Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ursula

When I travel to Zurich to see Cecilia Bartoli, there is for me an added bonus. My friend Ursula also lives in Zurich, where she was born. When I was busy being a Kinderkuchen in Hansel and Gretel, Ursula was Hansel. Ursula was the star.

We had lunch the day after Giulio Cesare in a vegetarian restaurant off the Bahnhof Strasse. She looked like an opera star in her large black hat and cape. Ursula is singing again. She is 5 years younger than I am and has resumed her career after retiring to have three sons. She is pleased to have her children see her perform. The youngest asked her why she was staying at home having children. She is very proud of this.

Ursula was a very good coloratura soprano and a great comic actress along the lines of Myrna Loy or Claudet Colbert. Her Hansel was very child-like and charming. She would sing into the wings, “Wer da?” (who’s there) and we would answer, “Erda.”

She sang the lead role in Martha, a very silly opera which I adored. One person can raise a performance above the ordinary, and she was that person.

She also sang Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, a role in which she hit exactly the right note of elegant schemer that brings the opera to life. She appeared for one night only as Henry Higgins’ mother in My Fair Lady, a tour de force in my humble opinion. She still has fans from the Ulm days who came over to see her latest effort.

Theater is like a flower: it blooms, is admired and passes on. Now we talk about our children and how they are doing. My memory of those years is mainly of Ursula.

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