Italian #opera: A Rossinian lady, Marilyn Horne

Marilyn Horne and Henry Lewis in 1961, photo by Carl Van Vechten
Photo from Wikimedia commons: Marilyn Horne and Henry Lewis in 1961, photo by Carl Van Vechten

A friend of mine that knows I am an opera fan sent me a very endearing article about Marilyn Horne. I have always been a fan of hers and I loved the article, along with the acknowledgement of her contribution towards keeping Italian composers in the forefront of opera. I have translated the introduction to the article to English and included the same excerpt in the original Italian, for those that read Italian.

English translation of excerpt from the article:

A Rossinian lady by Harvey Sachs

In the fall of 2012, during a concert of the marvelous Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York, Riccardo Muti turned to the audience and, pointing to an older lady sitting in a box, announced that he was dedicating the next piece, the Nocturne by Giuseppe Martucci, to that lady who had done so much for Italian music.

The gesture was spontaneous but also fitting, because in a career that spanned a half-century that lady, the mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, had helped to bring public attention to the works of Vivaldi, Rossini and other Italian composers – works that had previously been buried in the annals of history. On Thursday January 16th Marilyn Horne turned eighty.

A few days before that momentous occasion, I went to see her in her elegant apartment near Lincoln Center in New York where she lived for nearly four of her eight decades. It is no wonder that the place of honor at the entrance to her living room is occupied by a beautiful portrait of the much-revered Rossini. Despite being in her eighties and the scars of a battle in 2005 against pancreatic cancer – unfortunately a battle that few win – Marilyn Horne, small and round, was full of energy and plans for the future. "First of all – she teases – next to Magda and Licia I am still a child," referring to the sopranos Magda Olivero and Licia Albanian, both of whom are a hundred years old.

Excerpt from the original Italian article:

Una lady rossiniana di Harvey Sachs – Read full article in IlSole24Ore

Nell’autunno del 2012, durante un concerto della sua meravigliosa Orchestra sinfonica di Chicago alla Carnegie Hall di New York, Riccardo Muti si girò verso il pubblico e, indicando una signora dai capelli candidi, seduta in un palco, annunciò che dedicava il pezzo successivo, il Notturno di Giuseppe Martucci, a quella signora, che tanto aveva fatto per la musica italiana.

Il gesto fu spontaneo ma anche azzeccatissimo, perché in una carriera durata mezzo secolo quella signora, il mezzosoprano Marilyn Horne, aveva aiutato a riportare all’attenzione del grande pubblico opere di Vivaldi, Rossini e altri compositori – opere che prima erano state consegnate al dimenticatoio della storia. E giovedì 16 gennaio la Horne ha compiuto ottant’anni.

Qualche giorno prima del fatidico compleanno sono andato a trovarla, nel suo elegante appartamento, dove vive da quasi quattro dei suoi otto decenni, nei pressi del Lincoln Center a New York. Non c’è da meravigliarsi se il posto d’onore all’ingresso del soggiorno è occupato da un bellissimo ritratto del suo Rossini. E nonostante gli ottant’anni e il brutto ricordo di una battaglia, nel 2005, contro un cancro al pancreas – battaglia che pochi riescono a vincere – la Horne, piccola e tondetta, è piena di energia e di progetti per il futuro. «Intanto – scherza – accanto a Magda e Licia sono ancora una bambina», riferendosi ai soprani Magda Olivero e Licia Albanese, entrambe ultracentenarie.

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