Kristine Jepson, Mezzo-Soprano Who Performed Worldwide

As Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo – Watch on YouTube

Kristine Jepson was a mezzo-soprano, covering the range between a soprano and contralto.  As a mezzo, Jepson sometimes appeared in male roles (such as Idamante in the above video). As Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, she played a man playing a woman. Another role that Jepson was particularly known for was The Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. (Some mezzo roles were once performed by castrati, who, for obvious reasons, are no longer in great supply.)

Jepson was a graduate of the University of Indiana Bloomington, which is known for its music department. The violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk are also Indiana grads.

Jepson performed on opera stages around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera, Bavarian State Opera, San Francisco Opera and Santa Fe Opera. Her Met debut was in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice and appeared as Sister Helen in the worldwide premiere of Dead Man Walking.

Kristine Jepson, July 20, 1962-April 21, 2017

From Ariadne auf Naxos on Spotify

 

Kurt Moll, Basso Profondo Who Could Hit A Low C

“Da Lieg Ich” from Der Rosenkavalier – Watch on YouTube

A “basso profondo” is an especially low bass voice.  While a typical bass can hit E2 (the second E below Middle C), Kurt Moll (April 11, 1938-March 5, 2017) could drop his voice to a Low C, two full steps lower. (This is what it sounds like on a piano.)

The boorish Baron Ochs from Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier is a role that calls for its singer to hit Low C., and Moll performed it frequently. He made seven complete recordings as Ochs, including a 1984 album with Herbert von Karajan, which Moll was particularly fond of. Through the 1960s, he performed with various German companies and became a regular on European and U.S. stages in the 1970s.

“…an exceptional basso profondo that proved as remarkable for its easy production as for its velvet timbre.” – Opera News

“Mein Lieber, Hippolyte” from Der Rosenkavalier on Spotify

(Listen for the Low C.)

To follow 2017’s complete LGMR Classical/Opera playlist, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Russell Oberlin, American Countertenor

“Vivi, tiranno” from Handel’s Rodelinda–Watch on YouTube

Russell Oberlin was America’s first well-known countertenor. According to The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music, a countertenor is a high “male [voice] not to be confused  with male alto, falsetto, or castrato, and with a strong, almost [instrumental] purity of tone.” Countertenors were popular in Handel’s and Purcell’s time, and had a revival in the mid-20th century.

Oberlin (October 11, 1928-November 26, 2016) performed extensively during the 1950s and 1960s and gained exposure through the new medium of television as well as film. He stopped performing in the mid-60s to devote his time to teaching. He was on the faculty at Hunter College  for 30 years.

Leonard Bernstein selected Oberlin for a 1955 recording of Handel’s Messiah, and he was cast in the role of Oberon for Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Oberlin was a founding member of the Pro Music Antiqua (now New York Pro Musica), a vocal and instrumental ensemble devoted to medieval and Renaissance music.

“Quand Vei La Laudeta Mover” on Spotify

Tomislav Neralic, Croatian Bass-Baritone Opera Singer

Dafne, Dubrovnik, 1972 (Neralic makes entrance at 1:02:10 as Jupiter)–Watch on YouTube

Tomislav Neralic began what would be a 60-year career at age 18, when he appeared at age of 18 in a Zagreb production of Verdi’s Don Carlos. In the 1940s he was with the Vienna Opera and joined the Berlin Opera in 1955 where he remained for 40 years.

He sang his  famous role as Wotan from the Ring cycle in three languages: Croatian in Zagreb, Italian in Milan and German in Berlin.

Neralic performed nearly 150 opera roles during his career. He was considered one of the greatest Wagnerian singers of his time and received many awards, including the Croatian Porin award for lifetime achievement.

“Arija iz oratorija ‘Mesija,’ Doch der wir werd ertragen” on Spotify

Johan Botha, Internationally Renowned Opera Tenor

Già nella notte densa” from Otello–Watch YouTube Video

Johan Botha was a South African-born heldentenor, who performed in opera houses worldwide. (A heldentenor (“heroic tenor”) is a tenor with “a powerful [voice] of wide range,” according to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music.)

Botha (August 19, 1965-September 8, 2016) was known for his command of difficult roles, such as parts in Otello, Parsifal and Die Meistersinger von Nürenberg. One of his most trying parts was as Apollo in Daphne by Richard Strauss. In a 2005 review in The New York Times, critic Anthony Tommasini noted Botha “sang the punishing role of Apollo with clarion sound and virile phrasing.”

Botha was introduced to the international stage with his performance of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at the Opera Bastille in 1993. Since then, he performed (among other stages) at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Royal Opera House, Paris Opera, Salzburg Festival and Vienna State Opera, where he was in 222 performances in 22 different roles.

“Was erblicke ich?” from Daphne on Spotify

Further reading:

“Remembering Johan Botha” by Fred Plotkin on the WQXR blog Operavore

 

Patrice Munsel, Soprano on Met Opera Stage and TV

Adele’s Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss

In addition to being blessed with a natural-born talent, it doesn’t hurt to have parents who are more than willing to indulge its cultivation. Such was the case with Patrice Munsel (May 14, 1925-August 4, 2016).

As a little girl, enthralled by whistling characters in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, her parents sought out a whistling teacher (I never knew there was such a thing). At 15, after Patrice started listening to Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, her parents took her to New York for voice lessons. By the time she was 17, she’d earned a contract with the Metropolitan, the youngest singer ever to do so.

She would appear 225 times with the Met and was especially known for her role as the maid in Die Fledermaus. New York Times critic Olin Downes praised her for her “virtuoso singing” and “very amusing acting.” (He had been considerably less charitable in reviewing her debut performance in Mignon.)

In addition to the Met, Munsel’s career took her to the Las Vegas strip, to ABC and The Patrice Munsel Show and to musical theater, where she appeared in touring productions of The Sound of Music and The King and I.

“Villa” from The Merry Widow on Spotify

Mattiwilda Dobbs, Met Opera Soprano

“Caro nome” from Verdi’s Rigoletto

Mattiwilda Dobbs was the Roger Maris of opera: an exceptional talent who was unfortunately somewhat overshadowed by superstars before and  during her career. (In Maris’s case, it was Mantle, Ruth, DiMaggio; for Dobbs, it was Marian Andersen, Maria Callas and Leontyne Price.)

Mattiwilda Dobbs Sings Handel Arias, 1955

Still, she was a formidable presence as a coloratura soprano with the Met, having earlier appeared at La Scala and Covent Garden. Her career kicked off when she won first prize at the Geneva Competition in Switzerland in 1951.

Recital at Her Alma Mater, Spelman College, 1988

Dobbs (July 11, 1925-December 8, 2015) bravely refused to perform for segregated audiences, and she was not heard in her hometown of Atlanta until 1962. In 1974, she performed at the inauguration of Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson,  her nephew.