Episode 186. Roberta Alexander I

Episode 186. Roberta Alexander in Opera



Today it is with the utmost excitement that I bring you an episode devoted to one of my favorite singers of all time, soprano Roberta Alexander, who celebrates her birthday today, March 3rd! I remember first encountering this radiant voice of burnished silver back when I was in graduate school when I discovered her early recordings of art song, including albums devoted to Charles Ives and Richard Strauss. Over the course of a long and successful career she has sung in all major opera houses around the world and in concert halls under the batons of countless distinguished maestri. What is it that makes this voice so special? Alongside a rock-solid vocal technique that has allowed her to sing well into her seventies, she is also gifted with impeccable musicianship and staggering stylistic versatility. For me it is not only the unusual color of the voice, both shimmering and profound (the chiaroscuro!), but even more so, her dedication to communication through clarity of diction and razor-sharp dramatic precision that sends her into the realm of the all-time greats. This episode focuses on Roberta’s versatility and prowess on the operatic stage, featuring live and studio recordings over more than thirty years of works by composers from Handel, Gluck, and Mozart, through twentieth century masters such as Janácek, Gershwin, and Berthold Goldschmidt. We also hear an excerpt from one of Roberta’s favorites among her recordings, a rare 1982 live performance of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder. Speaking of Lieder, an upcoming episode this spring will focus on our diva on the concert platform. It was my great honor to meet Roberta in person when she was performing in Berlin in 2022 and therefore it is also to her as a friend that I extend my heartiest good wishes for a happy birthday. I had to remind myself not to fan girl as I was recording the narration for this episode, but I’m not sure I succeeded!


As Daphne, Santa Fe Opera, 1981

Richard Strauss, Hermann Hesse: Frühling (Vier letzte Lieder). Roberta Alexander, Adam Gatehouse, Nationaal Jeugd Orkest [live Amsterdam 02.82]

Christoph Willibald Gluck, Rainiero di Calzabigi: O del mio dolce ardor (Paride ed Elena). Roberta Alexander, Michael Schneider, La Stagione [live Frankfurt 13.IX.91]

Nikolaus Harnoncourt

George Frideric Handel, Thomas Morell: With darkness deep (Theodora). Roberta Alexander, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Concentus musicus Wien [live Wien 06.III.90]

George Frideric Handel, Nicola Francesco Haym: Voi, che mie fide ancelle … Da tempeste (Giulio Cesare). Roberta Alexander, Benjamin Luxon, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Concentus Musicus Wien [live Theater an der Wien 05.85]

As Vitellia, with Tatiana Troyanos as Sesto

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Pietro Metastasio: Chi vedesse il mio dolore (La clemenza di Tito). Roberta Alexander, Hans Vonk, Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice [live Venezia 29.IV.86]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte: In quali eccessi… Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata (Don Giovanni). Roberta Alexander, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam

Jacques Offenbach, Jules Barbier [after ETA Hoffmann]: Écoute!… Cher enfant que j’appelle (Les contes d’Hoffmann). Roberta Alexander, James Morris, Gwenneth Bean [live New York 02.I.88]

George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward: Porgy I’s Your Woman Now (Porgy and Bess). Roberta Alexander, Gregg Baker, Zubin Mehta, New York Philharmonic [1991]

George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward: What you t’ink you doin’?… I hates your struttin’ style (Porgy and Bess). Roberta Alexander, Michael Forest, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Chamber Orchestra of Europe [live Graz 07.09]

Péter Eötvös, Mari Mezei [after Tony Kushner]: Hello, and good morning (Angels in America). Roberta Alexander, Topi Lehtipuu, Daniel Belcher, Péter Eötvös, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France [live Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet 11.2004]

As the Fifth Maid with Nina Stemme as Elektra

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hoffmannsthal [after Sophocles]: Ich will vor ihn mich niederwerfen (Elektra). Roberta Alexander, Renate Behle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Orchestre de Paris [live Aix 2013]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte: E quella buona perla… Via, resti servita (Le nozze di Figaro). Roberta Alexander, Ilse Eerens, Kenneth Montgomery, Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century [live Utrecht 17.X.15]

Sergei Rachmaninov, Modest Tchaikovsky [after Dante Alighieri]: И вот раздался чудный голос дамы…О, не рыдай, мой Паоло [Then the lady’s fair voice rang out…  Oh, do not weep, my Paolo] (Francesca da Rimini). Roberta Alexander, Adrian de Peyer, Edward Downes, Omroep Orkest [live Amsterdam 13.XI.82]

Berthold Goldschmidt (1903 – 1996)

Berthold Goldschmidt [after Fernand Crommelynck]: Ihr lügt auch, aber Ihr lügt so schön (Der gewaltige Hahnrei). Roberta Alexander, Robert Wörle, Lothar Zagrosek, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin [1994]

Berthold Goldschmidt [after Percy Bysshe Shelley]: Farewell, my tender brother (Beatrice Cenci). Roberta Alexander, Fiona Kimm, Lothar Zagrosek, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin [1994]

Egon Wellesz [after Euripides]: Ich neige mich, strahlender Gott (Die Bakchantinnen). Roberta Alexander, Hans Aschenbach, Gerd Albrecht, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin [1999]

Leoš Janácek [after Gabriela Preissová]: Odešli. Jdi také! [They have left. You go, too!] (Jenůfa). Roberta Alexander, Philip Langridge, Andrew Davis, London Philharmonic Orchestra [1989]

As Jenůfa with Philip Langridge as Laca

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