Eileen Farrell - An American Prima Donna

Eileen Farrell - "An American Prima Donna"

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The magnificent voice of soprano Eileen Farrell in a program of songs and arias showcasing her artistic versatility. Arias from Aida, Madama Butterfly, La Forza del Destino, La Gioconda, the last two of which are staged and in costume; also, songs by Fauré, Poulenc, and Gershwin. Produced by the CBC, Montreal, this video is a welcome tribute to a singer whose operatic and classical interpretations are under-represented on recordings (1969).

1. Gluck: Alceste - Divinités du Styx (4:26)
2. Puccini: Madama Butterfly - Un bel dì vedremo (4:25)
3. Verdi: Aida - Ritorna, vincitor! (6:36)
4. Fauré (text: Sully-Prudhomme): Les Berceaux (3:00)*
5. Debussy (text: Louÿs): La Chevelure (3:37) *
6. Poulenc (text: Aragon): "C" (2:50)*
7. Ponchielli: La Gioconda - Nessun v’ha visto? . . . Suicidio! (9:02)
8. Verdi: La Forza Del Destino - Pace, pace, mio Dio! (5:22)
9. Gershwin: But Not for Me (Publisher: Warner Chappell Music) (3:34)

Eileen Farrell, soprano
Orchestra of Radio-Canada, Montréal
Jean Deslauriers, conductor
*with John Newmark, piano

Some people go through life assuming that Eileen Farrell the classical singer and Eileen Farrell the pop stylist are different performers, and who can blame them? Few artists of this century possessed Eileen’s remarkable versatility, which is abundantly present in this video. Eileen’s unshakable technique and vocal splendor remained constants no matter what she was singing, but her command of style was nothing short of chameleon-like. Here, she’s heard torching George Gershwin’s "But Not for Me" and singing three mélodies that convey her deep love of French song. She also serves up a wide range of arias including a wonderfully conversational "Un bel dì," a lustrous "Divinités du Styx" and a " Ritorna, vincitor!" guaranteed to make her fans regret that she never tackled the complete role of Aida. "Oh, honey," she said to me not long ago, "I never could have sung Aida. Too damned many high Cs!" Sorry, Eileen I think this video proves otherwise.

Brian Kellow
Executive Editor, OPERA NEWS
Brian Kellow is co-author, wth Eileen Farrell, of Can’t Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell (Northeastern University Press, November 1999).

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