News of the death of Camellia Johnson (above) eerily came on a day I had just been listening to her voice. In the course of my Summer project of transferring some of the rare items in my cassette collection to MP3, I had just come across a tape of parts of the Verdi REQUIEM in which Ms. Johnson is the soprano soloist.
The broadcast of this REQUIEM was something I came upon quite by chance; as the announcer was introducing the performance, I found myself with only one blank side of one tape to hand. I slipped it into the deck and decided to concentrate on recording excerpts in which the two women are prominent, Florence Quivar being a particular favorite of mine. Listen to what I preserved here:
In 1995, I had the good fortune to hear Camellia Johnson live at two different, wonderful venues. She sang with the Philharmonia Virtuosi at the Met Museum, and she gave a recital at Alice Tully Hall accompanied by Neal Goren. I remember being blown away by both the velvety warmth of her tone and her gift for finding a direct communicative channel to the audience. On both evenings she programmed Wagner's Wesendonck lieder; at the Met concert, she gave a stunning performance of "To This We've Come" from Menotti's THE CONSUL whilst with Mr. Goren she sang a lushly resonant "Du bist der lenz" from DIE WALKURE.
Camellia Johnson sang at The Met from 1985 thru 1994, debuting there as Lily in PORGY AND BESS. Her most frequent Met role was the Priestess in AIDA; she also scored a personal success with her sumptuous and emotionally charged singing of Madelon's aria in ANDREA CHENIER.