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Classical 101

Magnificent Cathy Berberian


[VIDEO IS DEAD] Cathy Berberian could sing anything. And did. She was born in North [caption id="attachment_13391" align="alignright" width="147" caption="Cathy Berberian (1925-1983)"][/caption] Attleboro, Massachusetts in 1925. By 1950 she was a Fulbright Scholar in Italy and had married composer Luciano Berio. She became Europe's leading exponent of new vocal music Her curiosity about music all music, seemed to be insatiable. As a child she had studied Armenian folk music and dance. Her career and her life in music were all about variety. It's hard to categorize Cathy Berberian. I suspect that was her intent. She had a lovely mezzo soprano voice, but in the era of Callas and Tebaldi it was not a voice to stand out on its own.  Berberianwas  perfectly capable in Bach and Mozart. Her Montevedi was sublime. Listen to the simple beauty of tone mixed with drama in the great Lamento d'Arianna, which she recorded with Nikolaus Harnoncourt [youtube 8VTdERr7LAs&feature=related 490 344] Berberian was a chamber music and an actress. She was a personality who sang. Her voice lacked the amplitude to ride over a large operatic orchestra, but as a recitalist. a chamber musician, a saloniste she had no peers. Her collaboration with Berio was fantastic and survived their 1964 divorce.  Berberian was his muse, for a time his wife and the mother of his daughter Cristina.  On stages and in studios throughout the world Cathy Berberian was a lot more than a composer's wife.  She recorded Monteverdi operas and Bach cantatas. She wrote her own theater pieces.  Stripsody uses onomatopoeia and reflects her love of comic books.  Her recital programs embraced Purcell, Stravinsky, Villa-Lobos, you name it.  (Elegy for JFK was written for her).  She loved spectacle, costumes,  jewelry and all things theatrical. Here she is with a fearless performance of Xango by Villa-Lobos [youtube cK2OR13QUOw&feature=related 490 344] Cathy  Berberian died suddenly of a massive heart attack in her hotel room in Rome in 1983. She was preparing for a concert honoring the memory of Karl Marx! (How's that for variety!) For twenty years in Europe as vocalists go there was Cathy Berberian and there was everybody else.  Her artistic heirs would be  Massillon Ohio's Jan di Gaetani who was a close contemporary (1933-1989) and today, Dawn Upshaw.  But really there was nobody like Cathy Berberian. If you'd like to know more, here's part of a documentary called Music is the Air I Breathe. This clip features interviews with Berio, Harnoncourt, the Swiss tenor Eric Tappy, Cathy's daughter Cristina, and the lady herself [youtube KblkzCQna-w&feature=related 490 344] --Christopher Purdy