Saturday, July 9, 2011

Master Classes in Excellence!

"An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I've left the opera house."
Maria Callas

Happy Saturday!

The first big production to open in the new Broadway season -- aside from "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" -- is a revival of Terrence McNally's "Master Class," starring Tyne Daly as opera diva Maria Callas.

Zoe Caldwell won a Tony Award for her portayal of Maria Callas in the 1995 production of MASTER CLASS.

Ben Brantly in The New York Times begins his review by writing, "Towering before us-and tower she does, though she is not particularly tall-the celebrated opera singer is undeniably, overwhelmingly there. And yet she's not there at all. One of the most daunting presences you're ever likely to come across is, on some profound level, absent. Which makes it all the more impossible for you to take your eyes off her."

What a great way to start a review! I'm hooked! I was hooked before I read the review. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have taken a master class with Maria Callas?

Michael Giltz in The Huffington Post writes, "Terrence McNally's idea for this play -- to show an opera singer conducting a master class, complete with nervous students, moments of musical glory and the audience made complicit as if they were merely attending that event rather than a drama -- is so simple and yet rich with possibility, I imagine other playwrights kicked themselves for not having thought of it first."


One review states, "Tyne Daly’s Callas never takes her regal status for granted."



Taped: 11/12/2004. 13-time Tony-nominated costume designer Jane Greenwood discusses some of the dozens of shows for which she has designed costumes, including Cherry Jones's corset in "The Heiress" and the suit worn by Patti Lupone, Faye Dunaway, and Dixie Carter in "Master Class." The acclaimed television series 'Women in Theatre' provides a unique look into the lives of some of the gifted women who create and sustain theatre in the United States -- with major directors, designers, actors, lyricists, composers and producers -- conducted by Linda Winer, theatre critic for Newsday. The series' theme song is "The Glamorous Life" from 'A Little Night Music' by Stephen Sondheim, performed by Alex Rybeck, noted pianist and music director. Watch more at www.cuny.tv/series/womenintheatre

Maria Callas was born in New York on 1923-12-04 (or 12-02) and died in Paris on 1977-09-16. Here is a biography by Coen Steegeling.
I would have loved to see Faye Dunaway in MASTER CLASS!

Few performers have ever inspired as passionate a following as did opera diva Maria Callas. Born Cecilia Sophia Anna Kalogeropoulos on December 2, 1923, she was the second daughter of a prosperous family that emigrated to New York City from Greece several months earlier. After her pharmacist father lost his business following the 1929 stock market crash, her mother, Evangelia, became less interested in her marriage and more in the dream of making one of her daughters into a celebrated performer. Leaving her husband behind, Evangelia and her girls moved back to Greece in 1937. Soon, the 13-year-old Callas lied about her age to secure an audition at the National Conservatory at Athens.
(Here I am in Greece in 2008)

Maria Callas is the greatest theatrical musical artist of our time.
— Sir David Webster, director, Covent Garden Opera House, 1964.

One of the greatest and most versatile operatic singers in recent history. She sang an incredible variety of roles; from Wagnerian to light coloratura; from high soprano to mezzo. But it is not just the range of roles she was capable of singing, but how she sang them that makes her special. She had a distinctive vocal timbre which she could color in a seemingly infinite number of manners. She could also act, a rarity with opera singers still today. She was a joy to listen to and watch. True her voice was flawed, but her artistry was unmatched.
— Scott Eric Smith

Of Callas's artistic pre-eminence there can be no doubt. Among her contemporaries she had the deepest comprehension of the Classical Italian style, the most musical instincts and the most intelligent approach. There was authority in all that she did on the stage and in every phrase that she uttered... [N]umerous recordings, including many complete operas, remain to show that her technical defects were outweighed by her genius.
— Desmond Shawe-Taylor, New Grove Dictionary of Opera




Can you imagine what it would be like to take a master class with Tyne Daly? I feel that I am taking a master class every time I see Ms. Daly work. In April, we honored Tyne Daly with a Bistro Award. I told her at that time that I worshipped at her feet. Her response, "Don't do that honey, you might hurt yourself!"


Well, I'll accept my hazard pay proudly! I, like many of my generation became a fan with Cagney and Lacy. She just drew me right in. I became a fast fan! In 1990, I saw her six times in Gypsy!

Of course, I've seen Rosalind Russell in the film version (which I happen to like),

Bette Midler's incredible television version,
and Patti LuPone's fierce portrayal...I even saw Linda Lavin do it when she took over for Tyne. But Tyne, with all due respect to the other's, is the one that resonates the strongest!


I saw Dixie Carter in the original 1996 production of Master Class, which won Zoe Caldwell a Tony, Dixie Carter followed Patti LuPone ; Faye Dunaway took the role on tour.Wow, what a performance! I feel the same about Dixie as I do with Tyne!




In closing in Ben Brantly's review of Tyne Daly in MASTER CLASS, he writes, " In fairness, Ms. Daly’s Callas seems unbreakable. She is on occasion vulnerable, but she is never fragile in the way that Ms. Caldwell was in the part. The artist’s ego remains, in this case, an indomitable monster. At one point Callas, remembering herself singing at the top of her form, says: “That’s who I am. This voice.” And though this woman’s body can no longer produce this voice, you don’t doubt that it still exists and that it still defines her."

I cannot wait to see Tyne Daly triumph again and I thank ALL of these actresses for the master classes in excellence they have given us!


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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

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