January 16 came and went, and my mind, frankly, was on everything having to do with what’s going on in our country. Today, January 25, I found by chance a Facebook posting of mine from two years ago honoring the birthday of Marilyn Horne, which happened to pass unnoticed by me this year.
Let me take a couple of minutes of our time and tell you why this homage.
I was 19, recently arrived in Los Angeles and already starting to think that I had a bass-baritone voice that could be trained for Opera. As it turns out that is not what I ended up doing, although I continue to worship at that shrine. Anyway, I was coaching my first operatic role ever – Don Alfonso in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. My coach was the immense in girth and even larger in genius Ernest St. John Metz – Jack to all his students.
One day I was just finishing a coaching when the door connecting Jack’s studio to the kitchen swung open and in came a lady that Jack called Jackie. She was carrying a tray of sandwiches and casually asked for me to stay and have lunch and listen to her coaching. I wish I remembered what she was preparing that day. She had recently returned from several years in Germany, singing the bread and butter soprano repertory.
Oh, that voice!
She was then, at age 28 or thereabouts changing “Fach” (what they call in Germany what we call “rep”) and was about to make a major debut with the San Francisco Opera as Marie in Wozzeck, opposite Geraint Evans. I saw that and was blown away by the whole experience, including Marilyn Horne’s uncanny ability to make Alban Berg’s jagged, tortured vocal line sound as beautiful as Bellini.
Shortly thereafter came regular appearances on TV talk shows, her Arsace in Semiramide, opposite Joan Sutherland, some years later her Carmen at the MET, and that extraordinary career became the stuff of legend.
I never again saw her socially, but heard her in performance again and again. She got better – if that is humanly possible – with each year.
After her retirement, Marilyn Horne started to teach master classes around the country and one day came to the University of Miami, where my wife, Kimberly Daniel taught Voice. I was out of town and could not come to the Master Class, but Kimberly somehow became Ms. Horne’s assigned faculty escort. She casually mentioned that her husband had coached with Jack Metz when he lived in Los Angeles. Kimberly still remembers how Marilyn Horne hugged her and would not let go of her hand all day long.
Interesting how someone like Marilyn Horne can impact lives. One of my friends, tenor Allan Palacios Chan has been coaching with Ms. Horne at the Music Academy of the West. The changes she has wrought in my young friend’s singing are nothing short of miraculous. I wish our CCM could steal the thunder of the other colleges that are having Marilyn Horne come in to teach master classes and bring her to Cincinnati.
But, in the meantime, here’s my belated Happy Birthday homage to Jackie Horne.