The New York Times proclaimed Marilyn Horne “the most American of all operatic singers, and in the best sense: a can-do technical command of the voice, ready intelligence, Protestant work ethic in excelsis, firm grounding in the popular culture, melting-pot versatility.” She herself once admitted: “I could and would sing almost anything anyone asked me to. I was young and figured I had nothing to lose…I was going to make it no matter what.” Her voice extended from a gutsy contralto low E to a blazing soprano high C. In the 1954 Hollywood movie Carmen Jones, she dubbed Dorothy Dandridge’s singing voice, but it was none other than Igor Stravinsky who launched her international career when he invited her to perform at the 1956 Venice Festival. Her first important stage role was Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck, which she took on in 1960, first in Germany and then for her US debut in San Francisco.
But Horne’s vocal prowess was probably on display most spectacularly in the breathtaking coloratura passages of Rossini operas. In 1969, she co-starred with Beverly Sills in The Siege of Corinth at La Scala, Milan and received a seven-minute mid-act ovation from the world’s most finicky opera audience. Here she is at the Metropolitan in 1986 as Rossini’s Italian Girl, one of her most celebrated comic roles:
Another Horne specialty was Handel. In 1984 at the Met, she sang in his Rinaldo which, thanks to her advocacy, became the first Handel opera ever to be performed in that house. Her first two Schubert Club recitals opened with Handel.
In this recital at La Scala, filmed in 1981, Marilyn Horne in her prime presents a cross-section of her whole repertoire – Handel and Rossini arias as well as German, French, Spanish, Italian and American songs:
Artist note by Richard Evidon
From the Schubert Club Archive
Marilyn Horne 1974 Artist Promotional Flyerclick to view full image
Marilyn Horne 1974 Newspaper Portraitclick to view full image
Marilyn Horne 1974 reviewclick to view full image
Marilyn Horne 1980 brochureclick to view full image
Marilyn Horne 1980 Newspaper portraitclick to view full image
Marilyn Horne 1980 program artist biographyclick to view full image
Marilyn Horne 1980 reviewclick to view full image
Marilyn Horne headshot from 1991click to view full image