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Thursday, February 2, 2012

A "lost" soprano rediscovered, Judith Doniger

Judith Doniger in her Shakespearean concert dress

 From my earliest memories, I remember my Grandmother singing to me; in the park, going to a children's event, driving in the car and sometimes at her home.  At that age, she was just a typical Grandmother doting on her grandchild.  As I got older, I discovered that she had been an opera singer and also learned very quickly that she did not like to talk about that aspect of her life.  Grandma had had impeccable training, Pasquale Amato in her teens, Anna El-Tour at the Sorbonne, Anna Schoen-Rene at Juilliard, Marie Gutheil-Schoder at the Mozarteum, Fausto Cleva and Vera Schwarz as a coaches later on.  Her career, like so many at the time fell victim to two complications, raising a family of three children and then the War.  However, as she did not have the time to devote to opera, she did tour in concert through the 1950's including several Town Hall concerts here in New York City and had her own program singing Shakespeare set to music on WNYC.  Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco even orchestrated his Shakespeare songs for her!

For her 90th birthday, we made a cd of 22 of her best private recordings.  The cd, was played at her birthday and we gave them out as party favors for the guests. She was needless to say surprised and she was so happy with the results she began talking about her career for the first time in decades.  

A few years before her death, I was introduced to a singer and pedagogue named Daniel Shigo.  Dan has been working on a book about her Juilliard singing professor Anna Schoen-Rene for a number of years.  Schoen-Rene had a storied career and taught the likes of Rise Stevens, Kitty Carlisle and Margaret Harshaw.  Dan had visited as many of her then elderly pupils as he could and by the time he interviewed Grandma, she was one of the last three.  A few months ago, Dan called me and asked if he could put up some of the cd selections on Youtube as he was transcribing his interview with her for his blog.  We gave him permission and he has posted 7 clips from the cd.  Anyhow, I was playing them for a knowledgeable friend the other day and he was extremely impressed with her recording of Wagner's "Traume" from the "Wesendonk Lieder" and thought I should share it with you on the blog.  

So without further adieu, here is Judith Doniger singing a radio broadcast of Wagner's "Traume" with Victor Alessandro and the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra on November 12, 1950.  (For those who have not heard the piece before, you will note that this piece is a precursor to the "Liebestod" from "Tristan und Isolde" and there is a huge similarity between the works.) 

recording copyright Harmonie Autographs and Music, inc. 2002
Historical remastering by Seth B. Winner Sound Studios, Inc.

Thanks to Dan Shigo for his hard work putting these recordings up on Youtube!

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