in 1946 for the short-lived Sunbeam Records label, the brainchild of composer and arranger Marl Henderson Young, who provides the accompaniments. At the other end of the spectrum is a guest appearance that McFerrin, Sr. made on a 1990 recording by his son, superstar singer, composer, and arranger Bobby McFerrin. I also feature a recently unearthed live recording of McFerrin singing Amonasro live in Napoli in 1956, as well as a moving recording of McFerrin performing live in Washington DC in 1995, after having suffered a debilitating stroke that left him virtually unable to speak. Nevertheless, the song, however compromised, was still in his heart.

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 246. Previn Moore Introduces Camilla Williams and Janet Williams (Listeners’ Favorites)



As the final entry in this year’s Black History Month episodes, my dear friend Previn Moore introduces his Listeners’ Favorites choice, an episode I published in the early months of Countermelody back in the fall of 2019. It features two phenomenal Black sopranos whose friendship and mentorship Previn outlines in detail in an introductory interview I did with him at his home in Vienna this past week. This episode features the phenomenal, the legendary, the pathbreaking soprano Camilla Williams (1919-2012), whom Previn first met as a young tenor at Indiana University’s School of Music, where Miss Williams was the first African American teacher of singing to serve on the faculty. While there, Previn also formed a lifelong friendship with Camilla’s student, Janet Williams, who herself went on to a brilliant worldwide career, including twelve years as a leading soprano with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden here in Berlin. Janet and I met as fellow students in the Merola Opera Program of the San Francisco Opera and it has been my joy and a privilege to share a treasured friendship with her ever since. In tribute to both of these extraordinary sopranos, I offer a cache of rare studio recordings by Camilla Williams, supplemented by live material sung by Janet Williams from the artist’s private archives. Included among the selections are excerpts from Camilla’s rarely-heard album of spirituals on the MGM Records label, and a concert given by Janet Williams in her home town of Detroit in 1989, capped by a stunning rendition of Undine Smith Moore’s arrangement of the spiritual “Watch and Pray,” dedicated to Camilla Williams. Many thanks to Previn, Janet, and the extraordinary Camilla Williams for their shining examples and for their dedicated 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.


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 238. Delcina Stevenson (BHM2024)



I am so grateful to all the listeners who did introductions to their favorite episodes last month. It provided me with a little bit of needed breathing space and now I am back raring to go with my first new episode for 2024, just in time for Black History Month 2024! There is a secondary theme for this month which is “Forgotten Divas,” a favorite topic of mine at any time of year. The term “forgotten” needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because these women are anything but forgotten among those who experienced their singing, teaching, or friendship live and in person. Nevertheless, for want of a better term (Divas Who Deserve to Be As Well-Remembered as Any of Their More Famous Counterparts seems a little wordy), I’ll stick with the designation I chose.

Today’s artist is the only “Forgotten Diva” who is still with us, soprano Delcina Stevenson, born 29 September 1933, so this enables me to also “give flowers” (to coin a present-day term I actually like) to her directly. She was born in Kansas and graduated from Kansas University. After moving to California in 1960, she coached and studied with Lotte Lehmann, Gwendolyn Koldofsky, Martial Singher, and William Vennard, and was a protégée early in her career of Kurt Herbert Adler at the San Francisco Opera. She has lived and performed around the world, primarily in California, New York, and Germany. She possessed one of the most exquisite lyric soprano voices I have ever heard, one which never aged, but simply grew more lush and voluminous. The musical excerpts I have compiled feature her in live and studio recordings from over the course of more than 30 years, ranging Mozart to Sondheim to Rossini, in which that voice is on shimmering display. I am thrilled to introduce (or reintroduce) her to you.

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


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 192. Virginia Zeani: The Soul of the Voice



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

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


Episode 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 184. Eugene Holmes (Black History Month 2023)



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

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


Episode 183. Martina Arroyo (Black History Month 2023)



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

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


Episode 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 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 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 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 115. Jules Bledsoe



This week I present an important African American artist who has been nearly forgotten by history: the bass-baritone Jules Bledsoe (1897-1943). He is most remembered for creating the role of Joe in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Show Boat, but he was equally celebrated in his time for his memorable concerts, which took place both here and in Europe, and for his operatic portrayals, most significantly, the title role in Louis Gruenberg’s opera The Emperor Jones, based on the play by Eugene O’Neill, which he portrayed both in the United States and in Europe. When this opera premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1933, the legendary baritone Lawrence Tibbett created the title role (in blackface). Barred from singing at the Met because of his race, Bledsoe took his portrayal of Brutus Jones on the road, performing it in a triumphant European tour, but also subsequently in New York in 1934 under the aegis of the short-lived Aeolian Opera Company, which was intended to provide performing opportunities for Black opera singers, but which folded almost immediately. Jules Bledsoe was also a composer who wrote many songs and arrangements of spirituals, as well as a version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin entitled Bondage, as well as his own operatic setting of O’Neill’s Emperor Jones, which may or may not have been performed at the time. Even less well-known and acknowledged is that Jules Bledsoe was a gay man in a relationship with a Dutch white man named Freddy Huygens who at the time of Bledsoe’s premature death was referred to as either his “manager” or his “closest friend.” I present examples of all the extant recorded material I could find by Jules Bledsoe, alongside recorded examples of work by his collaborators Abbie Mitchell, Irene Dunne, Anne Roselle, Marie Powers, Todd Duncan and excerpts from the work of composers W. Franke Harling, Shirley Graham Du Bois, and Louis Gruenberg performed by Jeanette MacDonald, Valaida Snow, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, and Lawrence Tibbett. Billie Holiday even puts in a special appearance! The episode also includes tributes to the recently departed British soprano Joan Carlyle and the US-American bass-baritone Jake Gardner.

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 40. Sisters in Sappho [Queer Pride I]



The first of my two Queer Pride episodes is devoted to a group of pioneering lesbians in the 1970s and beyond, in both classical and pop music. Two iconic mezzo-sopranos whose careers began in the 1960s and extended through the 1990s are the Greek-American Tatiana Troyanos and Brigitte Fassbaender, daughter of the German baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender. I explore the similarities and differences in the repertoire and career paths of these two unique artists, and share examples of them singing repertoire from Handel to Weill, Scarlatti to Penderecki, with particular focus on Fassbaender’s Lieder performances and Troyanos’s work in bel canto. Then I turn to key figures in the Women’s Music Movement of the 1970s, including Meg Christian, Cris Williamson, Margie Adam, Holly Near, and Deidre McCalla, while also paying tribute to those who, in turn, paved the way for them, including Janis Ian, Dusty Springfield, and Ronnie Gilbert. We also acknowledge the work of queer African American singers, including Deidre McCalla, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Toshi Reagon. We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these extraordinary artists, who created a world of possibility for their musical and artistic descendants, at the same time setting standards that will stand the test of time. Vocal guest stars include Janet Baker, Ileana Cotrubas, Margaret Price, Nicolai Gedda, Gundula Janowitz, Arleen Augér, Cecilia Gasdia, and Reri Grist.

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 classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content. And please head to our Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford.


Episode 30. Giulietta Simionato (Mezzo Madness I)



Today’s episode, a celebration of the delicious and versatile Italian mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato (1910-2010), kicks off a miniseries in celebration of the mezzo-soprano voice. The centerpiece of the episode is a 10-inch London/Decca recording entitled Operatic Recital by Giulietta Simionato which features arias of Rossini, Bellini, and Verdi. The remainder of the episode features live and studio recordings, primarily from La Scala and Salzburg, by Simionato with distinguished partners, including Maria Callas, Franco Corelli, Jon Vickers, Ettore Bastianini, Gianadrea Gavazzeni, Antonino Votto, Carlo Maria Giulini, and Herbert von Karajan. Works include Il barbiere di Siviglia, Cavalleria rusticana, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Don Carlo, Adriana Lecouvreur, Orfeo ed Euridice, Norma, La Cenerentola, Gli Ugonotti, L’Italiana in Algeri, and Aida, with one special Easter egg at the end. This episode, dedicated to my dear friend Gloria Parker, also features a tribute to the late German mezzo-soprano Hertha Töpper. A te la buona Pasqua!

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please visit the Countermelody website (www.countermelodypodcast.com) for additional content. And please head to our Patreon page at www.patreon.com/countermelody to pledge your support at whatever level you can afford.


Episode 26. Calling You (Music for a World in Crisis)



The world is in chaos. We don’t know from one day to the next, or one hour to the next, what is going to happen. I am currently halfway around the world from home and wondering what the coming weeks will bring. This week I have decided to feature music that addresses reaching out to loved ones across enormous gaps of time and space, the yearning for a home lost and the ambivalence with which we face the changing seasons. But all is not hopelessness: at the end of the episode, I offer several pop songs by some of my favorite singers that address the promise of healing and reunion, no matter how difficult the process. In this episode, marking the six-month anniversary of Countermelody, I’m featuring Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Hina Spani, Rosa Ponselle, Meta Seinemeyer, Anne Roselle, Claudia Muzio, Eidé Noréna, Eileen Farrell, Kathleen Ferrier, Martha Flowers, Janis Ian, Chi Coltrane, and Dusty Springfield. I also offer a recording I made in 2006 of “Danny Boy,” and I explain the song’s significance to me.

Countermelody is a new podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please also visit the Countermelody website for updates, additional content, and to pledge your support. www.countermelodypodcast.com


Episode 22. Gloria Davy (Black History Month III)



Today we examine the fascinating and somewhat frustrating career of Gloria Davy (1931-2012). Yet another African American singer who found greater opportunity abroad than in the United States, Davy has the distinction of being the first Black singer to perform the title role of Verdi’s Aida at the Metropolitan Opera, which role served as her debut in 1958. Another early career success came when she replaced Leontyne Price as Bess in an international tour of Porgy and Bess. Her earliest recordings, both live and studio, reveal a voice of uncommon beauty with an interpretive sensitivity to match. A superb musician, Davy also sang contemporary music throughout her career, including important premieres by Hans Werner Henze and Karlheinz Stockhausen. One must ask the question, however, if her voice would have been better served had she not turned to sung Bess and Aida so early in her career, but had instead had access to roles such as Anna Bolena, which she sang brilliantly at Town Hall in New York in 1957. The episode includes a rare airing of Davy’s 1956 album of Spirituals, in arrangements by the lesser-known African American composer Julia Perry and excerpts from her recordings of Shulamit Ran’s O the Chimneys, on poems by Nelly Sachs, and the 1972 revision of Stockhausen’s momentous Momente.

Countermelody is a new podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please also visit the Countermelody website for updates, additional content, and to pledge your support. www.countermelodypodcast.com


Episode 8. Williams and Williams



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

Countermelody is a new podcast devoted to the glories of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great classical and opera singers of the past and present with the help of guests from the classical music field: singers, conductors, composers, coaches, agents, and voice teachers. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the interaction between singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. Please also visit the Countermelody website for updates, additional content, and to pledge your support. www.countermelodypodcast.com