Monday, November 27, 2017

RIP Carol Neblett

I must pay tribute to that great American soprano Carol Neblett, who left us on Thursday.

I regret that the only time I ever saw and heard her live was when I was in the chorus of her Norma in Miami in 1990.  (Yes, I have to find a way to make Norma relevant to every post.  Because Norma is relevant to everything, dammit!)  She had been hugely successful in the 70s and early 80s, but had not performed as much in the late 80s. She was reportedly working on a "comeback" with bel canto repertoire. I read a review at the time of another Bellini role she'd assayed and apparently done well with.  I wish I could report her Norma was completely successful, but there were issues. No one could doubt her ability to spin an amazing vocal line or her commanding stage presence, but some of the coloratura and the very high notes were problematic. The queens in the chorus dressing rooms were very cruel, but I was not among them. (I always identified with people who struggled vocally. Funny that.)

I have a bootleg recording of that performance. I also have recordings of other Normas featuring singers who would surprise you--Carol Vaness, Christine Goerke (yes, @heldenmommy, I found it), and even Ghena Dimitrova! In retrospect, knowing the show, myself, and life a little better, I really, really wish I had seen it from the audience.

An appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:


I once saw another clip, possibly of the same appearance, when she sat with Johnny to schmooze, and told the story of a big debut in which she totally blanked.  Totally forgot what was coming next.  She looked at the conductor terrified, and the conductor prompted her, "Un bel di...."