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CLASSICAL  February 2007

CLASSICAL February 2007

Subject:

Marni Nixon on Callas

From:

Janos Gereben <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 11 Feb 2007 08:50:23 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (53 lines)

[In the 2/9 Variety, among statements by Academy Award Lifetime Achievement
honorees]

   By MARNI NIXON
   Marni Nixon was the voice of Natalie Wood's Maria in the film
   version of "West Side Story," just as she sang Audrey Hepburn's
   parts in "My Fair Lady" and those of Deborah Kerr in "The King
   and I." Nixon also has sung with the Seattle Opera and San
   Francisco Opera and is appearing with the New York Philharmonic
   at Avery Fisher Hall in New York next month.  (Callas') recordings
   are quite an example of the most dramatic kind of singing. She
   was all about meaning in song, meaning in music; she was a
   complete performer and a great influence on me.
   
   When I was singing a lot of opera, she was the one person in
   that bel canto repertoire, which means really old-style opera,
   not necessarily like "La Boheme," but previous periods, Mozart
   and Bellini, from the era when there was so much coloratura.
   
   Phrasing "La Traviata," she put a little tremble in it. She made
   (the lyrics) personal -- it's not a scale, it's not to show off
   pyro-technics, but it was to showcase the emotion coming out.
   She made music out of all of the decorative and romantic phrases.
   When she sang, it was always related to her guts.

   Her operatic repertoire is the bel canto era, which is not what
   we have now.  We have romantic, or true, opera (verismo). It
   isn't stylized, it's more natural. Bel canto is stylized, probably
   the way the composer meant it, but no one really did it as well
   as she did.

   Callas was a dramatic coloratura, she could do big voice, but
   lighten up and do all these fast, fantastic runs that a real
   heavy voice couldn't do -- like a Wagnerian couldn't do. She
   also did the thing that was impressive to me, that was more
   important than keeping the beauty of the voice; she would get
   so dramatic that it wasn't this gorgeous, round, buttermilk
   sound.  Sometimes it got more raucous. Now, a lot of singers
   won't do that, because it can take away from the beauty of the
   voice. Opera is a part of music theater. It has to be about
   theater and music; sometimes we forget about that aspect.
   
   The last time I saw her was in Seattle on her farewell tour. She
   was not singing in an opera but doing a lot of operatic scenes
   and duets. She had changed her vocal category, she was originally
   soprano, and in later years she started singing mezzo. It's like
   being a flute and then trying to be an alto flute. Tenor sax to
   bass sax. She did it very effectively because of her emotional
   skills and imagination -- that's where she was really effective.

Janos Gereben/SF
www.sfcv.org
[log in to unmask]

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