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Aw, what a lovely tribute. When I have a free moment, I'll have to listen to some of those recordings you linked to.


She has a very powerful, sexy voice...it's earthy, but also has a spiritual quality...if that makes any sense...

Let me know what you think after you listen.


She's a very unique singer and a voice you can't confuse for anyone else's! Sirius broadcast that Caballe/Verrett "Norma" just last week. Verrett steals the show, frankly!

"Les Troyens" is one of my favorite operas and it's fortunate that Verrett's opening night tour de force - when she sang both Cassandre and Didon - exists on a very good-sounding live recording. She was simply sensational.


It's interesting to note that in 1984 Jessye Norman repeated Verrett's feat of singing both roles.

Only a few voices could be suitable for both Cassandra and Dido; I'm trying to think of someone singing today who could pull it off.

TROYENS is a genuinely unique masterpiece; I think I'll get out my old VHS tape and watch it again!


Dapertutto, what was she singing that day? I wonder why she would go on if she was truly ill.


Italian audience are notoriously unforgiving. Callas, Pavarotti and Fleming - among many others - have all been subjected to their displeasure.

Tsuh Yang


i believe verrett's "big disaster" in italy was as amelia in ballo (with pavarotti).

apropos singing both cassandra and didon in one evening, not just norman (1983) repeated verrett's feat, but verrett's former "rival" did it also, in the same production that verrett was, at the bastille in 1990 or 1991 (you have a photo above. verrett was scheduled to be the didon at all perf. -- i recall reviews at the time were not kind to her, at least not in the opening night, which was the opening of the new bastille opera -- but due to a strike at the bastille, the last perf. was re-scheduled. since she was already booked for somewhere else, her "rival" sang both cassandre and didon on the same evening. part of this is related in verrett's autobiography).

you didn't send me a link to this post -- i almost missed it -- as i don't get to follow your blog very often. i must say i can't agree about everything you say about shirley. i know what you are thinking, it's because of my relationship to her "rival" but that's not why. they are both very different singers, and i don't really compare the two.

i only heard her live once -- at carnegie hall in the mid-90's, at the very end of her career -- she sang mostly lieder and a somewhat bizarre rendition of the 'veil song' by herself (she took it extremely slow in the coloratura parts -- it was bizarre because it was accompanied only by the piano and there was no tebaldo). so all of my experience of her is from recordings. i disagree that her commercial studio recordings show her at her best. i have the two CDs whose covers you show above. i prefer many of her live recordings much more. unfort. the studios did not give her the contracts she wanted, and she never recorded her famous carmen or any of her major soprano roles. i think maybe one of the reasons she was not a bigger star is because she did not get to sing many of her major soprano roles consistently for many years. of course my opinion of her is only from the recordings, not like you experienced. but from what i heard from recordings, she was for me a most amazing performer; but one that had some not so great evenings.

her live norma from SF is unbelievably fantastic! you should get it if you can (i believe it's from GALA). someone once opined on opera-L that only 4 women attained legendary status as norma in his lifetime: callas, sutherland, caballe and verrett. that's amazing company there. but there's a later MET b'cast norma with her and obrastzova, and she's not very good.

i have two of her live toscas, one from boston and one from DC. again, nobody can touch her on this somewhat surprising role. the DC one had bergonzi too. she's fantastic in both.

as you said, live recordings of her dalila and carmen are also unbelievably fantastic. unfort. for her, RCA (?) had just released one with leontyne price -- who had never sung it onstage -- so the studios were not willing to do one for her. that apparently destroyed much of her relationship with the studios (again, some of it is in her book). fort. her dalila is preserved on video (at least 2 versions, i think).

i saw her video of the SF 1983 africaine, and i don't think it was her best. maybe she was in better form in the same production a decade earlier.

both MET b'casts of her in siege de corinthe are unbelievable! she really stole the show from sills.

and finally, thank you for that tape you gave me of excerpts of don carlo, with her last eboli at the MET (1986?). the voice by then was somewhat husky (maybe it's the miking), but, oh my goodness, she was still the star and the diva she always was. in the trio scene in the queen's garden, she was vociferous like a tigress, confronting carlo and posa. she was a REAL WOMAN and they were two little trembling boys. they had no chance (same with poor millo) against her that afternoon.

Tsuh Yang

well, i just re-read the above. i should never write when it's late and i'm tired. hope it makes sense.

Tsuh Yang

here's one of her great triumphs, as neocle:


much more exciting than the studio recording.

philip, were you there?


No, I skipped L'ASSEDIO DI CORINTO at the Met because by that time Sills was in very distressing vocal shape. If you want to hear the how great the Sills Pamira really was, you have to go to the Scala live b'cast (on Opera D'Oro) with Horne.

As far as Verrett's commercial recordings, I do think they show her at her best. It's important to remember that singers tend to be more musically scrupulous and a bit more tame in the recording studio than onstage. That's why you have to always have both live and studio recordings to get the full perspective.

Tsuh Yang

in regards to the recordings issue: youtube has the neocle aria, both the live one (linked above) and the commercial studio one. you can see how much more exciting the live one is. listen to the applause at the end.

you asked who today could sing both cassandre and didon. well, that's what made bumbry and verrett so phenomenal, their versatility and range. in shirley's case: who in the history of opera could sing tosca and neocle, norma and dalila, azucena and aida? not just sing those roles but also sing them well.


I love this woman...She's one of my favorite opera singers.But it's something i don't know...is she alive,or she died?


She is alive...and teaching.


Shirley Verrett passed away on November 5, 2010.

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