Saturday, June 10, 2006

Memories of Eleanor

Steber started a serious vocal decline at about age 40 -- unbelievable with one
who had her superb technique (which even Dorothy Kirsten pays tribute to
in her own biography) -- in the period 1955/57 she could still handle certain
repertory, but the basic problem was failing support. Also she was severely
asthmatic and in those days, inhaled drugs for asthma (Atrovent, Theophilline,
and many others) were extremely hard on the throat and vocal cords -- causing
swelling. Add liquor and unstable relationships with both men and women,
and you do not have what we might call "a singer's environment." Poor woman;
she struggled, but by 1960 nothing was working; she could not sustain a tone,
there were moments when the voice would sound glorious -- for a minute -- then
it would vanish. I heard it all too many times. It was her personality not to
retire gracefully and also to deny reality. She would go on stage knowing she
could not sing a role -- Elsa at Pittsburgh was an example, and shock everyone
by simply failing. It did not take long for her public to dry up. She was old pals
with Veronsky and Babin from Aspen Colorado days; Eleanor was thought to have
some things to teach; I am not so sure. Geo. London told me he did not think she
taught well. I do not know of a noteworthy singer who was her student in
Cleveland or Juilliard; she was fired from Juilliard for her vulgarity and for singing
in the gay Continental bath house in NYC> At master classes she would talk to
the students about the genital size of famous opera males she had known!
Talk about self-destruct. She would take no advice, could be wild and wilful and
when drunk was a terror. I know first hand. Oh woe!
I wont continue this --- you get the drift. This is just between us. It was one
of the saddest stories in American opera singing.
Best to you
JIM / santa fe

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