Episode 153. Eleanor Steber I

Episode 153. Eleanor Steber I



July 17 is the 108th birthday of Eleanor Steber, surely one of the all-time greatest singers that the United States has ever produced (as well as one of the most versatile and technically-accomplished!) In a long overdue Countermelody tribute to this exceptional artist, I present the first of two very special episodes honoring Eleanor. After the “usual” career overview featuring mostly live highlights from her operatic appearances all over the world, I turn the stage (or in this case the mic), over to my dear friend Michelle Oesterle, founder and conductor of the Manhattan Girls Chorus, who was also Eleanor Steber’s stepdaughter. As such she spent time (especially in the summer months) with her father and Eleanor at Melody Hill, Eleanor’s estate on Long Island. She provides us with an unparalleled intimate portrait of Eleanor as woman and as singer and describes the profound influence that Eleanor had in her life, as well as the characteristics that combined to make her the profoundly appealing and moving interpreter that she was. She also addresses the white elephant in the room, that is, Eleanor’s alcoholism, and makes a plea for tolerance and understanding vis-à-vis this serious disease. The Steber tribute will continue with a further episode sometime in the next month. For now, let us raise our glasses (of sparkling mineral water, natch), in tribute to this phenomenal artist, the like of which we will never see again. Musical selections range from Victor Herbert to Alban Berg and everything in between. Thank you, Michelle, and evviva Eleanor!


Victor Herbert, Rida Johnson Young: Italian Street Song (Naughty Marietta). Eleanor Steber, Percy Faith and His Orchestra and Chorus [1951]\

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa, Luigi Illica: Dormi, amor mio (Madama Butterfly). Eleanor Steber, Jean Madeira, Max Rudolf, Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera Association [1949]

Giuseppe Verdi, Franceso Maria Piave (after Victor Hugo): Tutto sprezzo che d’Ernani (Ernani). Eleanor Steber, Fausto Cleva, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra [1950]

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Wo war ich schon einmal und war so selig? (Der Rosenkavalier). Eleanor Steber, Risë Stevens, Fritz Busch, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra [live New York 14.XII.46]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte, Ruth and Thomas Martin (English translation): Oh, forgive me, dear beloved [Per pietà, ben mio perdona] (Così fan tutte). Eleanor Steber, orchestra conducted by Fritz Stiedry [live New York 17.XII.55]

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave (after Alexandre Dumas): Che fai?… Amami, Alfredo (La traviata). Eleanor Steber, Giuseppe di Stefano, orchestra conducted by Giuseppe Antonicelli [live New York 01.I.49]

Giuseppe Verdi, Salvadore Cammarano after Antonio García Gutiérrez: Miserere (Il trovatore). Eleanor Steber, Jussi Björling, Howard Barlow, Firestone Orchestra [Voice of Firestone 21.I.46]

Giacomo Puccini, Carlo Zangarini, Guelfo Civinini (after David Belasco): Le tue parole sono di Dio (La fanciulla del West). Eleanor Steber, Mario del Monaco, Enzo Viaro, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Firenze [live Firenze 15,VI.54]

Richard Wagner: Du Ärmste kannst wohl nie ermessen (Lohengrin). Eleanor Steber, Astrid Varnay, Joseph Keilberth, Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele [live, summer 1954]

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, John Gutman (English translation): My lord and master you shall be [Und du wirst mein Gebieter sein] (Arabella). Eleanor Steber, George London, orchestra conducted by Rudolf Kempe [live New York 26.II.55]

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Sein Auge nur schreit um Hilfe (Die Frau ohne Schatten). Eleanor Steber, orchestra conducted by Karl Böhm [live München 04.VI.53]

Vincenzo Bellini, Carlo Pepoli (after Jacques-François Ancelot, Joseph Xavier Saintine): Ah, rendetemi la speme… Vien, diletto (I Puritani). Eleanor Steber, Edwin Biltcliffe [live New York 10.X.58]

Alban Berg, Georg Büchner (adapted Berg), Vida Harford, Eric Blackall (English translation): And Franz has not come yet [Der Franz ist nit kommen] (Wozzeck). Eleanor Steber, orchestra conducted by Karl Böhm [live New York 14.III.59]

Eric Coates, Royden Barrie: Bird Songs at Eventide. Eleanor Steber, Howard Barlow, Firestone Orchestra [1950]

Traditional Irish, Frederick Weatherly: Danny Boy. Eleanor Steber, Edwin Biltcliffe [live 1956]

James A. Bland: Carry Me back to Old Virginny. Eleanor Steber, Howard Barlow, Firestone Orchestra [Voice of Firestone telecast, 1950]

Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Eleanor Steber

Samuel Barber, James Agee: May God bless my people (Knoxville: Summer of 1915). Eleanor Steber, Nicholas Harsanyi, Greater Trenton Symphony Orchestra [live Trenton 13.01.62]

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