Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Conversation with Lloyd Schwartz, Part 2

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Conversation with Lloyd Schwartz, Part 2

Article excerpt

PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING CLASSICAL MUSIC EDITOR OF the Boston Phoenix, Lloyd Schwartz, and I continued our conversation at the lovely Center for Adult Education in Cambridge, MA . . .

LH: One of the classical singers, whom I think does a terrific job with Sondheim, Bernstein, and so forth, is Dawn Upshaw.

LS: Yes. I would agree with you. She does have a real feel for that.

LH: When she is singing classical music, does she speak to you?

LS: Sometimes . . . often . . . more often than not . . . and more often now than earlier in her career.

LH: I've seen her do the Peter Sellars staged Bach cantatas, and she did spectacularly.

LS: They're controversial, but I love them. I've not seen her doing that. I did see Lorraine Hunt Lieberson do them.

LH: I did, too. And Dawn was at the private reception afterwards.

LS: Talk about a singer [Lorraine] who had everything going for her . . . the most lusciously beautiful voice . . . and sensitivity and intelligence . . . such deep feeling. I want to weep every time I think of her.

LH: She and Jan De Gaetani.

LS: Another wonderful singer.

LH: What about Donald Gramm?

LS: Oh, I thought he was marvelous. I loved him, but what a ham. He loved being on stage, and conveyed that sense that there wasn't anything else he would rather be doing.

LH: I was singing with Sarah [Caldwell] when he did. He was just the nicest person.

LS: I met him. I spent the summer as a "hanger-on" at the Santa Fe Opera one year. I, actually, got to be in a production, but I didn't speak or sing.

LH: Carrying a spear?

LS: A sword. I had to arrest Don Carlo every night, and I painted sets, and listened to people complain, make jokes, and be jealous of each other. It was a very interesting season. It was the American debut of Kiri te Kanawa as the Countess. She was a better actress in those days than she became. She was less timid, and her voice was jaw-droppingly beautiful. The leading soprano of the South African Opera was also there that summer. She was really expecting to be the star of that season. Then, along comes Kiri, from New Zealand, about to make her debut at Covent Garden as the Countess. People couldn't believe what they were hearing, it was so beautiful.

LH: I heard a joint recital with Kiri and Frederica von Stade in San Francisco a couple of years ago. Von Stade sounded wonderful.

LS: Oh, yes, she is wonderful. She was at Santa Fe that summer. That is how they met.

LH: Does her singing speak to you?

LS: It does.

LH: Why do you teach?

LS: Why do I teach? I think for the same reason I write, and for the same reason I wanted to be an actor, and everything else. I want people to know things. I want people to be aware of things. Why do we speak? Why do we have conversations?

LH: I think some of us are meant to be teachers. I remember that, as a child, I used to teach things I didn't even know how to do. Maybe it's a need. You have that need to communicate, and help other people be better at what they do.

LS: I know I got this from my mother. My mother wasn't a teacher. My mother would have been a great teacher, and she was a great teacher, without even knowing it. She had to leave school in junior high school, in order to get a job to support her parents. Her brothers and sisters had all grown up and left the nest. In her very last years-my mother lived to be a hundred-she was losing her memory, and suffered from major dementia. I heard an interesting story about my mother, after she died. Apparently, she was telling the nurses how to bake. My mother never baked anything, but she was absolutely convincing about this. They thought she must have been a really great cook, or pastry chef, or bread baker. She wasn't, but she was explaining to them what you had to do, and I don't think she knew. I'm sure that impulse that I have comes from her. …

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