Tag Archives: Richard Lewis

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



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

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


Episode 75. Lenora Lafayette (BHM2021 III)



Every so often I discover a singer who had previously not come under my radar, but who simply blows me away with their voice, artistry, and communicative powers. Such an artist is the Baton Rouge-born African American soprano Lenora Lafayette (1926-1975), historically important as the first Black artist to perform at Covent Garden. Relocating to Basel shortly after finishing her training under Dusolina Giannini at Juilliard, Lafayette encountered early career success in Switzerland, winning the Geneva Competition and making a highly successful debut at the Basel Opera as Aida, a role which, along with Madama Butterfly, she performed hundreds of times. And yet, despite enormous career success in Europe, she was never able to establish herself in her native country. Her recorded legacy is slim but revelatory: an Aida in German under Clemens Krauss; a 1958 BBC recording of Frederick Delius’s opera Koanga; and a single commercial recording of Puccini duets with Welsh tenor Richard Lewis under the baton of John Barbirolli, who also led her Covent Garden debut. All of these precious documents are sampled on this episode. She was struck down with cancer in her early forties and died prematurely at the age of 49. And yet listening to her recordings, one is struck by the emotional power of her utterance, the firmness of her vocal technique, and the bloom of her exquisite voice. Lenora Lafayette deserves a place among the greatest singers of her generation.

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 60. The Bach Aria Group (Full-Figured Baroque I)



Today’s episode, dedicated to historical performances of Johann Sebastian Bach, is the first in an ongoing series I have dubbed “Full-Figured Baroque.” It begins with a bang with the great Canadian soprano Lois Marshall rocketing her way through the opening salvos of “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen,” an apt way to celebrate the US election outcome after a week of even greater anxiety than usual. I describe my love for old-fashioned Bach performance, and why it still speaks to us in a genuine and elevating manner. In particular, I foreground the early years of the Bach Aria Group, founded in 1946 by the American philanthropist and collector William H. Scheide. All the singers in this episode (including Lois Marshall) performed under the aegis of this ensemble, either as members or featured guests: Eileen Farrell, Maureen Forrester, Richard Lewis, Norman Farrow, Mack Harrell, William Warfield, and Jennie Tourel. Many of the great instrumentalists associated with the group are heard in duet with these singers, including Robert Bloom, Samuel Baron, and Bernard Greenhouse. The episode ends with that most radiant of singers, Eleanor Steber, also an occasional guest of the Bach Aria Group in a fleet but full-voiced outpouring of celebratory coloratura.

YouTube Link to the documentary about the Bach Aria Group referenced in the episode:

A Time for Bach (1948)

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, including a new extra episode further exploring today’s topic.


Episode 34. Charm



I have planned a series on five different artistic traits that guide a singer through their artistic journey. The designations are my own, and as such, purely idiosyncratic. Charm is defined as “the power or quality of giving delight or arousing admiration.” In this episode, we examine singers of many genres singing music from many lands. Featured artists include Bidú Sayão, Carlos Gardel, Mary Martin, Régine Crespin, Richard Lewis, Victoria de los Angeles, Eileen Farrell, Ezio Pinza, Patachou, Judy Holliday, Hugues Cuenod, Elisabeth Welch, Ninon Vallin, Richard Dyer-Bennett, Jorma Hynninen, Susannah McCorkle, Barbara Cook, Ninon Vallin, Teresa Berganza, Yvette Guilbert, and many others. Because there is so much charm and enchantment in the world, the episode threatened to stretch to an untenable length, I will present additional examples of Charm in the next episode. I also pay tribute to the Lebanese-American mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias, who died a week ago at the age of 90.

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 monthly support at whatever level you can afford.


Episode 13. Christmas with the Tenors



This week is the first of two episodes featuring Christmas music. I decided to feature tenors, but with a difference: none of The Three Tenors will put in an appearance. In compensation, this week I feature a panoply of superb tenors (including Fritz Wunderlich, Georges Thill, Richard Lewis, Roland Hayes, Tino Rossi, Franco Corelli, Ernst Haefliger, Richard Tauber, Karl Erb, and Matthew Swensen) in repertoire ranging across the spectrum (Handel, Adam, Gounod, Bach, Berlin, and traditional Weihnachtsmusik, with some surprises along the way). The episode concludes with a brief musical tribute to Dalton Baldwin, Gérard Souzay’s partner and collaborator, who died on 12 December, a week to the day before his 88th birthday.

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 5: Shirley Verrett I: La Nera Callas



Episode 5: Shirley Verrett: La Nera Callas I. Falcon or Verdi soprano?

This episode is the first of two on one of my favorite singers, the Zwischenfachsängerin Shirley Verrett. Renowned in the United States for her performances of Verdi mezzo-soprano parts, particularly Azucena in Il Trovatore and Eboli in Don Carlo, the late singer commanded an enormous repertoire, comprising bel canto and French roles, on which she left her indelible stamp. I focus in particular on the French roles she performed at the Opéra de Paris from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, as well as her Verdi soprano roles, including Amelia in Un ballo in maschera and the title role in Aida. Known in the Italian press as La Nera Callas [The Black Callas], Verrett is heard in this episode singing Brahms, Gluck, Saint-Saëns, and Verdi roles for both soprano and mezzo-soprano. Special attention is paid to her newsworthy appearances with fellow African American mezzo-cum-soprano, Grace Bumbry, the first of which, a joint Carnegie Hall concert in 1982, honored the iconic contralto Marian Anderson on the occasion of her 80th birthday.