Episode 259. Lawrence Winters Revisited

Episode 259. Lawrence Winters Revisited



During the first season of Countermelody I presented the great African American baritone Lawrence Winters in an episode which paired him with his contemporary Robert McFerrin. Today Winters (born Lawrence Whisonant in South Carolina on 12 November 1915 and died of cancer in Hamburg at age 49 on 24 September 1965) returns center stage to Countermelody in a program which focuses on his prowess in standard operatic repertoire and art song. After vocal study with Todd Duncan at Howard University, Winters toured for several years with the Eva Jessye Choir before enlisting as a member of the Armed Forces. Upon returning to the US, he appeared in Harold Rome’s Broadway musical revue Call Me Mister. In 1948 he debuted at New York City Opera, the first Black male singer to perform there; he performed there for seven seasons, returning for a single performance as Porgy in 1962. He made his first trip to Europe in 1949 and in 1950 joined the roster of the Royal Swedish Opera, with whom he sang for two seasons. Thereafter, he joined the ensemble of the Hamburg Opera and later, the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He also performed at the Wiener Staatsoper and the San Francisco Opera. He returned to the Broadway stage in 1960, garnering a Tony nomination for his appearance opposite Joya Sherrill in the play The Long Dream. In the last year of his life he also appeared in Germany in the title role of Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. He made a large number of recordings for Philips, Deutsche Grammophon and other labels, as well as a slew of radio recordings, many of the latter of which are featured on this episode. A certified star in Germany, Winters was often featured in pop music that appealed to the German public of the time but which, frankly, was not always worthy of his talent. In this episode I present him in repertoire that reveals him as one of the primarily Verdi and verismo baritones of his era, even when he was singing those roles in German translation. We also hear Winters in excerpts from two operas in which the protagonists are specifically Black: Frederick Delius’s Koanga and William Grant Still’s Troubled Island.


All tracks feature Lawrence Winters, baritone with other performers as noted.

Richard Strauss, Hermann von Gilm: Zueignung, Op. 10/1. Walter Martin [1955]

Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II: Old Man River (Show Boat). Willy Hoffmann, FFB-Orchester [Berlin 1965]

Ruggero Leoncavallo: Schaut her! Ich bin’s [Si può? Si può?] (Der Bajazzo [Pagliacci]). Janos Kulka, Bamberger Symphoniker [1960]

William Grant Still (1895 – 1978)

William Grant Still, Langston Hughes, Verna Arvey: Drums in the Court (Troubled Island) Lawrence Winters, Julius Rudel New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus [live 01.V.49]

Winters as Amonasro in Aida

Frederick Delius, Charles F. Keary [revised Thomas Beecham, Edward Agate]: Hear me, god Voodoo (Koanga). Stanford Robinson, BBC Symphony Orchestra [London II.58]

Lawrence Winters and Anneliese Rothenberger

Vincenzo Bellini, Carlo Pepoli: Ah, per sempre io ti perdei (I Puritani). Walter Martin, Hamburger Rundfunkorchester [1953]

Winters as Jokanaan in Salome

Jules Massenet, Paul Milliet, Henri Grémont [after Gustave Flaubert]: Vision fugitive (Hérodiade). Walter Martin, Hamburger Rundfunkorchester [Hamburg 09.VI.53]

Anny Schlemm

Ruggero Leoncavallo: Ich weiss wohl, ich finde [So ben che difforme] (Der Bajazzo). Anny Schlemm, Janos Kulka, Bamberger Symphoniker [1960]

Giuseppe Verdi, Salvadore Cammarano [after Antonio García Gutiérrez]: Il balen del suo sorriso (Il trovatore). Walter Martin, Hamburger Rundfunkorchester [1953]

Winters visiting resident of an Altenheim in Hamburg

George Frideric Handel, Giacomo Rossi [after Giovanni Battista Guarini]: Von frevlem Trug [Dell’empia frode il velo] (Il pastor fido). Wilhelm Schüchter, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Hamburg [1956]

Franz Schubert, Pietro Metastasio: Il traditor deluso, D.902/2. Walter Martin [Hamburg 08.IX.55]

Franz Schubert, Anacreon, translated Franz von Bruchmann: An die Leier, D. 737. Walter Martin [1955]

Gabriel Fauré, Armand Silvestre: Automne, Op. 18/3. Walter Martin, Hamburger Rundfunkorchester [1956]

Daniel Decatur Emmett, arr. Aaron Copland: The Boatmen’s Dance (Old American Songs, Set I:1). Gerhard Gregor [1956]

Sigmund Romberg, Rida Johnson Young: Will You Remember? [Sweetheart] (Maytime) [sung in English and German]. Willy Hoffmann, FBB-Orchester [1963]

Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II: Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific). Hermann Spitz. Grosses Hamburger Rundfunkorchester [1951]

Cole Porter: Night and Day (Gay Divorce). Orchester Harry Hermann [03.XII.56]

Hans-Arno Simon: Eine zärtliche Melodie. Orchester Hans-Arno Simon [1962]

Paolo Tosti, Francesco Cimmino: L’ultima canzone. Hermann Spitz, Großes Hamburger Rundfunkorchester [1951]

Winters as Rigoletto with Eva Prytz as Gilda

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave [after Victor Hugo]: Feile Sklaven! [Cortigiani!] (Rigoletto). Hermann Spitz, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Hamburg [1956]

Umberto Giordano, Luigi Illica: Nemico della patria (Andrea Chénier). Walter Martin, Hamburger Rundfunkorchester [1953]

Traditional Spiritual: Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen [unaccompanied; unknown year]

Richard Strauss, Karl Henckell: Ruhe, meine Seele!, Op. 27/1. Walter Martin [1956]

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