Episode 184. Eugene Holmes

Episode 184. Eugene Holmes



Eugene Holmes (1932 – 2007), baritone supreme, should be remembered as one of the most significant voices of the Twentieth Century and a Black singer on a par with the most revered and celebrated. Though he participated in the creation of some important work (including by Gian Carlo Menotti, Gunther Schuller, and Frederick Delius), and performed with San Francisco Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, New York City Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera Regional Company, his career remained centered for more than thirty years at his home company, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. The rare recorded documents that we have of Eugene Holmes, including two self-produced LPs of spirituals and three different recordings of Delius’s rare opera Koanga (two of them live), reveal a voice of rare magnitude, range, power, and sensitivity, qualities which made him one of the premier Verdi baritones of his day. But due to a number of factors, including his modesty and his unwillingness to travel far from home, he did not achieve the international recognition that he deserved. I have pulled together all of the recorded material of Eugene Holmes that I could find, and present excerpts from these varied sources. In the production of this podcast, I was greatly aided by reminiscences provided by his colleagues Bonita Hyman, the German-based African American mezzo-soprano; Stephen Harrison, the retired musical director of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein; and Heribert Klein, member of the committee of UNICEF Deutschland, an organization with which Eugene Holmes was deeply connected. Guest vocalists appearing opposite Holmes include sopranos Claudia Lindsey, Gwyneth Jones, and Barbara Carter, and tenors János B. Nagy and Giorgio Aristo.


Traditional Spiritual, arr. Harry T. Burleigh: Heav’n, Heav’n. Eugene Holmes, Gerd Hirtz [1988]

Ruggero Leoncavallo Si può? Si può? [Prologo] (Pagliacci). Eugene Holmes, Hector Urbón, Düsseldorfer Symphoniker [live Deutsche Oper am Rhein 13.VII.1977]

Four excerpts from Frederick Delius’s Koanga (libretto by Charles Francis Keary, partially inspired by The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life [George Washington Cable]. The problematic libretto has been subject to multiple revisions, primarily by Douglas Craig and Andrew Page; the different performances heard here utilize slightly different versions of that libretto:

Act I: O Voodoo Manian, my fathers from your graves avenge me. Eugene Holmes, Claudia Lindsey, Paul Callaway, The Washington Opera Society Orchestra [live Washington XII.70]

Act II: Far, far away, Palmyra, my people mourn for me. Eugene Holmes, Charles Groves, London Symphony Orchestra, Camden Festival Chorus [live London 1972]

Act II Finale: Hear me, God Voodoo: I have betrayed my trust. Eugene Holmes, Charles Groves, London Symphony Orchestra [1974 studio recording]

Act III: I cannot bear the sight!… My spear, where is my spear? Eugene Holmes, Claudia Lindsey, Charles Groves, London Symphony Orchestra [live London 1972]

Claudia Lindsey, Eugene Holmes

Giuseppe Verdi, Antonio Ghislanzoni: Ciel! Mio padre! (Aida). Eugene Holmes, Gwyneth Jones, Riccardo Muti, Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper [live Wien 1973]

Gwyneth Jones

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave [after Ángel de Saavedra]: Una suora mi lasciasti (La forza del destino). Eugene Holmes, János B. Nagy, Yoram David, Düsseldorfer Symphoniker [1982] [live Deutsche Oper am Rhein 1982]

As Renato in Un ballo in maschera

Georges Bizet, Eugène Cormon, Michel Carré: Au fond du temple saint (Les pêcheurs de perles) [sung in German]. Eugene Holmes, Giorgio Aristo, Arnold Kempkens, Großes Städtisches Orchester Solingen [live Essen 24.IV.83]

Giorgio Aristo
The Greek-American tenor (not Italian as I claimed on the podcast) was born 28.XII.50
Eugene Holmes as Giorgio Germont in La traviata

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave [after Victor Hugo]: Cortigiani, vil razza dannata through to end of act (Rigoletto). Eugene Holmes, Barbara Carter, Günter Marx, Arnold Kempkens, Großes Städtisches Orchester Solingen, Schubertbund Essen [live Essen 24.IV.83]

Barbara Carter

Traditional Spiritual, arr. Harry T. Burleigh: Deep River. Eugene Holmes, Joseph Rezits [unknown year]

Eugene Holmes and his wife Katja

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