Cher Public

Happy Birthday Eleanor Steber

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of that superb American soprano Eleanor Steber.

  • La Valkyrietta

    • PushedUpMezzo

      Here’s to both of these great ladies.

      And one for Mahler!

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

    RIP Elaine Stritch.

    Sorry, cant find an OT thread for this week so I am sticking my oar in here.

    But Happy Birthday Eleanor, all the same.

  • Will

    I think one reason, aside from the fact that Steber had the music so well in her throat, that the Minnie is so successful is that she went at it with a burning intensity and sang it full out, hell bent for leather.

  • MontyNostry

    It still fascinates me that such an undeniably superb singer as Steber hardly ever gets a mention here in the UK, except maybe for Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Perhaps it’s because she recorded relatively little. I am grateful to the Parterrians for opening my eyes to her.

    • Feldmarschallin

      Well Monty unforuntely she is also not very known in Germany. She sang Elsa in Bayreuth one season but I don’t think that went that well. I think she was one of the best American singers and can sing rings around Fleming. Sad that she let herself go later on and then the voice fell apart due to turbulences in her private life.

      • Krunoslav

        Feldie, have you never heard her Bayreuth Elsa under Keilberth? She’s fantastic, one of the very best on records, along with Elisabeth Gruemmer.

        What I heard is that her temperament and humor rubbed the Wagner family the wrong way, not that she sang badly. Della Casa was only at Bayreuth one season as well- she said she hated the stuffiness and pretentiousness of the milieu and Cult.

    • Camille

      Knoxville Summer of 1915 —
      with the lyrics taken from James Agee, and Samuel Barber, composer

      As performed by Eleanor Steber (who commissioned the work from Mr. Barber and first performed it with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mo. Koussevitsky) in the year it was first given, 1948, in a performance several months later in Carnegie Hall, and with piano accompaniment:

      It is important to remember SHE commissioned the work. She, initially an accomplished Mozartian/Straussian was fearless enough to bridge the gap that separated that repertory norm to explore more mid-century music, whatever the price she may ultimately have paid for that Wozzeck, or her Minnie, which I always loved. She just didn’t stay safe by singing the Mosart repertory at which she was expert and in demand and other light things for her entire career, she evolved, and for that courage I admire her tremendously.

      She had guts.

      • Flora del Rio Grande

        Camille: Just so you know, and for the record, Eleanor did not originate the commission that resulted in Barber’s “Knoxville.” It was Carol Brice, the afro-
        american contralto who did, and when it was taken up by Barber as definite and he demanded the fee she could not pay it. So, Steber was sought out and paid the fee and got the credit for the commission, which is techically correct.
        I had the original CBS recording of it and wore it out! Later, in lesser form, Eleanor recorded it again, very well but not great; it’s a lovely cycle, very worth knowing and hearing time to time. All lyric sopranos want to do it sooner or later. It was nice for Eleanor and she earned it, but I’m a little sorry for Carol
        Brice who was a very fine singer.

        • Krunoslav

          But Flora--

          It’s not a cycle; it’s a setting of about the last third-somewhat edited-- of James Agee’s exquisite, *da piangere* prologue to A DEATH N THE FAMILY.

          Now, Barber’s HERMIT SONGS- written for and premiered by Leontyne Price-- that is a cycle. What a shame Milanov refused to premiere them! :)

          • Flora del Rio Grande

            Thank you Kruno. Yes I knew the word cycle was wrong when I wrote it. I am very familiar with Agee and his Knoxville etc. I did not know that Milanov was asked to premiere the Hermit Songs -- remarkable! I know ZM gave recitals but think of her as a 99% opera person, don’t you?
            Thanks again for bothering.

  • messa di voce

    On the old Parterre Box, there used to be a fantastic video of Steber in costume doing the “Italian Street Song” (not the version currently on youtube). Does anyone have access to it?

  • Don;t have much to add but:

  • Steber’s face always reminded me of Eleanor Parker’s. Anyone else?

    • tatiana

      Actually, her slightly melancholic and world-weary expression in this picture remind ME of Ona Munson (Belle Watling in “Gone With the Wind”)!

  • meowiaclawas

    Happy birthday, Eleanor Steber!! I will celebrate tonight by going to my local bathouse, wrapping myself in a towel around my midsection, wrap a towel on my head and sing Come Scoglio to all the patrons!

    • Camille

      Please take photos and send them to La Cieca!

      • manou

        Photos? We want a video!

    • Flora del Rio Grande

      In English, Meo, or Italian? I rather like Andrew Porter’s English translation: “Like Gibralter! … ”
      I heard her sing it six out of seven performances, or was it five out of six, the first season they did it, 50/51, and it was better each time. She was a Mozart
      singer without compare.

  • DellaCasaFan

    I can’t think of a singer who would dare doing a concert as was her legendary Carnegie Hall recital in 1958. VAI issued almost all selections from it, but the full program included:
    “Alleluja” from Mozart’s “Exsultate, Jubilate,” two additional Mozart arias (Ilia’s aria from Idomeneo and “Martern aller Arten”), two excerpts from Die Frosch, Verdi’s “Ernani, involami”, Elvira’s Mad Scene from I Puritani, BOTH the “Knoxville” and “Les nuits d’été” song cycles,
    AND then four encores: “Depuis Le Jour”, “Vissi d’Arte”, Ed Bitcliffe’s (who accompanied her on piano) setting of a Christina Rossetti’s poem, and “Un bel di, vedremo.”

    There were only two possibilities for a colossal program like this one, spectacular success or total debacle. By all counts, it was decidedly a triumph.

    One of the Kaiserin’s two arias from this concert:

    • Clita del Toro

      Yes! I was at Eleanor”s concert. FABULOUS,

      • DellaCasaFan

        Please tell us more about it, Clita! I’ve been dying to know more about it ever since I read this concert program in her book and how much it meant to her. All we have is the VAI record, and incomplete at that. What was the atmosphere? Was the auditorium full?

      • Camille

        C’mon Clita, dish it up! You’re Unser Zelig!

    • Hippolyte

      I suspect that this concert was the inspiration for the irresistably over-the-top recital that Jimmy McCourt concocts for Mawrdew Czgowchwz.

      • Clita del Toro

        I used to know McCourt from the opera line. Since then he has become very snooty.

      • For those of you who may have forgotten, this was the program for Mme. Czgowchwz’s “comeback” recital, sung on April 30, 1956 (following a matinee performance of “Pelleas” at the Met in which she sang her first Melisande)…

        Du bist die Ruh  
        Im Abendrot  
        Im Frühling  
        Der Einsame  
        Auf dem See  
        An den Mond  
        An die Musik     Schubert
        Sea Pictures     Elgar
        Les Illuminations     Britten
        Poèmes pour mi     Messiaen
        Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre     Handel
        Cançion de cuna para dormir a un negrito     Montsalvatge
        Vocalise     Creplaczx
        Plaisir d’amour     Anon.

        Nuits d’été     Berlioz

        Seven Early Songs     Berg

        The Nursery     Mussorgsky
        Der Erlkönig     Schubert
        Kennst du das Land     Wolf
        Aus den Hebräischen Gesängen     Schumann
        Breit’ über mein Haupt     Strauss
        Die Mainacht     Brahms
        Marietta’s Lied (“Glück das mir verblieb”), from Die Tote Stadt     Korngold
        L’Invitation au voyage     Duparc
        Chanson d’amour     Fauré
        Claire de lune     Fauré
        Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye     Porter
        Summertime     Gershwin
        Songs My Mother Taught Me (in Czech)     Dvorák
        My Own Sweet Child in the West (in Hibernian Gaelic)     Anon.

        • Sad that one doesn’t hear as much Creplaczx as one used to. My great aunt Bess knew him when he didn’t have a vowel to his name.

    • Now, that’s a recital program! Whoa!

    • Camille

      Oh goody! I was thinking about that one. It came out really well for a concert I have always felt.

  • Krunoslav

    My parents loved Steber,whom they heard often, and I grew up listening to her records and broadcast tapes- including Dittersdorf’s ARCIFANFANO, which also featured Patricia Brooks.

    This shows her remarkable ability with popular music,and how to transcend a potentially embarrassing lyric ( and definitely embarrassing set) by treating material with the same care and dynamic finesse she used in “Dove sono”.

    She remains one of my all-time favorite singers.

  • mjmacmtenor

    Sirius Met channel is paying tribute to Steber this week with broadcasts of Vanessa (1 more Sunday at noon) and a terrific Tosca with Bergonzi and London (Friday midnight and ?Sunday 6:00 pm). I have previously heard a spectacular Traviata (with a young Di Stefano) that I think is still available on the Met Player.

  • olliedawg

    Deputies le jour…wow wow wow….she was unbelievably wonderful. Thank you!!!

  • olliedawg

    Darn speak check…meant to type DEPUIS…

  • olliedawg

    And that was SPELL …grrrr

  • Bill

    Steber was a very solid musician with an enviable
    technique -- I heard her first at Fiordiligi in 1952, 3 more times in the role, as Donna Anna on a regular basis, as Vanessa, Elsa, Violetta, Marie in Wozzeck and on a few other occasions. Her Kaiserin in Frau
    I believe was in concertform in Vienna in 1955 but she did not seriously pursue a European career -- probably her best singing (that is with beauty of voice) was in the 1940s -- later though with no particularly technical problems vocally, the sheen of her voice
    diminished and there was considerably more competition at the Met with the arrival of singers such as
    Tebaldi, della Casa etc. whose voices were of greater ability. Steber then also gained a bit of weight
    (one operagoer described her Elsa as looking as a
    polar bear with two canteloupes in front) -- her Violetta was not as fragile as other contemporaries.
    But she could soar through Donna Anna and Fiordiligi
    with aplomb if not with the radiance of tone of some
    of her rivals in that role from Vienna and she was
    basically the Met’s only Fiordiligi for a decade or so
    and had alot of fun in the charming Lunt production
    (singing in English) which was a big hit at the Met. Her last Minnie at the Met was absolutely legendary
    and hearing her in concert she took on gruelingly
    challenging aria programs, one chestnut after another
    and we heard her often on the radio. One of the Met’s
    biggest stars in the 1940s and 1950s and apparently
    a quick learner when necessary.

    • kennedet

      This is a veritable love fest for Steber. Thank you all for the education and the fond memories.

      • Often admonished

        youtube doesn’t have Steber’s incredible disc of La Captive but here’s another Berlioz song from those sessions, beautifully supported by Jean Morel


        • Often admonished

  • stignanispawn

    Steber was the basis for a character named Gloria January in Robert Merrill’s novel, The Divas. Kirsten and Moffo were the basis of the other two main female characters: Elizabeth Anders and Carla Scarlotti.If you’ve never read it try nnd find a copy. it’s about 40 years old….think Valley of the Dolls, only opera.

    • MontyNostry

      Did you ever read Angel exec Brown Meggs’ pulpy novel, ‘Aria’, about recording Otello -- with a young African-American tenor called Ezekiel Laframboise, a sexy soprano (possibly based on Moffo) called Didi del Campo and an ex-paedophile Italian baritone? I re-read it some years ago, having first devoured in about 1978. Too long and self-indulgent overall!

    • MontyNostry

      Ooh, I love the Internet. Just bought a copy of Mr Merrill’s magnum opus for £1.36 on Amazon. Thank you for the steer, stignanispawn.

      • armerjacquino

        Having read it, £1.36 is exactly what I’d pay.

        • MontyNostry

          Well, it will make a change from old copies of Opera when it comes to loo reading.

          • Krunoslav

            Why bother with old issues?

            OPERA, August 2014, Opera North GOETTERDAEMMERUNG:: [Alwyn Mellor] is unquestionably in the top flight of Wagnerians anywhere.”

            Everyone ( anyone) in Seattle agree with that?

            • reedroom

              Mellor: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • stignanispawn

    opps…. try “and” find a copy.

  • mia apulia

    I am sorry to post something off topic. I can log in to Parterre with Internet Explorer but not with Mozilla Firefox. But the video links often do not play correctly on Internet Explorer, although they always do on Mozilla Firefox. Anyone else????

    • Lady Abbado

      Yes mia apulia, several times before it happened that there was a long thread and I wanted to give a reply on, let’s say, page 3 out of 5. I would log in and automatically be sent to the end of the thread: page 5. When I would try to go back to page 3 where I wanted to reply, the very moment I would click page 3, the system would bring me there but only at the price of logging me out -- hence the inability to reply. This happens on Mozilla Firefox. It hasn’t occurred to me to switch to Internet Explorer, but I will next time this thing happens.

      • armerjacquino

        I’m on Firefox and have experienced both these issues. A refresh of the page solves them both, even if you have to re-login first.

  • RobNYNY1957

    Phyllis Curtin is her evil twin.

  • And April, 10 1973, from her Farewell Concert at the Continental Baths: