Episode 40. Sisters in Sappho

Episode 40. Sisters in Sappho



The Perfect Octavian(s)

The first of my two Queer Pride episodes is devoted to a group of pioneering lesbians in the 1970s and beyond, in both classical and pop music. Two iconic mezzo-sopranos whose careers began in the 1960s and extended through the 1990s are the Greek-American Tatiana Troyanos and Brigitte Fassbaender, daughter of the German baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender. I explore the similarities and differences in the repertoire and career paths of these two unique artists, and share examples of them singing repertoire from Handel to Weill, Scarlatti to Penderecki, with particular focus on Fassbaender’s Lieder performances and Troyanos’s work in bel canto. Then I turn to key figures in the Women’s Music Movement of the 1970s, including Meg Christian, Cris Williamson, Margie Adam, Holly Near, and Deidre McCalla, while also paying tribute to those who, in turn, paved the way for them, including Janis Ian, Dusty Springfield, and Ronnie Gilbert. We also acknowledge the work of queer African American singers, including Deidre McCalla, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Toshi Reagon. We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these extraordinary artists, who paved the way for us, their musical and artistic descendants, at the same time setting standards that will stand the test of time. Vocal guest stars include Janet Baker, Ileana Cotrubas, Cecilia Gasdia, Nicolai Gedda, Margaret Price, Gundula Janowitz, Arleen Augér, and Reri Grist.


Francesco Cavalli: O decoro del mio coro (La Calisto). Janet Baker, Ileana Cotrubas; Raymond Leppard, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Holly Near: Imagine My Surprise [from Journeys, 1983]

Reri Grist photographed by Carl Van Vechten

Alessandro Scarlatti: Del tuo ciglio vezzoso (Endimione e Cintia). Tatiana Troyanos, Reri Grist; Carl Mathieu Lange, Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg

Krzysztof Penderecki: Ich will einen Weg finden (Die Teufel von Loudun). Tatiana Troyanos, Andrzej Hiolski; Marek Janowski, Orchester der Hamburgischen Staatsoper

Nicolai Gedda

Richard Heuberger: Geh’n wir ins Chambre séparée (Der Opernball). Brigitte Fassbaender, Nicolai Gedda; Willy Mattes, Symphonie-Orchester Graunke

Alban Berg: Lulu, mein Engel (Lulu). Brigitte Fassbaender, Friedrich Cerha, Orchester der Bayerischen Staatsoper [live, München 06 July 1985]; 

Brigitte Fassbaender and Margaret Price

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Ah, guarda, sorella (Così fan tutte). Brigitte Fassbaender, Margaret Price; Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bayerisches Staatsorchester [live München 28 February 1978]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Parto, parto (La Clemenza di Tito). Tatyana Troyanos; James Levine, Wiener Philharmoniker [live, Salzburg 1976]

Richard Strauss: Mir ist die Ehre (Der Rosenkavalier). Brigitte Fassbaender, Ileana Cotrubas; Georges Prêtre, Orchestra del RAI di Napoli [live, Napoli 16 October 1971]

Richard Strauss: Hab mir’s gelobt (Der Rosenkavalier). Tatiana Troyanos, Gundula Janowitz, Arleen Augér, Kurt Eichhorn, Münchner Rundfunkorchester [live concert performance, München 1968 or 1969]

Giuseppe Verdi: Judgment Scene [excerpt](Aida). Brigitte Fassbaender, Robert Lloyd; Riccardo Muti, Orchester und Chor des Bayerischen Staatsoper [live, München 22 March 1979]

Giuseppe Verdi: O don fatale (Don Carlo). Tatiana Troyanos; James Levine [live New York, 21 February 1980]

George Frideric Handel: Scherza infida (Ariodante). Tatiana Troyanos; Raymond Leppard, Orchestra of St. Lukes [live, New York 27 January 1985]

Cecilia Gasdia

Vincenzo Bellini: Ah, crudel, d’onor ragioni (I Capuleti e i Montecchi). Tatiana Troyanos, Cecilia Gasdia, Donato Renzetti [live, Chicago 15 November 1985]

Serge Rachmaninov: Островок [The Island], Op. 14/2. Tatiana Troyanos; James Levine [live, New York 1985]

Maurice Ravel, arr.: Tout gai (Cinq mélodies populaires grecques) [sung in Greek]. Tatiana Troyanos; James Levine [live, New York 1985]

Felix Mendelssohn: Neue Liebe, Op. 19a/4. Brigitte Fassbaender; Erik Werba

Franz Schubert: Der Wanderer an den Mond, D.870. Brigitte Fassbaender; Aribert Reimann

Gustav Mahler: Rheinenlegendchen (Des Knaben Wunderhorn). Brigitte Fassbaender; John Wustman

John Wustman

Kurt Weill: Wie lange noch?. Brigitte Fassbaender; Cord Garben

Janis Ian: Roses [from Aftertones, 1975]

Margie Adam: Beautiful Soul. Dusty Springfield [from the unreleased album Longing, 1974]

Margie Adam: Best Friend (The Unicorn Song) (from Songwriter, 1976]

Meg Christian and Cris Williamson

Meg Christian: Joanna. Cris Williamson [from the self-titled album, Cris Williamson, 1971]

Meg Christian: Song to My Mama. [from I Know You Know, 1974]

Ferron: It Won’t Take Long [from Shadows on a Dime, 1984]

Deidre McCalla: Oh the Earth [from Don’t Doubt It, 1985]

Meshell Ndegeocello: Leviticus: Faggot [from Peace Beyond Passion, 1996]

Toshi Reagon: Terrify Me. Toshi Reagon with BIGLovely and Bernice Johnson Reagon [live from Joe’s Pub, 29 January 2012]

Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives. Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert [from Lifeline, 1983]

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