Rest in Peace, dear Camilla Williams

Camilla Williams, emerita professor of music

WilliamsThe NAACP's Roy Wilkins had asked her to sing a spiritual at the August 1963 civil rights rally in Washington, D.C. But Camilla Williams ended up singing The Star Spangled Banner as well.

Williams recalled that another singer on the program was caught in traffic, and Wilkins needed someone to sing the national anthem. (Contralto Marian Anderson was stuck in traffic.)

"I ran up all the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and was out of breath when I got to the microphone," she said. But she sang to the 200,000 gathered there and the next year, after King won the Nobel Peace Prize, she sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic for a gathering of dignitaries and friends of the civil rights leader. "I was honored to know Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta," she told the audience.

Williams was the first black singer on contract to appear with the New York City Opera. She premiered in 1946 as Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly, and she was the IU School of Music's first black professor of voice.

   I spoke to her only recently...I am so sad...She was so kind and I reminded her she was my first ever Butterfly.Sadly, the racism in music prevented her from coming to the Met.  Bless her memory. (She was 92)

Category:general -- posted at: 12:13am EDT

My Memories of Renata Tebaldi

Ciao a tutti,


                 When we gathered outside the Met stage door on Feb.1, 1956, after Tebaldi's debut as Desdemona (we lost our voices for weeks), we were unaware that it was her 34th birthday. As usual, she signed every program in the freezing cold, and that was our first encounter with the lady who made our lives so happy, on and off stage. She would be 90 this day, and let me remember some of my personal tales of this beloved lady:
                   Those of us who heard her live do not believe that there was EVER any soprano who combined a phenomenally gorgeous quality and  Brunnhilde-like volume. Imagine a Gioconda duet withe two of them..get the earplugs!
                    I am following this with a few anecdotes from my personal experience, just to give you a more personal view of her personality:


    1. She did not like to fly,  and one Tuesday night, when she was off to sing in Philadelphia (The Met went there regularly), we were seeing off and she was standing in the last (open) car of the train;the baggage handler opened the door and she said, "Spoletta,chiudi!"
     2. She did another Tosca thing at one of our huge hotel parties, as she cut the cake, waving the knife with a hearty, "Questo e il bacio di Tosca."
     3. Every Met  Tebaldi evening ended with us nutcases chasing the limo up 40th Street and her yelling "Ciao" out the window.Once I did not notice a fire plug and almost became the world's last castrato.
   4.   As she came out at Carnegie (Bell Tel.Hr.) for the "Inflammatus" in 1955, she saw the "gang" in the first row, winked down at us and then launched into that great piece. We felt she was performing it for us. I do not think I ever really lost that "groupie mentality."


    5. After my dad died, I took my mom, a former Follies girl, to see her in Traviata.She took mom's hand backstage, and every time I saw her years after, she always asked, "Com'e la mamma?"
              Well,basta for all that....Just remember how thrilling it was for teens to find themselves close with a lady who filled the hearts of opera lovers everywhere with her great voice and her undying love. (Ooops..I almost wet the keyboard.).


                               On your 90th,dear Renata, thanks for all you were in life to so many who will never forget you.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:37pm EDT

Renata Tebaldi's 90th Birthday Tribute

   Here are arias and scenes from earlier Tebaldi performances, commercial and live. Included are: Boheme,Butterfly, Adriana, Louise, Giovanna D'Arco, Andrea Chenier,The Verdi Requiem and also a "Vissi d'arte' as sung by her teacher, Carmen Melis.   (68 min.).

      May my darling Renata never be forgotten!

Direct download: Tebaldi_90th.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:05pm EDT


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