Tag Archives: Beverly Sills

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 211. Janet Baker @ 90



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

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


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 53. Justice (In Memoriam RBG)



I awoke Saturday morning in Berlin to the apocalyptic news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. Once again a crisis in the United States has prompted me to quickly put together a different episode than originally planned. The late Justice Ginsburg was a particular lover of opera, and so I have decided to showcase some of her favorite operas and performers. We will hear extended scenes from La Gioconda, Le nozze di Figaro, Der Rosenkavalier, Otello, Don Giovanni, La Fanciulla del West, Fidelio, Götterdämmerung, and others in performances featuring favorite singers of hers, including Jussi Björling. Renata Tebaldi, Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, and Cesare Siepi. Other featured singers are Gottlob Frick, Fernando Corena, Margaret Price, Leonard Warren, Arlene Saunders, Carol Neblett, Gianpiero Mastromei, Beverly Sills, Gwyneth Jones, Lucia Popp, Brigitte Fassbaender, Christiane Eda-Pierre, Elisabeth Söderström, Eileen Farrell, among many others. The episode also incorporates a memorial tribute to Maria Callas on the 43rd anniversary of her death, and to Jessye Norman on what would have been her 75th birthday.

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. 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. Bonus episodes available only to Patreon supporters are currently available!


Episode 7: Janet Williams, Part I: No Accidents



Episode 7Janet Williams, Part I: No Accidents. I am particularly excited to present the first of a three-part interview with the distinguished American soprano and pedagogue Janet Williams, who also happens to be one of my dearest friends. We met when we were both apprentice artists at the Merola Opera Program of the San Francisco Opera. Since then Janet established herself as one of the premiere lyric coloratura sopranos of her generation and is now highly respected as a pedagogue, clinician, and mentor. In this portion of our discussion, we speak about Janet’s formative years in Detroit and how she found her way into the opera world, despite an early interest in gospel singing and the desire of becoming a backup singer à la The Supremes. Particular attention is paid to her tutelage under the distinguished African American soprano and civil rights icon Camilla Williams (as Janet points out, no relation!) As usual, copious musical excerpts are sprinkled throughout the interview.

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 6: Shirley Verrett II: La Regina del Bel Canto



Episode 6. Shirley Verrett II: La Regina del Bel Canto.

In this episode in my Shirley Verrett miniseries, I explore a wide range of the artist’s bel canto roles, including the roles of Neocle in Rossini’s L’assedio di Corinto, Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, Leonora in La Favorita, Sinaïde in Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto and the French version Moïse et Pharaon, and finally, the roles of Adalgisa and, finally, the title role in Bellini’s Norma, surely one of her greatest creations. Musical examples abound, with other featured artists including Leyla Gencer as Maria Stuarda, and John Alexander, who played Pollione to both Verrett’s Adalgisa and her Norma.

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