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St. John's Confidential File

Marilyn Horne A Woman-Singer For All Time
Posted by Michael St. John on Jun 15, 2013 - 4:59:57 AM

Marilyn Horne
HELLO AMERICA!—It was fantastic to connect with acclaimed singer and legendary Metropolitan Opera star Marilyn Horne again after so many years. We both attended U.S.C. and during those years featured in the production of “Carmen Jones” under the grueling baton of director-producer Otto Preminger. It was wonderful to find that the lady hasn’t changed much at all. She is still up-front and funny.


MSJ: Jackie, it seems like yesterday when you, your close friend May and I were sitting in the U.S.C. cafeteria excited about the completion of “Carmen Jones” and what the future might hold.


MH: Oh yes, I do remember. And I also remember when you and I was asked to sing for Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich when he was visiting this country. It was quite a moment for both of us.


MSJ: Obviously we both have experienced and learned a lot since that time. You went to Germany and was a huge success, returned eventually become an important diva at the Met. I remember Miss Wilson at the U.S.C. was so proud of what you were doing and she never stopped talking about you.


MH: She was a wonderful singing coach; I learned so much about being focused and not fearful of hard work. It’s something I continue to instill in my own students I coach today throughout the country.


MSJ: Were you easily accepted by other well known singers when you first appeared not only in American halls, but the European ones as well?


MH: For the most part, yes, but there are always those who are envious and not easy to be around. You know that. And there are divas and there are DIVAS, if you know what I mean. I remember I was performing Sheherezade in Paris, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. And I was told that Maria Callas was in the audience. Naturally I thought she would come back stage to meet me, but she never did. When I mentioned it to Leonard he called her a wonderful name, “it begins with “C” and I must confess I thought it quite funny. Possibly I should have paid her more respect by possibly giving her a call, but I didn’t.


MSJ: Where you hurt by the way Maria Callas refused to acknowledge you by not coming back stage to at least say hello?


MH: No, not really. If she had I, of course, would have enjoyed the idea of meeting her. Who wouldn’t? I was simply amused by it all. One learns very quickly to handle certain situations, especially in our business.


MSJ: You were married to Afro-American musician Henry Lewis in 1960, was it a difficult time for you as a woman, one who was determined to succeed in a career?


MH: Of course it had its pressures, especially during that time when our country was going through so many cultural changes right across the board. But I’ve never allowed myself to bow to ignorance because you do irreparable damage to everything you believe in that’s good. Henry was a fine musician (bass player) and conductor. We enjoyed each other and had much in common. We met at U.S.C. as you know, both ended up in Germany and soon after married. There were problems as in all marriages, but there is more good to remember than anything else. We had a lovely daughter, Angela, who was the center of who we were. Henry died in 1996, but the good he manifested humanly and creatively will live on forever.


MSJ: You seem extremely accepting about life and who you are today, has that taken a long time to accomplish?


MH: No, not really. You have to be willing to learn, accept and put things in perspective that is genuinely meaningful in your life. I love music. I also enjoy the opportunity to work with those who are willing to challenge themselves in the game of performance. I feel we are born or exist to do certain things and once you accept that reality then the path to that objective presents tons of exciting experiences. The journey is what makes us who we are.


Cliffside Malibu




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