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Classical 101

Who told Frederica von Stade she could retire?!


[audio] Frederica von Stade sings Melisande in Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, with Richard Stilwell and Jose Van Dam, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, on this week's Saturday on Stage-Saturday afternoon at 1.30 WOSU 89-7 FM. (I feel like I've written too many obituaries here lately. This is a farewell of a different, happier kind.) Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade is ending her performing career later [caption id="attachment_12773" align="alignright" width="135" caption="Frederica von Stade aka "Flicka""][/caption] this summer. According to her website (http://www.fredericavonstade.com) after a busy season of concerts,  "Flicka" will give two performances of Despina in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte at Chicago's Ravinia Festival as  a high spirited good-bye. This after a forty year career that began with small parts at the Met and went on to collaborations with Solti, Karajan, Bernstein, virtually every important conductor of her time, and appearances in opera and concert...well...everywhere.  Her repertoire ranged from Monteverdi (my favorite Flicka performance, as the abandoned Penelope in Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria) to Kern's Showboat, to music inspired by and written for her by Jake Heggie and Dave Brubeck to name two. Frederica von Stade was so closely identified with Mozart's Cherubino-thanks to her big break via Sir Geog Solti in the early 1970s-that productions of Le nozze di Figaro were unthinkable with out her.  See what I mean: [youtube x66UhqsLa7U 490 344] I treasure memories of von Stade (oh, okay-she is universally known as 'Flicka' so what the hell) of Flicka's Cherubino,  likewise her Octavian in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier-unforgettable performances with Elisabeth Soderstrom and Kathleen Battle on tour in 1983. Likewise her Charlotte in Massenet's Werther is seared into my brain forever. Here's a bit of an interview I did with Flicka back in 2004, as she was preparing to sing with the Columbus Symphony: [audio:frederica-von-stade-2004-exc.mp3] What always came through in Flicka's singing came through chatting as well. Her humanity. "A voice is a person" int0ned the wonderful tenor Peter Pears many years ago. "A violin is a violin played by a person, but a voice is a person."  Flicka has a sure sense of self-she is well aware of her own gifts-but that awareness is far less important to her than her own exploitation of those gifts to benefit others. This is a completely unselfish-as opposed to selfless-artist.  She spoke with me so enthusiastically about working in schools and day care centers close to her home in California. At her 2004 Columbus visit she brought some young artists with her, eager to give them experience on her nickel. Nobody who has heard Frederica von Stade sing Mozart's horny Cherubino or the sensual, sophisticated melodies of Poulenc, nobody who has heard her desperate and sex -starved cries of "Torna, deh torna Ulisse!" will accuse this lady of being dull or unworldly. She turns her attention and her luscious voice to the attention of the words and music, hoping to leave the public better off than when they came in. Many (many!) years ago I had a college roommate who fell madly in love  with Flicka. I bought her very first solo LP, a French aria program .  He stole it and we heard this playing all through the house, day and night "Nobles Segineurs, salut!" from Les Huguenots by Meyerbeer. This brings back nice memories: [audio:nobles-seignerus.mp3] And one more time, Offenbach's delightfully tipsy Perichole [youtube DojdRm_Z9zo 490 344] Vixen or virgin, girlfriend or trollop, saint or sinner, Flicka sang 'em all. It is her performing career that seems to be ending. I suspect we have not heard the last from this warm and generous lady. Look for her where children need a champion, where the arts need a warrior and where the world needs cheer. --Christopher Purdy