Episode 9. Janet Williams II

Episode 9. Janet Williams Interview Part 2. Serendipity @ Merola




Harolyn Blackwell

Giuseppe Verdi: Saper vorreste (Un ballo in maschera). Harolyn Blackwell, soprano, James Levine conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Live from the Met telecast, 26 January 1991. Available on DVD from Deutsche Grammophon 0440 073 0299 6. In addition to her operatic career, Ms. Blackwell has appeared on Broadway as Cunegonde in Candide and has created significant works by Maury Yeston, Ricky Ian Gordon, and others.

Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra. Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. RCA Victor, LSC-1806 (recorded 1954).


Dolly Parton: Why’d You Come In Here from White Limozeen (Columbia Records CK 44384 , 1989)

Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman: I Know Where I’ve Been (Hairspray). Paula Dione Ingram, from the show Dark Legacy: Bright Lights of Black Broadway. Live performance at The Cabaret at The Columbia Club, 5 February 2016.

Paula Dione Ingram

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden (Die Zauberflöte). Gerhard Unger, Monostatos; Otto Klemperer conducting The Philharmonia Orchestra, Angel Records SCL-3651/EMI 1 C 165-00 031/33 (1964) Cast includes Gundula Janowitz, Nicolai Gedda, Walter Berry, Lucia Popp, and Gottlob Frick.

Janet Williams as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at the Berliner Staatsoper.
Note the Monstatos (tenor Andreas Schmidt) in blackface. Photo by Monika Rittershaus.
Janet Williams as Pamina and Roman Trekel as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte at the Berliner Staatsoper.
Photo by Monika Rittershaus.

Giacomo Puccini: O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi). Janet Williams, Lauretta, Lawrence Gee, piano. Live performance, Detroit, MI, January 1989. Private recording provided by the artist.

Janet Williams as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Merola Opera Program, Summer 1987.
With Catherine Keen and Mark Delavan

Gaetano Donizetti: Tornami a dir che m’ami (Don Pasquale). Ileana Cotrubas, Norina; Alfredo Kraus, Ernesto, Bruno Bartoletti, conductor. Live performance, 02 November 1974, Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Ileana Cotrubas as Norina in Don Pasquale.
One of the very few singers who could make this role bearable.
Janet working the role of Norina with acting coach Ethel Evans. Merola Program 1987.
Photos by Alice Cunningham.

Gioachino Rossini: Nella testa un campanello (Act I finale, L’Italiana in Algeri). Kathleen Battle (Elvira); Marilyn Horne (Isabella); Ernesto Palacio (Lindoro); Samuel Ramey (Mustafà), Nicola Zaccaria (Haly); Domenico Trimarchi (Taddeo); Clara Foti (Zulma); Claudio Scimone conducting I Solisti Veneti; RCA Records ARL3-3855/Erato Records STU 71 394 (1981)

Janet Williams, Marilyn Horne and Alfonso Antoniozzi in L’Italiana in Algeri,
San Francisco Opera, 1992.
Brigitte Fassbaender and Lucia Popp: Perfection

Richard Strauss: Ist ein Traum (Der Rosenkavalier). Brigitte Fassbaender (Octavian); Lucia Popp (Sophie); Carlos Kleiber conducting the Bayerisches Staatsorchester. Live Recording, Bayerischer Staatsoper, 13 July 1973. Cast includes Claire Watson, Karl Ridderbusch, and Gerhard Unger, Benno Kusche, David Thaw, and Margarethe Bence. Orfeo Records C 581 083D.

Janet Williams as Sophie and Helen Donath as the Marschallin. Washington Opera.
An extremely overwrought Maria Jeritza as Tosca.

Giacomo Puccini: Vissi d’arte (Tosca) Maria Jeritza (Tosca). RCA Victor 1346 (17 February 1928). Reissued on Preiser Lebendige Vergangenheit 89079. I can’t help but not that, at least on the basis of her recordings, Maria Jeritza is an extremely flawed artist. Hers is one of the strangest recordings of Vissi d’arte I have ever heard.

Dan, Lloyd, and Destynee after our performance @ Sally Bowles,
Berlin, April 2014

Kurt Weill: My Ship (Lady in the Dark). Daniel Gundlach and Lloyd Arriola. Live performance in New York, October 2015. I promise when I get my hands on some of my archival recorded material from La Gran Scena that I will share it with you here. The accompanying picture was taken after our Berlin performance on 13 April 2014 at the Sally Bowles cabaret with Destynee Williams, our friend and hostess with the mostest.

My beloved “Gundy”: Gundula Janowitz, Hamburg, 1963.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Ach, ich fühl’s (Die Zauberflöte). Gundula Janowitz (Pamina). Live recording from Aix-en-Provence, 1963.

The artist in question:
the marvelous Ms. Swenson

Charles Gounod: Je veux vivre (Roméo et Juliette). Ruth Ann Swenson; Nicola Rescigno conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. From Positively Golden: Coloratura Arias (EMI Records 0777 7 54827 2 0, 1994)

In addition to covering Ruth Ann Swenson in the role of Juliette, Janet Williams sang Juliette’s waltz “Je veux vivre” on a 1977 San Francisco Gala concert that was broadcast across the United States.Click on the link to hear her performance and check out the video stills below! Donald Runnicles conducts.

Alfredo Kraus

Charles Gounod: Ah! lève-toi, soleil (Roméo et Juliette). Alfredo Kraus, Michel Plasson conducting the Orchestre du Capitole du Toulouse, EMI Classics 157 27 0142 3 (1984). Cast includes Catherine Malfitano, José van Dam, Gabriel Bacquier, Gino Quilico, Kurt Ollmann, Charles Burles, and Jocelyne Taillon. I saw Kraus sing Roméo late in his career at Lyric Opera of Chicago, opposite Mirella Freni as his Juliette in 1981. It was one of my peak opera-going experiences.

Virginia Zeani

Giuseppe Verdi: Sempre libera (La Traviata). Virginia Zeani (Violetta); William McAlpine (Alfredo); Nello Santi conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Live performance, 13 January 1960. Zeani stepped in at the Eleventh Hour to save the show when Joan Sutherland became indisposed without benefit of a stage rehearsal or even having met her colleagues in advance. The Romanian soprano, who just celebrated her 94th birthday, was particularly celebrated for her Violetta, but commanded an enormous repertoire, which she performed with taste and guts over the course of a long career. Among other career highlights, she created the role of Blanche in the world premiere (in Italian) of Poulenc’s Les Dialogues des Carmélites at La Scala in 1957.

Gianna Rolandi

Gaetano Donizetti: Regnava nel silenzio (Lucia di Lammermoor). Gianna Rolandi (Lucia), Judith Somogi, conductor; live telecast from the New York City Opera, 10 April 1982. I think I must have been living under a rock: I never before realized that Ms Rolandi had married the conductor Andrew Davis in 1989!

Kathleen Battle as Despina, Metropolitan Opera, 1982. Photo by Winnie Klotz.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Una donna a quindici anni (Così fan tutte). Kathleen Battle (Despina); Riccardo Muti conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker. Performance from the 1983 Salzburg Festival, directed by Michael Hampe. Cast includes Margaret Marshall, Francisco Araiza, James Morris, and Sesto Bruscantini. A live recording of the 1982 production. featuring the same cast with the exception of Agnes Baltsa (rather than 1983’s Ann Murray) as Dorabella, was released on the EMI label (1C 157 1435163).

Richard Wagner: Scene with the Blumenmädchen (Parsifal). Constance Hauman, Daniela Bechly, Edith Wiens, Hilda Leidland, Pamela Coburn, Sally Burgess (Blumenmädchen); Siegfried Jerusalem (Parsifal); Daniel Barenboim conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker. Cast also includes Waltraud Meier, José van Dam, Matthias Hölle Günter von Kannen, and John Tomlinson. Telcdec Classics 9031-74448-2 (1991).

Hans Beirer as Parsifal with the Blumenmädchen, Bayreuth 1959. The Flower Maidens include
Ruth-Margaret Pütz, Rita Bartos, Gisela Schröter, Dorothea Siebert, and Elisabeth Witzmann.
Camilla Williams

Giuseppe Verdi: Ritorna vincitor (Aida). (from Aida excerpts, MGM Records, K81, ca. 1951). Camilla Williams (Aida); László Halasz conducts the New York City Opera Orchestra. Additional cast includes Lawrence Winters (Amonoasro); Giulio Gari, Radames; and Lydia Ibarrondo, Amneris.

Janet Williams in concert

Franz Schubert: Die Forelle. Janet Williams, soprano; Lawrence Gee, pianist. Live recording from Detroit, January 1989. Private recording provided by the artist.

Miss Battle

Traditional American Spiritual: Over My Head I Hear Music in the Air. Kathleen Battle, soprano. From Kathleen Battle at Carnegie Hall (Margo Garrett, pianist). Recorded live 27 April 1991, Deutsche Grammophon 435 440-2 (1992)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Ridente la calma. Kathleen Battle, soprano; James Levine, pianist. From Salzburg Recital (recorded live at the 1984 Salzburg Festival). Deutsche Grammophon 415 361-2 (1986).

Léo Delibes: Où va la jeune Hindoue [Air des Clochettes] (Lakmé). Joan Sutherland; Francesco Molinari-Pradelli and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. From The Art of the Prima Donna, Decca SXL 2257 (1960).

Joan Sutherland wearying of her headdress
in the title role of Lakmé. Seattle Opera 1967

Ralph Maria Siegel, Aldo von Pinelli: Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin. Marlene Dietrich. Columbia 4-40497, 1954. I have a great sentimental attachment to this song, which Marlene Dietrich made her own. This is a portion of the text along with my own English translation.

The incomparable Marlene

Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin, / Deswegen muss ich nächstens wieder hin. / Die Seligkeiten vergangener Zeiten / Sie sind alle noch in meinem kleinen Koffer drin. / Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin, / Der bleibt auch dort, und das hat seinen Sinn. / Auf diese Weise lohnt sich die Reise, / Denn wenn ich Sehnsucht hab’, dann fahr’ ich wieder hin!

I still have a suitcase in Berlin, / So therefore I have to go back soon / The joys of past days / Are all stored in my little suitcase. / I still have a suitcase in Berlin, / It remains there, and there’s a good reason for that: / In this way, the trip is worth it, / For when the longing hits me, then I go back!

Francis Poulenc: Hôtel (from the cycle Banalités). Régine Crespin, soprano; John Wustman, pianist. From Song Recital (Schumann, Wolf, Debussy, Poulenc). Decca Records SXL 6333. Next week’s program will be all about Crespin, so stay tuned! In the meanwhile, a couple pictures.

Régine Crespin. They just don’t come any greater. Or any more French!
Je veux fumer…
Crespin and Wustman. How I love this photo!
John Wustman

Side Note: John Wustman was my teacher at the University of Illinois in Urbana and he was my most significant mentor. I treasure his friendship to this day. He has had an enormous influence over my development as a musician.

After one of my master’s recitals ca. 1986.
And more than 30 years later.
And while we’re on the subject of Dan, here’s a photo of me at Merola in the summer of 1987, accompanying baritone Eric McCluskey.
Crespin as Ariadne, Aix 1966.

Richard Strauss: Echo excerpt from Ariadne auf Naxos. This recording is, in fact, with Régine Crespin in a rare outing in the title role. Alongside Crespin in this brief excerpt Marie-Thérèse Debiqui is heard as Echo. The live performance is from the 1966 Aix-en-Provence Festival and is available (in not-great-sound) from Opera Depot. The cast is amazing: Mady Mesplé is Zerbinetta; Tatiana Troyanos is the Komponist; Jean Cox is Bacchus; Rachel Yakar is Najade; Paul Schöffler is the Musiklehrer; and the Commedia figures include Robert Kerns and a very young José van Dam. You can see and hear Mesplé sing the Zerbinetta aria here and watch Crespin negotiate Es gibt ein Reich here (with not insubstantial discomfort). Georges Sébastien is the conductor.

Love, Pearl

Georges Bizet, Oscar Hammerstein II: Beat Out That Rhythm on a Drum (Carmen Jones). Pearl Bailey (Frankie); Herschel B. Gilbert conductor. RCA Records, LM-1881. This is from the Carmen Jones soundtrack (which incidentally featured Marilyn Horne dubbing the voice of Dorothy Dandridge in the title role!) Pearl Bailey always used to irritate me, but that is before I really got her. Now I just love me some Pearl!

George Frideric Handel: Se pietà di me non senti (Giulio Cesare). Leontyne Price (Cleopatra); Arnold Gamson, conductor. Live performance with the American Opera Society, 9 October 1956. I love this big, blowsy, unstylistic Handel performances, especially when the voice heard is as rich and pristine as the young Leontyne.

Leontyne Price as an altogether different Cleopatra: Samuel Barber’s that is!

Carl Heinrich Graun: Ah! dirti non poss’io. Janet Williams (Cleopatra); René Jacobs conducts the Concerto Köln. Harmonia Mundi Records HMC90 1561/3 (1996). The cast also includes Iris Vermillion, Lynne Dawson, Jeffrey Francis, Robert Gambill, Ralf Popken, and Klaus Häger.

Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Roman Hinze [translator]: Verliebt [It’s Love] (reprise) (Wonderful Town). Sarah Schütz (Ruth); Bryan Rothfuss (Baker); Olivia Delauré (Eileen); Peter Christian Feigel leads the Orchester und Chor der Staatsoperette Dresden. HitSquad Records 668385 (2017). Live recording derived from performances given during the Dresden Staatsoperette’s 2016-17 season. I wanted to close the episode with a love song that was a hybrid American-German concoction. Because I had written an article about Wonderful Town in 2016 for a publication by the Dresden Staatsoperette related to its new production, I knew this would be the perfect closer for this episode!

2 thoughts on “Episode 9. Janet Williams II”

  1. Wonderful interview, cousin. You have had a memorable career. Proud of you, so proud! God bless!
    Love, your cousin,
    Norina David, Actor, Singer …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.