Episode 162. NYCO Divas: An Introduction

Episode 162. NYCO Divas: An Introduction



Maralin Niska

Today is the final regular episode of Season Three of Countermelody, as well as the last of my summer series documenting musical life in New York City during the years 1950 through 1975. I am thrilled to start what I hope will be an occasional series of episodes that will drop throughout Season Four, which begins in two weeks. I present to you a small sampling of the extraordinary singing actors that peopled the stage of New York City Opera during the years in question. The most famous of these, of course, is Beverly Sills, and she is aptly represented in her most radiant early prime. But there are many other singers as well, including African American divas Carol Brice and Veronica Tyler, preceded by Camilla Williams (the first Black singer to be awarded a standing contract with a major US opera company… in 1946!). City Opera was celebrated for presenting an absolute slew of new American work in its heyday, and we hear works by Carlilse Floyd, Robert Ward, Douglas Moore, Marc Blitzstein, and Jack Beeson in performances by Phyllis Curtin, Frances Bible, Brenda Lewis, and Ellen Faull. Other divas strutting their stuff include Olivia Stapp, Johanna Meier, and the three mesdames Patricia: Brooks, Wells, and Wise. The episode is capped by some of the rarest live recordings from the stage of City Opera by three singers who made their mark during their heyday, and would be the biggest stars in the world were they singing today: Gilda Cruz-Romo, Maralin Niska, and Carol Neblett, all of whom will be featured in her own episode during Countermelody’s upcoming season. A fitting way to end Season Three, as well as a harbinger of vocal delights to come! (Next week will be a preview of the upcoming season!)


Douglas Moore, John Latouche: Willow, when we met together (The Ballad of Baby Doe). Beverly Sills (introduced by Douglas Moore) [TV telecast, ca. 1962]

Giuseppe Verdi, Antonio Ghislanzoni, after Auguste Mariette and Temistocle Solera: Mia rivale!… Pietà ti prenda (Aida). Camilla Williams, Lydia Ibarrondo, Laszlo Halasz, New York City Opera Orchestra [1953]

Lydia Ibarrondo

Carlisle Floyd: Ain’t it a pretty night (Susannah). Phyllis Curtin, unknown orchestra, conductor, venue, and date

Carlisle Floyd

Marc Blitzstein, libretto after Lillian Hellman: Night could be time to sleep (Regina). Carol Brice, Samuel Krachmalnick, New York City Opera Orchestra [1958]

Marc Blitzstein

Robert Ward, Bernard Stambler [after Arthur Miller]: But oh, the dreams (The Crucible). Frances Bible, Emerson Buckley, New York City Opera Orchestra [1961]

Robert Ward

Jack Beeson, Kenward Elmslie: Three excerpts from Lizzie Borden. Anton Coppola, New York City Opera Orchestra [1965]:

The house watches. Anne Elgar, Brenda Lewis

When I hear your voice, the years melt away [Abbie’s Bird Song]. Ellen Faull, Herbert Beattie.

Keep watch, Mother [Lizzie’s Mad Scene]. Brenda Lewis

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Jules Massenet, Henri Meilhac, Philippe Gille: Je suis encore tout étourdie (Manon). Patricia Brooks, Anton Guadagno, Orchestra of the Vancouver Opera [live 10.V.69]

Hector Berlioz, Léon de Wailly, Auguste Barbier: I may discover [Quand j’aurai votre âge – sung in English] (Benvenuto Cellini). Patricia Wells, Sarah Caldwell, Opera Company of Boston Orchestra [live Boston 05.75]

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Composer – Zerbinetta Duet [excerpt, sung in English] (Ariadne auf Naxos). Olivia Stapp, Patricia Wise, Christopher Keene, New York City Opera Orchestra [live 1974]

Es gibt ein Reich (Ariadne auf Naxos). Johanna Meier, Christopher Keene, New York City Opera Orchestra [live 1974]

Christopher Keene

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Emanuel Schikaneder: Ah, I feel it [Ach, ich fühl’s – sung in English] (The Magic Flute). Veronica Tyler, Julius Rudel, New York City Opera Orchestra [live 19.X.66]

Julius Rudel

Arrigo Boito [after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe]: L’altra notte in fondo al mare (Mefistofele). Gilda Cruz-Romo, Julius Rudel, New York City Opera Orchestra [live 10.III.71]

Alexander Borodin: Yaroslavna’s Lament [sung in English] (Prince Igor). Maralin Niska, Gustav Meier, New York City Opera Orchestra [live 27.II.69]

Charles Gounod, Jules Barber, Michel Carré: Achevons la métamorphose… Ah, je ris de me voir (Faust). Carol Neblett, Charles Wilson, New York City Opera Orchestra [live 24.II.70]

Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir!

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