Monday, July 02, 2007

Another farewell



Comfort and solace to the family of Beverly Sills and all who adored her, who will feel lonely tonight, upon reading the news, though she never knew them. They've lost a friend, as surely as...

The first opera set I ever owned, given to me by my father (who thinks he recalls hearing her in Dallas, when he was young) was her Traviata. I don't have it anymore--it got scratched, and my tastes changed--and change still: I'd love to hear it again, though she was not among my most cherished. She was a vibrant public face of opera, this I know, and listening now to a memorial track or two, I certainly value the vitality of her singing. In high school I listened to "So anch'io la virtu magica" on warped cassettes; she was my introduction, I think to Olympia's air. The public library had her Manon on LP. In some indirect ways, she's prominent in my love of the art, though not lately someone I doted on. (I say this not to disparage, least of all now, but so as to avoid ostentation in telling you what I've lost--you may be the more bereft. When my favorites go, you can let me do the wailing. But she's too important to let her passing go without comment.)

One thing I always loved: somewhere or other I taped the old, scratchy broadcast she did of the original-key Zerbinetta scene. She leaves out a note or two but as for the rest, it's unadulterated delight. I said to a friend that her singing in it was "fearless." He said that was the right word. I think it was.

I have the impression, rightly or not, she was someone we'd like to have known, not just for her singing.

Maybe you can listen to a little of your favorite performance if you've just read the news, and remember her fondly, even if you just loved her records. The Puritani scene has just come on, and it's certainly a fine thing.

6 comments:

Burns said...

There are some things that just sounded so right in her voice. "Breit ├╝ber mein Haupt" for instance, she gave a real intimacy and tenderness and a kind of pearly sheen. And her singing of the grotesque edition of "Assedio di Corinto" at La Scala was spectacular. But the all-time Sills document for me is the Cleopatra from Buenos Aires, especially the spotless, fearless, exultant "Da tempeste." There's a danger that people will remember her for some of the problematic performances of her latter years or think of her only as a popularizer or a creature of the press. There was a very great singer there, too.

Maury D'annato said...

Thanks, Burns, I was hoping for exactly this, a few eloquent words from someone she meant a lot to.

Burns said...

I only heard her live once, singing Lucia in San Antonio. Afterwards I got her to sign my libretto and when she noticed how much more I know about "Lucia" than most 11-year-old boys in Texas, I confessed that I listened to my favorite recording of "Lucia" all the time: the one with Joan Sutherland and Renato Cioni, you know, where she sings the Melba embellishments but you don't sing those ornaments, do you, Miss Sills? You sing different ones." "Well, I'm so glad you enjoyed the performance, young man!" she said smiling in a way that communicated a general sense of "GET THIS KID OUTTA MY DRESSING ROOM AND NOW!"

jeepgerhard said...

you guys are all too young! i was lucky enough to hear her back in the late sixties and onward. yeah, the voice suffered from the abuse, but the emotionality in her performances was just out there, along with the floating sound and the agility on a great day, also the utter delight she portrayed in performance. evviva bubbles.

Maury D'annato said...

jeepgerhard: if it were in my power to be any older, I would certainly consider it.

winpal said...

Hmmm, kind of like the anti-Faust in some weird parallel reverse universe?