Monday, July 18, 2005

Remembering Eleanor Steber

On Sunday,July 17th, we celebrate the birthday (1914) of one of the most unique artists of the last century, Eleanor Steber. As much as I heard her many times at the old Met, I now wish I had seen her even more, because she had a remarkable voioce, and even though there was sometimes a wider vibrato in the Verdi/Puccini repertory, she excelled in so many roles, that her special place in opera history must be assured. I doubt if any singer could have essayed the role of Fiordiligi with that combination of lyricism,dramatic intent, impeccable fioratura,and sparkling delivery. As Elsa,Arabella,Donna Anna and Elvira,the Figaro Contessa,Vanessa, Marie in Wozzeck, the Marschallin,all of which I saw live, and my live recordings of Seraglio,Knoxville,Les Nuits d'Eté,Frau, and on those Voice of Firestone videos,(her rendition of the "Italian Street Song" sets the standard for the song.) she exhibited the same brilliance of tone and artistry that cannot be forgotten. How can I ever forget the high D natural she interpolated at the end of the manon Gambling Scene,which sent the standees into a frenzy, and then there was her hilarious' Rosalinda,where one night she decided to sing the role as a" Suthen belle." ("Wayre cud ah geyt such a watch???") We are all aware of her severe drinking problem, and of a rather shabby treatment of her by Mr.Bing in later years, and she sure was a "character," but I believe that her wildness made for a greater career, and there are so many roles we wish she might have done, such as Chrysothemis,Electra in Idomeneo,Sieglinde, and others. However we did have her for a pretty long time ( several years before I came upon the scene), and I treasure her memory. May we all remember Eleanor Steber, one of the great singers of all time. Charles Handelman

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