Episode 154. Adele Addison @ 97

Episode 154. Adele Addison @ 97



This Sunday, 24 July 2022, the great African American lyric soprano Adele Addison observes her 97th birthday. This Countermelody tribute presents this great artist in live and studio recordings during the glory years of her career, including performances conducted by three of her most important conductor collaborators, Robert Shaw, Charles Munch, and Leonard Bernstein. Addison might be best remembered today as providing the ghost voice for Dorothy Dandridge in Otto Preminger’s controversial 1959 film of Porgy and Bess, but her greatest artistic achievement undoubtedly centers on her concert and recital work. Among countless world premieres in which she participated, the most significant was probably the Gloria of Francis Poulenc, first heard in Boston in January 1961. Other contemporary composers represented in this episode are Aaron Copland, Lester Trimble, Lukas Foss, and Benjamin Lees; Addison’s exceptional performances of Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Debussy are also featured. Vocal guest stars include Robert McFerrin, with whom she duets in an excerpt from Porgy; the eminent recitalist Povla Frijsh, who was her voice teacher and coach; and Dawn Upshaw, probably her most renowned student. Please join me in celebrating the long life and legacy of this exceptional artist and teacher.

P.S. Here is the link to the short YouTube clip put out by the Springfield (MA) Museum about the mural there by artist Sante Graziani in which a young Adele Addison is depicted.


Adele Addison with Charles Munch conducting

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Laudate Dominum (Vesperae solennes de Confessore, K.321). Adele Addison, Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Radcliffe Choral Society [Boston 09.III.56]

Johann Sebastian Bach, Robert Shaw [English text]: I follow thee also (St. John Passion, BWV 245/13). Adele Addison, Robert Shaw, Julius Baker, Bernard Greenhouse [1950]

Lukas Foss, A.E. Housman: When the Bells Justle (Time Cycle). Adele Addison, Leonard Bernstein, Columbia Symphony Orchestra [1961]

Leonard Bernstein fake-rehearsing Adele Addison, Eunice Alberts, James Peace, and David Lloyd
Robert McFerrin

George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin: Porgy, I’s Your Woman Now (Porgy and Bess). Adele Addison, Robert McFerrin, Orchestra arranged and conducted by André Previn [1959]

Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in Otto Preminger’s 1959 Porgy and Bess film

Traditional Spiritual: Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child. Adele Addison [1959]

Claude Debussy, Paul Bourget: Romance [Voici que le printemps], L. 56a. Povla Frijsh, Celius Dougherty [1940]

Adele Addison and her husband Norman Berger at the time of their marriage in 1952

Claude Debussy, Paul Verlaine: Spleen (Ariettes oubliées, L.63b/6) Adele Addison, Brooks Smith [live New York 27.III.57]

George Frideric Handel, Charles Jennens (after John Milton): Orpheus himself may heave his head (L’Allegro ed il Penserso). Adele Addison, Frederic Waldman, Musica Aeterna Orchestra [1960]

George Frideric Handel, John Dryden: What passion cannot music raise and quell (Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, HWV 76/3). Adele Addison, Laszlo Varga, Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic [1960]

Adele Addison and Francis Poulenc at the world premiere of the Gloria

Francis Poulenc: Domine Deus (Gloria, FP 177/3). Adele Addison, Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chorus Pro Musica [live Boston 21.I.61 (world premiere performance)]

Lester Trimble (1923 – 1986)

Lester Trimble, Geoffrey Chaucer: A Yong Squier (Four Fragments from The Canterbury Tales). Adele Addison, Robert Conant, Martin Orenstein, Charles Russo [1961]

Earl Kim, Samuel Beckett (after Arthur Rimbaud): from Drunken Boat (Where Grief Slumbers). Dawn Upshaw, Instrumental ensemble [Barbara Allen, Eric Bartlett, Lynn Chang, Robert Rinehart, Nai-Yuan Hu Nardo Poy, Sarah Clarke, Bruce Coppock, Carmit Zori] [1991]

Earl Kim (1920 – 1998)
Adele Addison at Tanglewood

Aaron Copland, Emily Dickinson: When they come back (Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, No. 8). Adele Addison, Aaron Copland [1966]

Albert da Costa (1927 – 1967)

Benjamin Lees, Walt Whitman: Song of Myself; The Mystic Trumpeter [conclusion] (two excerpts from Visions of Poets). Adele Addison, Albert da Costa, Milton Katims, Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Chorale [live 15.V.62]

Benjamin Lees (1924 – 2010)

Claude Debussy, Paul Verlaine: Spleen (Ariettes oubliées, L.63b/6). Adele Addison, Brooks Smith [live New York 27.III.57]

Johann Sebastian Bach, John Troutbeck [English text]: In love my Savior now is dying (St. Matthew Passion, BWV 245/49). Adele Addison, John Wummer, Harold Gomberg, Engelbert Brenner, Leonard Bernstein [1962]

4 thoughts on “Episode 154. Adele Addison @ 97”

  1. Hello Daniel,

    My name is Christie Springer and I studied with Adele for 7 years back in the 80’s. I did call her on her birthday (as I do every year) and found her well and chatty. At the time, I had not yet heard your podcast, but even so, I told her that every year on her birthday I search the Internet for new material about her (thank God for kadoguy!), and assured her that she was quite alive on the Internet (“Well, thank God I’m alive somewhere!!”)

    Anyway, I subsequently found your podcast and had the opportunity to give her another call today to relay your message. She was very touched, and though she does not have “one of those things that you punch all that stuff into”, I encouraged her to have a friend look it up so she could listen (I am not in NYC). I did go through it with her and told her which excerpts you chose and she was quite pleased. We talked for about an hour on various subjects (she wanted to know where the name “monkeypox” came from), politics and, of course, FOOD.

    She still lives in her penthouse on Riverside Drive, but doesn’t see anyone or go out. She spends her time cooking, “thinking”, and watching the Yankees (big fan). To say she is dismayed at the state of the world would be an understatement.

    I certainly enjoyed your thorough appreciation of Adele’s artistry, and you are right, “we do not forget!” Thank you for your heartfelt contribution.

    Best regards,
    Christie Springer
    San Francisco

    1. Dear Christie, Thank you SO much for writing. Your message really touched me a lifted my heart. I had gotten some news of Adele from a dear friend of hers with whom I’ve recently established contact, but it is so great to know that you are still in contact with her… and that she knows the high regard in which she is still held by SO many people! I am considering sending her a CD of the episode so she can listen to it. Does that seem like it might be a viable way for her to hear the episode?
      You just made my day! Thank you so much, and all best wishes to you from Berlin, where I am preparing today’s episode… DG

  2. Do you know where Adele Addison is now June 2024? I have been looking for her. A former student.

    1. Hi Carol, thanks for writing. I do not have any further information on Adele apart from what I received from her dear friend, the late Tom Muraco, at the time that I posted my episode on her. At that time, she was still in her UWS apartment, although she rarely if ever left there. I will ask on my FB if anyone has any further information on her. Best, Daniel

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