Monthly Archives: April 2017

NAN MERRIMAN, Mezzo-Soprano * 28 April 1920 + Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA + 22 July 2012 – Los Angeles, California, USA;

Katherine Ann “Nan” Merriman (April 28, 1920 – July 22, 2012) was an American operatic mezzo-soprano.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she performed with her pianist brother, Vic (J. Victor) O’Brien (later president of the Pittsburgh National Bank), in cafes and supper clubs in the Pittsburgh area. She studied singing in Los Angeles with Alexis Bassian and Lotte Lehmann. By the age of twenty she was singing on Hollywood film soundtracks and it was there that she was spotted by Laurence Olivier. He picked Merriman to accompany him and his wife, actress Vivien Leigh, on a tour of Romeo and Juliet, where she performed songs during the set changes.

Merriman sang many roles both live and on radio under the baton of Arturo Toscanini between 1944 and 1953, while he was conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Among the roles she sang with him, were Maddalena in Act IV of Verdi’s Rigoletto, Emilia in Verdi’s Otello, Mistress Page in Verdi’s Falstaff, and the trousers role of Orfeo in Act II of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice and also sang in his first and only studio recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, in 1952. She was also featured as Dorabella in a 1956 La Scala performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was conducted by Toscanini’s short-lived protégé, Guido Cantelli.[citation needed]

Merriman was the first singer to record Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde twice, recording it on both occasions with the tenor Ernst Haefliger and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The 1957 recording was conducted by Eduard van Beinum for the Philips label, while the 1963 recording was conducted by Eugen Jochum for Deutsche Grammophon (see discography in the external links). The latter recording was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles Cros.

Merriman was particularly well received in the Netherlands, where she met and married Dutch tenor Tom Brand, a widower with several children. She retired from performing to care for the family in 1965. Brand died in 1970. After the children were grown, she maintained residences in Hawaii and California. She died at her home in Los Angeles on July 22, 2012 from natural causes, aged 92.

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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


GERMAINE CERNAY, Mezzo-Soprano * 28 April 1900, Le Havre, France + 19 September 1943, Paris, France;

Germaine Cernay, born Germaine Pointu (28 April 1900, Le Havre-19 September 1943, Paris) was a French mezzo-soprano who was active both in the opera house and on the concert platform.
Life and career
Cernay studied the piano before entering the Paris Conservatoire for vocal studies under Albers and Engel, winning first prizes in 1925.

She made her debut at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 16 May 1927 as la Bossue in the Paris premiere of Alfano’s Risurrezione (in French).[3] Other creations at the Salle Favart were Floriane in Éros Vainqueur (de Bréville), la Tour in Le Fou de la Dame (Delannoy), a fairy in Riquet a la Houppe (Hue), and Léonor in Le Sicilien (Letorey). Her other principal roles at the Opéra-Comique included Sélysette (Ariane et Barbe-bleue), a sister (Béatrice), Gertrude (Le roi Dagobert), la fantôme (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Mallika (Lakmé), Javotte (Manon), title role in Mignon, Souzouki (Madame Butterfly), Vincenette/Taven (Mireille), Geneviève (Pelléas et Mélisande), Cléone (Pénélope), Charlotte (Werther) and one of the voices in Masques et bergamasques.

She was invited to many provincial centres in France and also appeared in North Africa, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Ireland and Italy.

Broadcasting on French radio allowed Cernay to enlarge her repertoire to roles in Carmen, Le roi d’Ys, Le Chemineau, La damnation de Faust, Don Quichotte and La Lépreuse. She also sang in the first performance of surviving fragments of Chabrier’s Vaucochard et fils Ier on 22 April 1941 at the Salle du Conservatoire.

Cernay was one of the best-known concert altos of her generation and highly considered as a Bach interpreter.

She appeared regularly with the Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1931 to 1942. Her first and last appearances with the orchestra were as alto soloist in the Bach Magnificat, and in 1936 she sang in two performances of the Mass in B minor. Other works in which she sang at the concerts included Trois Duos by Raymond Loucheur, an excerpt from Couronnement de Poppée, Trois Poèmes by Philippe Gaubert, the Duo from Béatrice et Bénédict, Duos by Dandelot (premiere), Szymanowski’s Stabat mater, excerpts from Prométhée, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, Jeanne d’Arc (oratorio in seven parts by Louis Beydts, George Dandelot, Loucheur, Tony Aubin, Jacques Chailley, Pierre Capdevielle, and André Jolivet), and the Mozart Requiem. She retired in 1942 to become a nun. A year later she died of status epilepticus.

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As Carmen

As Margared in Lalo’s “Le Roi d’Ys”

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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos


JOHN CAROL CASE, Baritone * 27 April 1923, Salisbury, England + 28 December 2012, Thornton-le-Dale, North Yorkshire, England;

The English baritione and music pedagogue, John Carol Case, was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, where his father was an undertaker and a keen amateur singer, and he was given the middle name Carol so that if he ever wanted to become a professional musician he could call himself John Carol instead. He attended Bishop Wordsworth’s grammar school, and then won a choral scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge – at first as a counter-tenor rather than a baritone. After studying music for a year, in 1942 he volunteered for the army, returning after World War II to graduate in 1947 with Bachelor of Music and Master of Art degrees. David Willcocks, organ scholar at King’s at the time, recalls that he gave John his first paid engagement with the Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra while they were still students. This was the beginning of a long professional association between the two which included 20 consecutive Palm Sunday performances of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in the Royal Festival Hall with The Bach Choir. In 1968, John and the then treble Bob Chilcott were the soloists on David Willcocks’s recording of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem with the King’s College Choir Cambridge.

On leaving university, finding it difficult to get work as a solo singer in the austerity years after the war, John Carol Case took the jobs of Director of Music at King’s College school, Wimbledon, and National Music Advisor (or Director) of the Townswomen’s Guild Choir. In 1948 a teaching colleague put him forward as the soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, with the composer himself conducting. Other performances directed by the grand old man of British music followed, not only of his own compositions, but also of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), in his home town of Dorking, Surrey. Case regarded the recording he made in 1968 of R. Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony with the soprano Sheila Armstrong and Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic choir and Orchestra as a career highlight. Five years later the same forces recorded R. Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem, and in 1974 Case sang Christ on Adrian Boult’s recording of Edward Elgar’s The Apostles.

The other composer whom John Carol Case had a notable working relationship with was Gerald Finzi. They met after a 1951 concert in the newly opened Royal Festival Hall in London. John had performed Finzi’s set of five Shakespeare songs, Let Us Garlands Bring, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under George Weldon, and the composer invited him to his home in Ashmansworth, Hampshire, to go through more of his works. Finzi died aged just 55 in 1956, and Case then premiered two song collections, I Said to Love and To a Poet. He subsequently recorded all Finzi’s settings of Thomas Hardy with another composer, Howard Ferguson, at the piano.

During the mid 1950’s John Carol Case began to be recognised as one of England’s leading baritones and he became associated with all the great choral societies and festivals. He became a regular broadcaster on BBC radio and television and made concert appearances in Europe and Canada. He was best known for his many performances of the part of Christ in J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (BWV 244). His great love of language shone through in the clarity of his diction and the way he could energise the text, thereby clarifying its meaning. As a result he was much in demand as an interpreter of 20th-century English music, and of the two composers’ work in particular – Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gerald Finzi.

John Carol Case recorded widely for EMI and Lyrita, especially choral works, songs and opera. One of his early performances was in EMI’s recording of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Yeomen of the Guard, in the small role of Second Yeoman, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. His choral recordings include solo parts in J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) (with both R. Vaughan Williams and Otto Klemperer), Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem and numerous works by Edward Elgar and R. Vaughan Williams. Among his opera performances is as the Evangelist in Sir Adrian Boult’s recording of R. Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress. His English song recordings include the works of Gerald Finzi, notably the Thomas Hardy song cycles for baritone.

Once he had achieved all he could hope to as a singer, John Carol Case retired from performing in 1976 at the relatively early age of 52 and returned to teaching, now keen to pass on his expertise to students, both as a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and as a freelance singing coach. In 1989 he retired fully to Thornton-le-Dale, North Yorkshire, where he sang in the village choir. In 1976 the Royal Academy made him an honorary RAM, and in 1993 he was awarded OBE from the Queen in recognition of his services to music. For All Saints Church, Thornton-le-Dale, he wrote carols, which have been published by Banks Music Publications. He died in December 2012, at age 89. He is survived by his partner of 55 years, Bob Wardell.

Source: Bach Cantatas Website

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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Baritones


APOLLO GRANFORTE, Baritone * 20 July 1886, Italy + 11 June 1975, Milan, Italy;

Apollo Granforte (20 July 1886, Legnago – 11 June 1975, Milan) was an Italian opera singer and one of the leading baritones active during the inter-war period of the 20th century.

Early years and education
At 9 o’clock on the morning of July 22, 1886, when Granforte was two days old, he was left in a basket at the Ospedale Civile in Legnano, wrapped and wearing a bonnet to which a brass medal was attached by white cotton thread. The nuns at the hospice remarked on his large body and strong profile and thus dubbed him Apollinare Granforte, the name which the president Giovanni Tebon wrote down in the hospice’s official records. He was adopted by Gaetano Brigo e Rosa Uccelli, a couple from Noventa Vicentina. At nine years old, he was an apprentice cobbler and enjoyed acting and singing at the small theatre in town. At 16, he took a tenor part in Lucia di Lammermoor, put on by a small company that traveled the countryside and performed in town squares.

On October 5, 1905 Granforte married the eighteen-year-old Amabile Frison. They had a daughter Maria in the same year and emigrated to Buenos Aires in Argentina to be with Granforte’s brother Erminio Brigo. He continued to work as a shoemaker and on Sundays sang for the Italian immigrants in local taverns. There he was heard by a wealthy music lover named Pedro Valmagia (a.k.a. Pietro Balmaggia), who paid for him to study at the La Prensa Conservatory of Buenos Aires. He then transferred to the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in the same city, studying with masters Nicholas Guerrera and Guido Capocci.

Granforte made his stage debut in Rosario, as Germont, in 1913 when he was 27. In that same year he debuted in a concert in La Plata, singing “Eri tu” from Un ballo in maschera and the “Ciel! mio padre” duet from Aida with a soprano student of the Verdi Conservatory in La Plata.

In 1913, at the age of 27, Granforte made his stage debut as Germont at the Rosario Politeama. His success there led to successive engagements at other provincial theatres in Buenos Aires. By 1915 he had also appeared at the Buenos Aires Politeama, the Solis of Montevideo and at Pelotas, Rio Grande and Porto Allegre in Brazil. In one four-week period at Montevideo he sang Silvio in Pagliacci, Marcello in La bohème, Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana, Germont in Traviata, Enrico in Lucia, Rigoletto, Barnaba in La Gioconda, Valentin in Faust, Amonasro in Aida, and Alfonso in La favorita.

During this time in Argentina, Granforte and Frison had two more daughters, Ofelia and Leonora. At the outbreak of World War I, Granforte and family returned to Italy sponsored by Valmagia, who had earlier helped the baritone begin his studies. Granforte enlisted at Parma as a grenadier. He took ill and was found unsuitable for the front lines. He then toured the war zone entertaining the Italian troops, alongside Alessandro Bonci Elvira de Hidalgo.

After the war, while Granforte was singing at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, his fourth daughter Costanza was born. The director of the Opera, Emma Carelli, sent Granforte to Milan for finishing touches to his vocal technique and repertoire. He studied there with the bass Luigi Lucenti and coach Tullio Voghera.

In 1919, Granforte was at Naples and there met the composer Pietro Mascagni, with whom he would become a lifelong friend and collaborator, the latter always choosing the baritone as his protagonist under his baton. In 1921, the impresario Lusardi introduced Granforte to La Scala in Milan. Conductor Arturo Toscanini entrusted the role of Amfortas to him, and in 1921 he made his debut there. In 1924, he went to Australia on a successful tour with Nellie Melba. During Granforte’s subsequent tour of Australia in J. C. Williamson’s 1932 Grand Opera season, Frank Thring Sr.’s Melbourne-based Efftee Productions filmed him with the Williamson-Imperial Grand Opera Company in a selection from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. This relatively brief footage was released on VHS in 1989 by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Granforte possessed a big, rich, vibrant voice and he quickly established himself in the great baritone roles of Verdi and the verismo composers. He sang some Wagner, too, and also took part in the creation of Nerone by Mascagni in 1935.

His farewell to the opera stage was on February 26, 1943 in Pizzetti’s Fedra at Trieste’s Teatro Verdi. Granforte had in career taken part in around 1,800 performances.

After retiring from the stage, he taught at the Music Conservatory of Ankara, then at the Prague Opera and Milan, where he opened a music school at his residence on Via Arici in the Crescenzago section. Among his pupils were the soprano Leyla Gencer, bass Raffaele Arié, and tenors Flaviano Labò and Jesús Quiñones Ledesma. He participated in musical life into his 80s and was often an adjudicator for music competitions. Besides his musical life, Granforte was also a successful businessman, being an inventor of certain kind of rotating or swiveling lamp. Along with an associate Luigi Devizzi, he owned the factory that produced these lamps, as well as a farm—both situated at a large villa in the Milan suburb of Gorgonzola. It was there that he died on June 11, 1975.

He can be heard on recordings of Il trovatore, Otello, Pagliacci and Tosca. Granforte also recorded 78-rpm discs of individual arias and duets in the 1920s and 1930s, and the best of these have been reissued on a CD anthology from the Preiser label.

Granforte is considered to have been one of the great Italian baritones of the 1920s and 1930s, taking his esteemed place alongside the likes of Mariano Stabile, Carlo Galeffi, Cesare Formichi, Carlo Tagliabue, Benvenuto Franci and Mario Basiola, among others.

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(Master teacher, Apollo Granforte seated in the center amongst his students and Enayat Rezai (standing third from the left), Devlet Music Conservatory, 1955. Photo courtesy of Enayat Rezai)

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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Baritones


ISABELLA HINCKLEY-SUSINI, Soprano * 1840 Albany, Albany County, New York, USA – 05 July 1862, New York, USA;

The brief career of the favorite prima donna, best known amongst us as “Belle Hincklry,” terminated yesterday morning.

Mme. Hinckley Susini was a native of Albany, where, while at school, she developed quite early in life great musical talent coupled with such energy of nature and buoyancy of spirits as justified her friends in predicting for her a brilliant public career. Her parents’ circumstances were not such as enabled them to give her a thorough musical education, and it was with regret that she, at one time, relinquished the long-cherished plan of studying abroad. She was for several years the leading soprano at one of the largest churches in Albany, and while in that position made many warm and influential friends, who determined to aid her in her laudable desires. She was accordingly tendered a complimentary concert by the people of Albany, which netted such a liberal sum as warranted her in going at once to Italy, where, under the best teachers and masters, she became more finished in style and perfect in execution. The rapidity with which she mastered languages was as remarkable as was her memory, and it was a matter of note, while she was a pupil in Rome, that no task requiring simple effort of memory, was too great for her.

After a successful debut in Paris, she came to this country about two years ago. Since that time she has fairly won her way to the respectful affection of the people, and the cordial recognition of the critics. Free from whim, abounding in good nature, ready at a moment’s notice, thoroughly conversant with the manners and customs of our people, and mindful of the important truth, that “Americans are not fond of disappointments,” she, though not so brilliant as Cazzaniga, or so impassioned as Colson, uniting in herself the conscientiousness of La Grange, and the piquancy of Piccolomini, reigned queen of Young America almost from the night of her debut.

Some months since she married Signor Susini, the distinguished basso; and scarcely a year has parsed, during which time she was a bride and a mother, before we are called upon to record her death.

Her public career was brief and brilliant; her domestic life that of a dutiful daughter, a faithful wife, a loving mother.

~The New York Times, 6 Jul 1862


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Agostino Susini & Isabella Hinckley by Brady

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Augestino Basil Susini won the heart of Isabella. Source the Net.


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Left to right: Isabella; Maria (wife); one of the sons, name unknown; and Dr. John W. Hinckley. c. 1853. Matthew B. Brady photo. Source, Library of Congress.

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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Sopranos


KATHLEEN CASSELLO, Soprano * 13 August 1958, Wilmington, Delaware, United + 12 April 2017;

Kathleen Ann Cassello (August 13, 1958, in Wilmington, Delaware – April 13, 2017, in München, Germany) was an American-born opera singer. Since winning first prize in the Salzburg Mozart competition in 1985, she has toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia and North America. A graduate of the University of Delaware, she received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1980. In the late nineties, Cassello toured with Kallen Esperian and Cynthia Lawrence as “The Three Sopranos.” She was very famous in opera de Marseille (France). She passed away April 12, 2017.

The 3 Sopranos with Mr. & Mrs. George Bush in New York City

as Marguerite in Faust in Marseille

as Gilda with Leo Nucci in Rigoletto in Marseille

as Liu in Turandot in Marseille

as Giselda in I Lombardi with Miroslav Dvorsky in Marseille

as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni in Orange

as Gilda in Rigoletto at La Scala conducted by Riccardo Muti

with Luciano Pavarotti before a concert in London

as Catherine of Aragon in Henry VIII in Barcelona

as Lucia in Rome

The 3 Sopranos on the Harald Schmidt Show

As Queen Elisabeth I in Roberto Devereux in Marseille

Catherine of Aragon in Henry VIII in Barcelona

Lucia with Renato Girolami in Marseille

as Gilda in Rigoletto with Leo Nucci in Naples

Lucia in Orange with Francisco Araiza
Fun with Luciano and Cynthia in Naples
as Violetta in La Traviata with Roberto Alagna in Orange
as Thais in Marseille
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Sopranos


RITA ORLANDI-MALASPINA, Soprano * 28 December 1937, Bologna + 8 April 2017, San Donato Milanese;

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Rita Orlandi-Malaspina (born 28 December 1937 – died 8 April 2017) was an Italian operatic soprano who had a major international career from the 1960s through the 1980s. She drew particular acclaim for her portrayals of Verdi heroines. She has also had a successful career as a concert soprano, particularly in performance of Verdi’s Requiem and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. She is married to bass Massimiliano Malaspina who also has an important opera career. Prior to her marriage she performed under the name Rita Orlandi.

Born in Bologna, Orlandi-Malaspina was a student of the famous Italian soprano and voice teacher Carmen Melis in Milan. She made her professional stage debut in Milan in 1963 at the Teatro Nuovo as Giovanna in Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco. She quickly became a major figure in Italy’s most important opera houses during the 1960s.

Orlandi-Malaspina enjoyed a particularly fruitful partnership with La Scala, where she made her debut on 29 April 1966 as Leonora in Verdi’s La forza del destino under the baton of Gianandrea Gavazzeni with a cast that included Luigi Ottolini, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicola Zaccaria, Bianca Maria Casoni and Renato Capecchi. Other Verdi roles she was admired for at that house were Aida, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, Elvira in Ernani, Leonara in Il trovatore, and Odabella in Attila. She also appeared as a guest artist at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, the Teatro di San Carlo, the Teatro Carlo Felice, La Fenice, the Teatro Regio di Parma, the Teatro Massimo, the Teatro Regio di Torino, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and the Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi. She was a regular performer at the Arena di Verona Festival where she sang in 1968–1969 and 1971–1972. She also made several appearances at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

On the international stage Orlandi-Malaspina has sung as a guest at the Royal Opera, London at Covent Garden, the Bavarian State Opera, the Hamburg State Opera, the Palais Garnier, the Opéra de Nice, the Théâtre du Capitole, the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, the Liceu, La Monnaie, the Vienna State Opera, the Teatro Colón, the Opéra de Montréal, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. On 17 October 1968 she made a successful debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as Amelia in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra with Cornell MacNeil in the title role, Richard Tucker as Gabriele Adorno, Nicolai Ghiaurov as Jacopo Fiesco, Sherrill Milnes as Paolo Albiani, and Francesco Molinari-Pradelli conducting. She sang several more times with the company over the next 12 years portraying the roles of Elizabeth of Valois in Don Carlo (with Shirley Verrett) and Aida to the Radamès of such singers as Giorgio Lamberti, Giorgio Merighi, Ermanno Mauro, and William Johns.

Orlandi-Malaspina’s extensive stage repertoire includes such roles as Tosca, the title character in Giacomo Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Elsa in Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, Maddalena de Coigny in Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, and a large number of Verdi roles (Luisa Miller, Abigaille in Nabucco, Desdemona in Otello, Elena in I Vespri Siciliani, Mina in Aroldo, and Lucrezia Contarini in I due Foscari in addition to those already mentioned).

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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Sopranos

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