Saturday, February 05, 2005

3 Singers

I found Classic Arts Showcase early on Saturday morning on a community access cable network. I was immediately treated to 3 singers:

Marlene Dietrich singing “When the World was Young”
Gisela May doing two songs by Kurt Weill
Renata Scotto singing Liszt’s “Angelici Costumi”

I was not familiar with Gisela May but found her fascinating. The internet tells me she was “geboren am 31. Mai 1924,” and was the “star of Bertolt Brecht's East German ‘Berliner Ensemble’ theater.” The internet is so cool.

German is supposed to be spoken with a uvular R made by vibrating the uvula against the tongue, though classical singers are taught not to use it. My Spanish friend Dolores used to joke about it. She could do it but only on the word “Brot,” which she would then demonstrate. I couldn’t do it at all. Gisela May not only does it, she flaunts it. She can sustain it for an amazingly long time and makes it part of her interpretation of the song, especially in “Mackie Messer,” giving the whole thing a growling/purring tiger-like quality entirely compatible with her smoky voice.

The other two women we know very well. Dietrich was seen in a 1972 concert film. She is simply telling you a story about her own life, speaking directly to the audience in a very personal way.

And Renata Scotto is always herself, gesturing more than the other two women and bringing drama into even the smallest piece.

No comments: