Episode 242. Damon Evans Introduces George Shirley (BHM 2024)

Episode 242. Damon Evans Introduces George Shirley (BHM 2024)



Damon Evans (L); George Shirley (R)
George Shirley as Pelléas

This week I present a Countermelody mini-series paying tribute to three great African American artists who were born in Baltimore. First up is the eclectic, versatile, and prodigiously talented Damon Evans, who introduces the latest Listeners’ Favorites episode, a tribute to an idol we both treasure, the phenomenal and pathbreaking George Shirley, who on April 18 will celebrate his 90th birthday. Damon chose to do his introduction as an interview, so as a prelude to the main episode, my listeners get to hear one amazing tenor sing the praises of another one!

George Shirley is one of the most versatile tenors of the second half of the twentieth century, and a pathbreaker as the first African American tenor to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. I first encountered him through his matchless portrayal of Pelléas in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande opposite Elisabeth Söderström. But his Mozart is equally celebrated: the podcast also features live and studio recordings of George Shirley as Tamino (opposite Judith Raskin), Don Ottavio, Ferrando (opposite Leontyne Price), as well as his extraordinary Idomeneo. Extant live performances of George Shirley including assumptions of roles as diverse as Don José (opposite Shirley Verrett), David in Die Meistersinger, Pinkerton (opposite the late Renata Scotto in an incandescent early performance of one of her greatest roles), Mephistopheles in Busoni’s Doktor Faust, and even Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos. All of these are included in the episode, as are rare recordings of art songs and spirituals from throughout his career. Raise a glass to the great George Shirley and join me in thanking him for having shared so generously with us his extraordinary artistic gifts!


Michael Tippett: My dreams are all shattered (A Child of Our Time). Damon Evans, Richard Hickox, London Symphony Orchestra [1992]

Josephine McGill, Marjorie Pickthall: Duna. George Shirley; Wayne Sanders [ca. 1973]

Claude Debussy, Maurice Maeterlinck: Je ne puis pas monter plus haut [excerpt from Tower Scene] (Pelléas et Mélisande). George Shirley, Elisabeth Söderström, Pierre Boulez, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden [1970]

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hoffmansthal: Durch deine Schmerzen bin ich reich (Ariadne auf Naxos). George Shirley, Joanna Neal, Paul Calloway, Washington Opera Society Orchestra [live Washington 09 March 1962]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte: Volgi a me pietoso il ciglio (Così fan tutte). George Shirley, Leontyne Price, Erich Leinsdorf, New Philharmonia Orchestra [1968]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Emanuel Schickaneder: Tamino mein! O welch ein Glück (Die Zauberflöte). George Shirley, Judith Raskin, Paul Franke, Raymond Michalski, Josef Krips [live New York 04 March 1967]

With Arlene Saunders in Die Zauberflöte, Glyndebourne 1966

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa, Luigi Illica: Vogliatemi bene (Madama Butterfly). George Shirley, Renata Scotto, Pedro Ignacio Calderón, Orchestra of the Teatro Colón [live Buenos Aires 15 May 1964

Renata Scotto as Madama Butterfly, Teatro Colón, 1964

Georges Bizet, Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy: Tu ne m’aimes donc plus? (Carmen). George Shirley, Shirley Verrett, Thomas Schippers, Orchestra Filarmonica di Trieste [live Spoleto July 1962]

With Shirley Verrett

Igor Stravinsky, André Gide: Perséphone, un peuple t’attend (Perséphone). George Shirley, Paul Vorwerk, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra [live Hollywood Bowl 13 August 1968]

Ferruccio Busoni: Lasst euch nicht stören (Doktor Faust). George Shirley, Jascha Horenstein, American Opera Society Orchestra and Chorus [live Carnegie Hall 01 December 1964]

With Leontyne Price and Karl Böhm

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte: Il mio tesoro (Don Giovanni). George Shirley, Colin Davis, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden [live 08 July 1967]

Richard Wagner: Mein Herr, der Singer Meisterschlag (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). George Shirley, Jess Thomas, Georg Solti, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden [live 03 Feb 1969]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giambattista Varesco after Antoine Danchet: Qual mi conturba… Fuor del mar (Idomeneo). George Shirley. Recitativo: John Pritchard, London Philharmonic Orchestra [live Glyndebourne Jun 1974]; Aria: Colin Davis, BBC Symphony Orchestra [1968]

Jacques Offenbach, Hector Crémieux, Ludovic Halévy: Heureuses divinités qui folâtrez (Orphée aux Enfers). George Shirley, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin [Berlin 01 Jan 1984]

Karl Weigl, Gustav Falke: Seele, Op. 23/4. George Shirley, David Garvey [1973]

Alessandro Scarlatti, Anonymous text: Sono unite a tormentarmi. George Shirley, Wayne Sanders [ca. 1973]

Howard Swanson, Langston Hughes: Joy. George Shirley, Wayne Sanders [ca. 1973]

Howard Swanson (1907 – 1978)

Benjamin Britten, Wilfred Owen: Move him into the sun (War Requiem). George Shirley, Ilva Ligabue, Fernando Previtali, Coro e Orchestra sinfonica della RAI, Milano [live Milano 1976]

Ilva Ligabue (1932 – 1998)
Sylvia Olden Lee (1917 – 2004)

Traditional Spiritual, arr. Roland Hayes: L’il Boy. George Shirley, Sylvia Olden Lee [live 17 January 1998]

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