IN MEMORIAM IRENE DALIS & LAZSLO VARGA
I enjoyed a unique friendship with Irene Dalis, who died Sunday in her native San Jose. During our many conversations I found the opera superstar and Opera San Jose founder to be disarmingly candid and often quite unguarded. I think she was that way with her confidants, friends and relatives, many of whom knew her by her given name, Yvonne. As down to earth as she was, Dalis was uncommonly disciplined about her career in opera—determined to be as successful a singing actress as an acting singer—who studied in many of the smaller opera houses of Europe to hone her craft. It was that very experience that inspired Opera San Jose’s mission to teach stagecraft to already-professional singers. Dalis told me that it was Rudolf Bing, of the Metropolitan Opera, who rejected the name Yvonne—‘sounds like a ballerina’—in favor of Irene (which happened to be consistent with her Greek heritage.)
She also explained that she never took the title role of Carmen, despite being asked many times, because “Carmen has to be sexy, not [just] act sexy.” And, in retrospect, she wondered why she had made herself a promise to retire from the stage at age 50. The answer turned out to be simple: her great legacy for San Jose and, unique among opera companies all across America, Opera San Jose.
The Hungarian-American cellist Lazslo Varga, principal of the New York Philharmonic for 11 years under Mitropoulos and Bernstein, died last Thursday at 89 in Florida. An international soloist who played concertos the world over, he was also a member of the Borodin Piano Trio, the Léner string quartet and other chamber ensembles. He was also a member of the world-class Crown Chamber Players at UC Santa Cruz, the brainchild of Crown College’s founding provost Kenneth Thimann. On request, professor David Kaun offered his thoughts: “I recall vividly how the Chamber Players came to be. The founding Provost of Crown, Kenneth V. Thimann, was an internationally renowned plant physiologist, holding an endowed chair in biology at Harvard University prior to his coming to Santa Cruz in 1965, the year of [the university’s] founding. What I find so remarkable about Thimann (left) is his recognition of the value of the arts. And the Crown Chamber Players was testament to the nature of his values. As they say, he didn’t just talk the talk. Not to seem infected by sour grapes (I’m not), Thimann’s understanding of the value of the arts seems almost a story from the distant past.”
We have been pleased to call attention to many new CD releases from Bridge Records of New Rochelle, New York. While Bridge has been recording quality artists since 1981, this year for the first time the label has been nominated for fully five Grammys, “more than any of the so-called majors,” declares Norman Lebrecht’s blog. The list includes “All the Things You Are” (Best Classical Instrumental Solo) performed by pianist Leon Fleisher; “Harry Partch: Plectra and Percussion Dances” (Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance) performed by Partch Ensemble; “Harry Partch: Plectra and Percussion Dances (Best Classical Compendium); “George Crumb: Voices from the Heartland” (Best Contemporary Classical Composition) performed by Ann Crumb, Patrick Mason, James Freemand and Orchestra; and Bridge-founder David Starobin (Producer of the Year, Classical.)
Among Bridge’s newest releases are two CDs of French piano trios: Trio Solisti playing trios by Ravel and Chausson (album pictured right) and the Horszowski Trio’s collection of trios by Saint-Saëns, Fauré and d’Indy. Both are recommended, but the edge goes to Trio Solisti for the depth of imagination and expression probed by their players: violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach and pianist Adam Neiman.
PERFORMING ARTS PERSON
This week is Walt deFaria, well-known Monterey County producer and stage director who has several Hollywood films to his credit as well. Click HERE.
PAPER WING’S NEW SHOW
It’s An Evening with Mr Johnson, opening this weekend in Monterey. Yup, that Mr Johnson; comedy for adults only. See our CALENDAR for details.
Scott MacClelland, editor