Saturday, November 06, 2010

They Just Keep Leaving Us

Last evening, just before going to bed, I did a bit of quick surfing and over at Parterre Box read the sad news of the death of the great American opera singer Shirley Verrett. She was a singer I loved but only saw twice on stage - once in I believe in 1969 at Covent Garden in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice conducted by Georg Solti and then in 1972 in San Fransisco in a rare revival of Meyerbeer's L'Africaine with Placido Domingo. But I did have many of her recordings in my collection - including an album of duets with Montserrat Caballe which ranks as one of the great recordings of the late 20th century as does the La Scala recording of Macbeth which was one of her greatest triumphs - and heard her on Met broadcasts.

She was an artist much loved by both her audiences and her colleagues and once she had retired worked tirelessly with students to pass on her knowledge and experience. She was a diva but never a prima donna, her work was known, like the lady herself, for its honesty, integrity and passion.

Here she is in Che faro senza Euridice, Orfeo's expression of grief at the loss, for the second time, of his beloved Euridice recorded a year or two after those Covent Garden performances.

Sadly they did not record the devastating recitative that leads into the aria as I recall her cries of Euridice! Respondmi! tearing at the heart. Another moment that I can still see in my mind's eye if though it were yesterday was when Euridice (the lovely Spanish soprano Pilar Lorengar) placed her hand on Orfeo's shoulder to be lead out of the Elysian Fields - Verrett's whole body gave a shudder of joy and her face became alight with the happiness of being reunited.

No doubt yesterday she entered Elysium with the same joy and happiness.

06 novembre - San Leonardo di Noblac

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