Shirley Verett (1931–2010)

November 6, 2010

Until a few moments ago, I didn’t think I had anything to add to the eulogies that will surely flow in torrents for the wonderful Shirley Verrett. Two of my greatest operatic thrills were of her doing: the first Met Troyens in which, due to the indisposition of Christa Ludwig, she sang the parts of both Dido and Cassandra; and the Siege of Corinth that was intensively publicized as the Met debut of Beverly Sills, who was very fine, but who more or less saw the show stolen out from under her by the amazing Verrett. But thousands share those memorable experiences with me.

What persuaded me to add my voice to the tributes was a Facebook posting (thanks, Christopher Temporelli!) of this performance of THE Mozart Alleluia:

I know nothing of her training in early performance-practice, but she does the most important thing: she “tucks” the least important notes and emphasizes the major tonal points. And a thrilling performance with all the right contours is her (and our) reward. There is also that undefinable something that doesn’t bear, or need, discussion.

And I won’t be impertinent enough to comment on this sublime interpretation of the bereaved Orpheus:

Che cosa posso dire?

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