Shirley Verrett – Artistic Versatility at its Penultimate Best

When Shirley Verrett switched fachs from mezzo-soprano to soprano much of the opera world didn’t know what to think since hardly ever did a singer make such a drastic transition while still in their vocal prime. One can only assume the constant hemming and hawing from those associated with such a pristine art form that got shaken up over the slightest bit of change must have worn out La Verrett over time. I made this presumption after walking along the fountained plaza of Lincoln Center one day in the late 1980’s to see banners being newly put on display along the cultural center’s entire perimeter which stated in big bold letters:

“SHIRLEY VERRETT – SINGER”

To which I murmured aloud, “What vocal coglioni!”
(If you’re not sure what that foreign word means, good.)

Through those simply worded banners, Shirley Verrett was telling every nay-sayer in the classical world in no uncertain terms to Fach Off.

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Remembering Joe Green: The Life & Art of Giuseppe Verdi, Part VIII

During the Second World War at the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt better known as Terezin, Verdi’s Requiem was performed an astounding 16 times. A Romanian conductor and composer named Rafael Schachter both organized and conducted the singers and instrumentalists from start to finish. Having only his one copy of the score which he carried with him everywhere, Schachter secretly arranged rehearsals with his fellow inmates until they were at a performance level to present Verdi’s masterpiece to the public. When asked why he dared to perform a Catholic Requiem among predominantly Jewish prisoners, Schachter replied:

“We must respond to the worst of mankind with the best of mankind.”

Through his life and art, it can be said that Giuseppe Verdi has assisted in bringing mankind significantly closer to a Divine Source.

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Remembering Joe Green: The Life & Art of Giuseppe Verdi, Part V

The diabolically dramatic entrance aria sung by the witch Ulrica in Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” holds a momentous place in the History of Classical Music, since that was the vocal piece sung by the first African American to grace the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. The vocally astounding contralto, Marian Anderson made operatic history when she sang the role of Ulrica during her one and only operatic performance in front of a live audience on January 7th, 1955.

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