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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Memoriam: Shirley Verrett (1931-2010)

We here at Superconductor would like to bow our heads in memory of the great diva Shirley Verrett, who died last night at the age of 79.
Shirley Verrett

Equipped with a high-lying mezzo-soprano instrument which could blow the doors off of most opera houses, Ms. Verrett was a formidable, exotic stage presence. The African-American singer also struck blows for equality on the world's opera stages alongside fellow divas Marian Anderson and Grace Bumbry.

Ms. Verrett was particularly noted for her interpretations of spitfire mezzo roles, including the title role in Bizet's Carmen. She was a compelling Lady Macbeth in Verdi's operatic verson of the Shakespeare play, a role that is considered one of the most difficult in the composer's catalogue.

Her most noted role, however, was of the beautiful, vain and ultimately destructive Princess Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlo. Ms. Verrett immortalized her performance on a 1970 Covent Garden recording of that opera, co-starring Placído Domingo and Montserrat Caballe. This recording, considered the greatest Don Carlo in the catalogue, did much for the reputation of Verdi's longest, darkest opera, and continues to thrill opera lovers around the world.

Ms. Verrett died on Friday. She passed away in her sleep at her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In her memory, please watch (and crank up) the following BBC clip, which features the diva singing her signature piece: "O Don Fatale" from Act IV of Don Carlo.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.