October 24, 2015

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 109: Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen

Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape cover detail
cover photo by Francesco Scavullo 
detail photo by Styrous®


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I started the Vinyl LP series because I have a collection of over 20,000 vinyl record albums I am selling; each blog entry is about an album from my collection. The 101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes series is an extension of that collection. Inquire for information here.   

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Carmen (French pronunciation: ​[kaʁmɛn]; Spanish: [ˈkarmen]) is an opera in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on March 3, 1875.    




Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box
cover photo by Francesco Scavullo
album design by Trantor/IMPAC Associates
photo of tape box by Styrous®



The opera, written in the genre of opéra comique with musical numbers separated by dialogue, is set in southern Spain, and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy, Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen's love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial. That's some comedy!  




Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box back
photo by Styrous®




The premiere on March 3, 1875, which was conducted by Adolphe Deloffre, was attended by many of Paris's leading musical figures, including Jules Massenet, Jacques Offenbach, Léo Delibes and Charles Gounod; during the performance Gounod was overheard complaining bitterly that Bizet had stolen the music of Micaëla's act 3 aria from him: "That melody is mine!"      




Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box back details
detail photos by Styrous®



On 9 January 1884 Carmen was given its first New York Metropolitan Opera performance, to a mixed critical reception. The New York Times welcomed Bizet's "pretty and effective work", but compared Zelia Trebelli's interpretation of the title role unfavourably with that of Minnie Hauk. Thereafter Carmen was quickly incorporated into the Met's regular repertory. In February of 1906 Enrico Caruso sang José at the Met for the first time; he continued to perform in this role until 1919, two years before his death.  




Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box back detail
detail photo by Styrous®




On 17 April 1906, on tour with the Met, Caruso sang the role at the Grand Opera House in San Francisco. Afterwards he sat up until 3 am reading the reviews in the early editions of the following day's papers. Two hours later he was awakened by the first violent shocks of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, after which he and his fellow performers made a hurried escape from the Palace Hotel.  




Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box spine
photo by Styrous®




Marilyn Horne was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania, on January 16, 1934, she is a mezzo-soprano opera singer. She specialized in roles requiring a large sound, beauty of tone, excellent breath support, and the ability to execute difficult coloratura passages. She was a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1992 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 1995. She has won four Grammy Awards.    




Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box interior
photo by Styrous®




Horne's first major professional engagement was in 1954, when she dubbed the singing voice of Dorothy Dandridge in the film Carmen Jones. Until that point, she had worked as a background singer for several TV sitcoms, as well as recorded covers of popular songs of the early 1950s, which were sold in dimestores around the country for $1.98. She made an appearance on The Odd Couple as a character named "Jackie", her own nickname, a meek and nervous would-be singer who develops into a full-blown diva and plays the role of Carmen with brilliant results; she also sang on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She made her Los Angeles debut the same year when she performed the role of Hata in The Bartered Bride with the Los Angeles Guild Opera.




Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape
photo by Styrous®



Horne retired from the concert stage in 1999 with a recital at the Chicago Symphony Center. She still occasionally performs at pop concerts (most recently with Broadway star Barbara Cook). Horne has also established the Marilyn Horne Foundation to help preserve the art of vocal recitals. She teaches a series of annual Master Classes at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music; the University of Maryland, College Park; the Manhattan School of Music; and the University of Oklahoma.    



Marilyn Horne ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape label detail
detail photo by Styrous®



In December 2005, shortly before Horne's 72nd birthday, she was diagnosed with localized pancreatic cancer. In January 2007, she appeared at a public function for her Foundation. Interviewed by Norman Lebrecht on BBC Radio 3 on July 26, 2010, she spoke briefly about her cancer and cheerfully said, "I'm still here!"



The Marilyn Horne sings Carmen, reel-to-reel tape is for sale on eBay      



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