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Tuesday, August 06, 2002
More opera lore

In response to popular demand - the volume of emails crashed my server – I have included a link to nude opera singers, now that I can make links work after a fashion. Revisiting the site - publicised by Lynn, who so generously gave me very considerable help with unbuggering my linking - gave me the opportunity to read some of the humorous stories about opera (click on 'Humour', if you can tear your eyes away). I particularly liked a Thomas Beecham story that I had not heard before:

When Beecham didn't like a singer he could be quite callous in his manner, even in purely artistic situations. Frieda Hempel, one soprano Beecham didn't care for, was singing Pamina in Die Zauberflote [The Magic Flute] under Sir Thomas and sent a deputy to inform him that she was not feeling her best. Would Sir Thomas transpose "Ach, ich fuhl's" for her ? Sir Thomas agreed. Obviously she wanted it transposed down, so she wouldn't have to reach for the higher lines. But if the woman wants it transposed down, she should say she wants it transposed down.

Beecham told the orchestra to transpose it up.

It’s worth pointing out that ‘Ach ich fuhls’ is the only one of Pamina’s arias that could be classed as colaratura. This makes (part of) it very difficult indeed. Just out of interest, The Queen of the Night has two colaratura arias and the second, the most brilliant, was included among the recordings sent on Voyager. Interesting, eh?

Another little known fact about Sir Thomas Beecham, who did so much to improve the status of opera in the UK, concerns his death. On the day he died, the BBC radio news said, in its headlines, ‘The engagement of Princess Margaret is announced today’, followed by ‘The death is announced of Sir Thomas Beecham.’

I’m so pleased to see that they got their priorities spot on.

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