Soprano Lorna Haywood
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
In October of 1985, soprano Lorna Haywood returned to Chicago for
performances of Theodora by
Handel, which launched the fifteenth anniversary season of Music of the
Baroque. Over the course of several years, she would also sing
other Handel title roles including Athalia and Deborah, as well as
appearing in the Missa Solemnis
of Beethoven at Orchestra Hall with the Chicago Symphony conducted by
Jean Martinon, which closed the orchestra’s
seventy-seventh season. Her staged opera debut in Chicago was in
1966 as Xenia in Boris Godunov
at Lyric Opera, as well as one of the ladies in Magic Flute.
During the rehearsals for Theodora,
she graciously took time to meet with me for an interview, and that
encounter is presented here . . . . . . .
Bruce Duffie: How
soprano from England wind up singing with Music of the Baroque in
Chicago every year or two?
I’m from a working-class
family in Birmingham, which is the industrial Midlands. I saw my
first opera when I was
fourteen and really got turned on. It was Tosca, and I decided
there and then I wanted to be an opera singer actually. How a
factory worker’s daughter becomes an opera singer was something I
didn’t know anything about. Anyway, we started in and I finished
up at the Royal College of Music in London, and then I won the Kathleen
Ferrier Memorial Scholarship in my final year of college. Instead
of going to Europe, as most people did, I went to the Julliard
School for a year, ostensibly. They gave me a full scholarship
for a year, and renewed it for a second and third and fourth year, at
which point I decided it made more sense to settle there. I’d
somewhat in New York and around, and
then followed quite a few years of cross-Atlantic travel.
BD: Do you
like being a wandering minstrel.
it’s been going on quite a long time
now. Yes, I do like traveling and I like meeting people, and I
like seeing new places. After many visits to Chicago
I finally started bringing my car, and I’m really
getting to know Chicago. I getting honked at an awful lot, I must
[Both laugh] My association with Music of the Baroque began five
or even six years ago. I was teaching at the University of
Illinois. It was just a temporary thing. I was helping out
because there was an illness on the faculty, and John Wustman called me
to ask if I could possibly go and fill in for nine months
or so. I said if they could fit it all around my singing
schedule, then I’d be delighted. And John is very
persuasive. If I told you exactly how he threatened me, it
was an offer I couldn’t refuse. [Laughs] Back in Chicago, I
got a phone call one evening from a lady called
Lucille, who introduced herself as the Chairman
of the Board of Directors of Music of the Baroque. They were
doing a performance of Saul,
and the soprano, Linda Mabbs — whom
you’re familiar with, and a
good friend of mine now — had been scheduled to
sing, but there had been
some kind of mix-up with the scheduling of the programs. She
thought there were two performances and there were in
fact three, and she’d gotten herself involved in something on the
third night which had to be honored. So they needed a soprano
fast for that third performance. So Lucille asked if
I knew it and I said I didn’t. She asked if I could learn
it and I said, “Yes. When is it?”
and she said, “The day after tomorrow!”
So I said okay and I borrowed a score from one of my colleagues
Warfield, in fact — and learned it really
fast, as you can imagine. So I drove up to Chicago and went to
BD: Oh, that
it was because I found out the
score I had didn’t at all resemble the version they were singing!
[Much laughter] I got more and more anxious as the
evening went on because what was in my score as an A-section aria
turned out to have a B-section and a reprise A-section with fantastic
ornamentation. Needless to say,
after the performance I went hurtling around and begged [conductor]
Thomas Wikman for
the real score.
BD: I would
assume that most Handel arias
have da capo sections.
LH: There are
so many editions of
Handel, and if you don’t know the piece, when you see it for the first
time ever you’re not aware of what cuts there are. Right now I’m
getting ready for Rodelinda
in the Kennedy Center next year, and I
already have two scores which are entirely different. I know the
conductor is going to produce a third score eventually so I’m going to
write him and ask him to send me his version.
BD: Are there
any versions that are Handel’s version?
they can say they are Handel’s version, but nobody knows anymore.
There are so many autograph copies.
Theodora is the one in
question where actually there are so
many versions with so many cuts and so many revisions, that
it’s difficult to know what the original was.
BD: Cuts are
one thing because you just leave
something out, but revisions where they re-orchestrate or re-order
things is another matter.
LH: Yes, and
arias written in after the
first performance, and more recitatives were written in. I have
scores of Theodora with me,
and then Tom sent some extra
pages that he found some place else. So it’s
very fascinating. Going back to
the Saul, I spent a very busy
evening and an exceptionally busy following
morning learning all this extra music for the performance the next
BD: It sounds
like an experience you
wouldn’t want to repeat very often!
LH: Well, it has
happened to me quite a bit. I’m
fortunate — or unfortunate — in
being a very quick study, and so quite
often these things happen to me. But
anyway it went very well actually; there was so much
adrenaline in my system by then. It really went very
well, and this marvelous collaboration began. I have to say I
would come and sing with Music of the Baroque anytime because I’m a
great, great fan of the group. It’s absolutely
sensational. I believe that this chorus is today’s equivalent of
the Robert Shaw
Chorale, which of course was a chorale par
excellence. It doesn’t exist anymore. Mr. Shaw has the
Atlanta Symphony and the Chorus, but the Chorale itself of
course doesn’t exist anymore. This is the closest thing to that;
absolute perfection, and I never cease to be amazed. Each time I
come it seems to get better and better and better, and it’s introduced
me to a great number of Handel’s works that I otherwise
would probably not have heard of, let alone sung.
BD: Does it
make you sing better when you have great
yes. You can only be as
good as what you’re surrounded by in many ways. For instance,
I’ll make an operatic reference here. When
I sing Tosca [shown at left],
if I’ve got a really great Scarpia, I can be a much
greater Tosca because I have someone of quality to play off of, and
sometimes things happen that you didn’t realize you were capable of at
everything brings the performance
Absolutely! That’s why
being a ‘prima donna’ or being a star, or being just out there
performing on your own and not relating to colleagues
is nonsense. If you isolate yourself like that, you cut off so
many channels in yourself.
LH: The other
thing is that I know perfectly well if I get sick I
can’t sing, and every other soprano there can step out and do a
wonderful job. That keeps you on your toes. My first ever
professional job out of
Juilliard was soprano soloist with the Robert Shaw Chorale on tour in
Handel’s Messiah. We
did twenty-five performances in
twenty-eight days, and spent most of those days on a bus covering
two-thirds of the United States. I really hadn’t been in American
all that long — maybe four years — and
I still hadn’t really realized how big
America was. So when they handed me this list of cities in which
would be performing, I thought, “Well, that’s
nice.” I didn’t
realize they were six or eight hundred miles apart, and that I was
going to be on a bus getting between
these places. I regard
that as my apprenticeship, my baptism of fire. I
hope I never do that again! It really
was something else!
BD: Is it
important, though, for a young singer to
do that, to spend those twenty-eight days doing twenty-five
that’s pushing it a bit because we were on a bus at 8 o’clock every
sometimes we’d get to the town in which we were singing at maybe 6
o’clock, and the concert was going to start at 8! It was barely
time to eat, and if you can’t eat close to a performance, as I can’t,
you didn’t have anything to eat. You had just about time to
shower and change. It’s
better to sing on an empty stomach, though, even an uncut Shaw version
which was three hours long. We started at 8 and we would finish
at 11. A lot of the
towns where we were performing rolled up their sidewalks at 10, so if
you wanted to eat in
afterwards there wasn’t really anywhere to go. People
would say, “Do you want to come to my
room? I’ve got a box of
cookies!” Of course
after the performance you can’t go right to sleep because you
have adrenaline pounding round your system. So you would sit and
talk until Midnight, or even after, or lie awake, and then you had to
be up again at the crack of dawn and on that bus
again by 8! I must say that towards the end I did learn a lot
because my colleagues on that tour were Florence Kopleff, the great
American contralto who I called my Mother
Superior because she taught me I think about all the etiquette of
performing. I should never walk on the stage wearing a
watch! It was so instilled in me I would think, “My
God, what would Florence say!”
She taught me certain
decorum on stage, like how one sits, to always have your score in a
black folder, and how your arms must be covered in a sacred piece.
|Florence Kopleff (May 2, 1924 in NYC - July
24, 2012 in Atlanta, GA) began her career in 1941 when she was in her
senior year of high school. In 1954 The
New York Times termed her performance at New York's Town Hall "a
debut recital of considerable distinction," and further stated that
"Her voice is a large, powerful instrument with a wonderful ringing
sonority, evenly produced over a wide range." She was very active as a
concert and oratorio singer, appearing and recording with many of the
great conductors of her era, particularly as a soloist with the Robert
Shaw Chorale. Time magazine
once called her the "greatest living alto."
She taught at Georgia State University starting in 1968, when she
became a professor and the school's first artist-in-residence. The GSU
School of Music's recital hall is named for her.
Her recordings include...
Bach: Mass in B
minor with Robert Shaw, RCA Victor, Grammy winner, 1961.
Symphony with Chicago Symphony and Fritz Reiner, Phyllis Curtin, John
McCollum, Donald Gramm,
du Christ, with Boston Symphony and Charles Münch, Cesare
Valletti, Giorgio Tozzi,
Gerard Souzay, RCA Victor. Also a 1966 video of a live
performance, again with the Boston Symphony conducted by Munch, with
John McCollum, Donald Gramm, Theodor Uppman, VAI.
No. 2 with Utah Symphony and Maurice Abravanel,
Beverly Sills, Vanguard.
with Robert Shaw, RCA Victor, Grammy winner, 1967.
BD: These are
all important things that you
wouldn’t think of until someone does them wrong!
which I did a couple of times and was told
off very royally by Florence about it! [Laughs] I never
did them again! And the tenor was Seth McCoy, so I had a
wonderful company on this tour.
BD: And Shaw
conducted all of the performances?
LH: Yes, and
his wonderful chamber orchestra, which
brings us back to the orchestra here in Chicago which is also
superb. The wonderful thing about coming back here is that I know
everyone here very well, and it’s really a joyful thing to come back
and make music. We make music together, and it’s great.
BD: Is that a
rare thing today to go some place and
really make music?
afraid so, yes.
often rehearsal time is at a
premium. We’re fortunate in a way. I don’t know
the real ins and outs of this, but it’s very expensive to
rehearse, and we do perform in churches as opposed to concert
halls. That might make it a little more viable.
living in the age of recordings.
Is live music going to go the way of the dinosaur?
LH: No, it
can’t because there isn’t any comparison
between live music and recorded music. It’s a pity, really,
because so many people are great record addicts, and
when they do go to a performance they expect to hear what they hear
through their stereo headphones.
BD: Is that a
LH: Yes, it
is. It’s not possible. There is a lot of twiddling of knobs
that goes on in recording studios, and it’s also very detrimental to
young singers. I teach right now at the University of Michigan
and young singers seem to be decibel-orientated rather than making
beautiful sounds. They consider how loud they can sing.
That is a point, but not an overwhelming one.
BD: Do they
have it in their head that in order to
sing in huge halls like the Met or Lyric Opera of Chicago they
simply have to have that much power?
LH: It’s been
my experience, in some places, where the
opera houses are interested in humungous large voices, period!
And music has gotten louder over the years. If you look at the
singers who sang certain roles in the Golden Age of Singing, there
weren’t that many like Birgit Nilsson
around. People like Ljuba Welitsch
were singing Salome, and lots of very unlikely people were singing what
now seem like very
unlikely roles, but that must have been acceptable
and normal in those days. There hasn’t been much development of
the vocal cords in
fifty or sixty years, but there has been tremendous development
in the instruments of the orchestra. I would venture to say
that the orchestras are now putting forth two to three times the sound
that they used to, and I’m not sure that a human pair
of vocal cords can do the same thing. So it really lies in the
the conductor to keep that well under control.
BD: Should we
try to get the opera
houses to dig the pits a bit lower and get the orchestra farther away
under the stage?
performers too. I don’t
like to see them buried, but sections of them are becoming
bigger and acoustically things should be done
to try and balance a little more.
BD: Do you
change your approach to singing at all from a big house to a small
house, or in churches as opposed to
no. I tell my students that what we do
in the studio is exactly the way they would sing in an opera
house. You get brainwashed when you see a
sizable hall. The temptation is to push. A wonderful
example happened to me right here in Chicago. I made my debut
with Lyric Opera in Boris Godunov
with Nicolai Ghiaurov. What an experience! I was so
thrilled. I had a
very small part, Xenia his daughter. Anyway, I had never seen the
house. We had rehearsed in some hall, and then the
first rehearsal on stage was with orchestra. When I got out on
stage, the curtain was down, so I sat in my chair. It began with
a little Russian-folksy thing, so the curtain went up and the orchestra
played, and I
sang and it was just fine. Then a short
while later, for some reason we had to stop and they turned on the
house lights. I
nearly died when I looked out into that enormous place. I
suddenly realized that if the curtain had gone up and
the lights had been on, I would have sung it entirely
differently. I would have probably killed myself in six
bars. But the fact that I wasn’t aware of
the size of the house and I just sang saved me.
BD: How can
we pound knowledge that into young singers?
hard. Look out there. The Royal Albert Hall is
like singing in the Grand Canyon, and if you sing as if you’re in
the Grand Canyon, you’re going to be a voiceless wonder in
fifteen minutes flat.
singers who are mostly used to singing in
houses of 1,500 to 2,000.
little jewel boxes!
BD: Then they
come here and they think they have to scream.
LH: But they
don’t. It’s a wonderful house here. I
love that house actually.
BD: Do the
acoustics help a lot?
LH: Hmm, mmm,
BD: Are there
some houses where the acoustics are just
LH: I must
have been very lucky in recent years
because I can’t think of one just right off like
that. Covent Garden is absolutely perfect. That is the
perfect opera house in size and acoustic. It is one
of the smaller ones, but then the Coliseum, which is the home of the
English National Opera, with whom I’ve sung quite a lot, is one of
the largest theaters in Europe, but again the acoustics are
wonderful. In fact the further back you are, the cheaper
the seat, the better the sound, believe it or not. It’s a very
and the sound just goes straight up there. Seattle is gorgeous,
New Orleans has a
wonderful house... I can’t think one that is really the pits, where I
say, “Oh, yuck!”
LH: Yes, I am!
BD: How do
you make Handel speak to an audience
LH: There are
some difficulties there of
course, depending on the plot. To start with, Handel’s
music is superb for all time. Theodora
I understand was Handel’s
favorite. I don’t join in those sentiments. I
think it’s wonderful but it’s not my favorite. I’d
be very intrigued to know exactly why this was so special,
unless it had something to do with the fact that he lost his sight
shortly after, and maybe this was close to him because of
that. It was received very badly initially, hence all these
revisions and cuts. There are so many
versions of it, and he obviously went very hard trying to
make it work because obviously he was very disappointed by its
BD: Was the
public right or wrong in rejecting
it? Is the first version really better than all
LH: I don’t
think anybody knows what
the first version was. As we spoke earlier about it, there are so
many manuscripts and changes, and what’s supposed to be the
autograph and what isn’t, and what was edited out and edited in that
there’s quite a bit of confusion as to
what the original was exactly like. Maybe this was
his rejected child, and so that it brought it close to his
heart. As for the plot, Theodora
is set in
Roman times when the first Christians were being persecuted.
what Theodora was, one of the first Christians being persecuted for
her involvement in the Christian faith. Her punishment by the
Roman Governor at the time was not to be put to death, but because she
was a very renounced lady — renounced for her
purity — her fate was to be condemned to a Roman
whore house to be used by the soldiers for their pleasure. That’s
when she sings her famous aria, ‘Angels, ever bright and fair’.
The recitative is, ‘O worse than death indeed’. She would
rather be put to death, but it’s more of martyrdom for her to lose her
honor in this way. It doesn’t happen, I’m happy
to say, in the oratorio; she is rescued.
That’s where some of the plots are a
BD: How can
you convince women today that she is
really means that it is a worse fate?
LH: I saw a
production of Measure for
Measure this summer, and it’s exactly the same
sister goes to plead for the life of her brother, and the person
in authority says, “I will spare your brother’s
life if you surrender
yourself to me.” She refuses, and she says
she would rather
have her brother lose his life. You could hear an audible
groan from the audience at that point. It was such a brilliant
production that they ultimately pulled
it off, but there is that modern reaction to things like
that. At least in Theodora
many more religious connotations that get people’s sympathies, and
allow that to be accepted in some way.
sung both oratorios and operas of
Handel. Are they really two different beasts or are they
just the same man writing for similar forces?
LH: I don’t
think they are different at all,
no. I always tell my students that oratorios are operas, which of
course they are, and should be sung the same way. That is no
changing of voice. People also ask if you change your voice when
you sing in opera or in oratorio
or a Bach Cantata, and the answer is no! Your voice is your
voice, and that instrument remains the same. It’s the stylistic
thing that changes.
BD: Do you at
least have to change your thinking a bit?
There are arias and there are
recitatives, and there’s a narrative which links it together, and
there’s a very
dramatic story behind it. The difference between the operas and
oratorios — I’m generalizing here, and it’s not
correct but I’ll say
it anyway — is that the oratorios could be
church because mostly they are sacred topics. They have things
that become dramatic, but anything that
uses mythology was frowned upon and was not permitted. Those were
secular, of course. A lot of
secular things — such as Semele and these kinds of things
— talk about
Greek mythology and what you call characters, and that was
very much frowned on.
BD: So they
LH: Yes, and
they were performed in other places, not in
BD: So it’s
just a way of getting around the
LH: Yes, it
is actually. I sing with another
group out in California, and they wanted to do Hercules, which is
marvelous. That is one of my great favorites, and
has fantastic music in there. It is some kind of Handel you have
heard before. It’s really phenomenal, and they perform in a
auditorium which is attached to a college. It’s a religious
and they refused to allow that to be put on.
today! Just a year or so ago, in fact. It got a very
authentic Handel reaction. I was
really amazed by that, but it was true, and they were unable to do it.
BD: Do they
react to the other Handel pieces then
the way Handel’s audiences would have reacted?
LH: It’s not
audience reaction, it’s the administration in this particular
place. I don’t see any sense in that at all. It’s like
blind-folding the public or battening down their
BD: Let me
turn that question around. How can we get more and more people to
come to Handel
oratorios, or even Janáček operas?
LH: I think
the answer to that
is just to get in there the first time.
BD: You think
they’ll be bowled over by any
LH: I think
there’s a very good chance, yes, I really
do. I’ve had quite a few friends who live in Chicago say, “I
don’t care for Handel, but seeing that it’s you I’ll come anyway and
put up with it, and you’ll excuse me if I leave at the first interval.”
Anyway, without exception they just loved it, and
can’t wait for the next one.
BD: So then
they might go to one where
you’re not appearing?
Yes! I even stuck my neck out occasionally and would say, “Come,
and if you
don’t like it I’ll give you your ticket money back!”
very lucky there so far! I’ve also done that with Janáček
BD: Maybe we
should get concert managements to do
that, give an unconditional money-back guarantee.
LH: We did
summer. I was at the Cleveland Blossom Festival doing The Magic Flute, their first ever
staged opera. The shed there
seats 5,000, and then they can seat another 10,000 or 12,000 out on the
LH: Yes, and
they had these wonderful television
screens. It was televised in color out onto the lawn, and their
amplification is very sophisticated. It was
beautiful, and part of the advertising was, “Come
a fun summer evening with us! If you don’t enjoy yourself, you
get your money back!”
BD: I wonder
if anyone took them up on that offer...
LH: I would
have to say no
because you never saw such enthusiastic audience. It was quite a
knock-out! The Queen of
the Night came up out of the pit in a laser cone! It was pretty
spectacular. It was a romp
BD: How much
can opera rely on special affects?
LH: Well, Magic Flute had a lot of special
originally. And look at Wagner! Look at the Handel
chariots dancing across the stage!
Exactly... fiery chariots and horses in
the sky. A lot of mechanics went on in
those days. That’s why they were always burning the theaters
down! A lot of accidents happened, and theaters were being burned
down because of some special
effects that went wrong!
BD: Would it
be absolutely wrong to stage a Handel
opera with the special effects that Handel knew, or should we
absolutely only use the modern special effects?
LH: If we use
the special effects that
Handel knew, we have a good chance of burning down the theater!
[Both howl with laughter] I don’t
think that’s worth the gamble! In any case, I don’t think they’d
get passed by the Fire Marshal because they’re very sticky about those
things these days. Recently there was big fuss about having a
flame on the stage, so they’re not going to have bonfires and God knows
what else that they had in Handel’s day. I don’t think that’s
be allowed, so
that answers itself.
BD: Are there
any of the
Handel operas that you know of that are just dreadful?
LH: [Pauses a
moment] I don’t think
so. There can be dreadful performances of anything...
BD: Is that,
then, the fault of the performers?
yes. You have to do
your homework to find any weaknesses, and try and
do something about it before, you arrive. Tom Wikman spends
a lot of time with the orchestra and the orchestral score to get
exactly the sounds that he thinks are appropriate to go along
with the text and the emotion.
Appropriate to Handel or appropriate to this hall
or appropriate to his players or appropriate to 1985, or all of these?
LH: All of
those things. The
performances are special, and also I see he has a wonderful
group of people.
BD: They play
on modern instruments?
BD: Is it a
mistake for Harnoncourt and people like
that to use ‘authentic’ instruments?
LH: I don’t
think it’s a mistake. If you
do that, though, then you really very much have to copy stylistically
exactly what happened in the vocal sound,
which is not my cup of tea. I’m not sure I could sing that way.
BD: And then
of course you have to copy the size of
the house and the audience and everything else which is way beyond your
that’s going a bit far, even if you
could do that, which is not likely. But as an historical thing it
might be fine. I don’t think it would
last. It would be the historians that wanted to go and listen to
that because, quite frankly, that sound does nothing for me
particularly from a matter of initial interest.
BD: So it’s
just a document?
BD: Is opera
art or is it entertainment?
the balance then?
LH: [Pauses a
moment] If you’re
going to just isolate the word ‘entertainment’, it makes it a little
more difficult. But I think Art is
entertainment. It’s an escape from the everyday mundane
things, where you can forget all of that stuff and be taken into an
entirely other realm, so that when it’s ended it’s like
coming down to earth again suddenly. Hopefully it
lasts a little bit longer than immediately after the last chord is
sounded. It’s a refreshment of the soul and a perking of
the senses in all ways, both the visual thing and the thing you
hear. There are smells too! When I told
you that at fourteen I saw my first opera and got turned on and said I
was going to be an opera singer, it wasn’t actually the music
that did that to me. The second act opened and I was quite close
in the audience. A draft of cold air came off the stage and
carried with it the smell of
burning wax candles. That’s when my hair stood on end. I
that’s what I want to do! So I think I’m right in saying there
are smells. There are all those things that tease your senses,
this is why live performances will never die, because you can’t get
that from gramophone record.
BD: You can’t
get that on television either.
LH: Well, you
get a little bit more. You get
some of the visual things.
opera belong to television?
LH: It has to
be very, very well done indeed.
I’ve seen some bad miscalculations in televised opera. You have
to choose the opera very carefully. There are some do not do well
on television, and others that are fantastic. We
mentioned the Janáček operas earlier. It’s as if
Janáček wrote his
operas for television. He was before his time, and they are a
perfect vehicle for that.
BD: Do they
actually work better on television than on
LH: Yes, they
could, but it has to
be done very carefully because singing close up isn’t a pretty
often wanted to tell
the camera men to pull back to a medium shot or even a long shot,
rather than looking down the singer’s throat.
hit on exactly the point there. It’s very nice to be able
to see a close-up of a character if you’re responding to a situation on
the stage. However, in a theater you’ve got that big
picture all the time. You can choose to focus when you want to
focus, or whoever is drawing your attention.
BD: So the
television director has to
be almost as clever as the conductor or the stage director?
LH: Yes, or
perhaps even more. He has to
know the music, and he has to know the opera inside out.
BD: How do
you balance your career between opera and concert?
LH: It was
strange singing on
both sides of the Atlantic. I was known principally as an opera
person for many years in London and in Europe, while in America,
because my career here started principally with that exposure of Robert
Shaw, I have sung concerts. Mr. Shaw was very committed to
me. I don’t know what
I’d have done without him, actually. He was very kind and gave me
my first chance as a student just out of Juilliard. He then
me on numerous occasions to Atlanta because that’s the
orchestra that become his, and when he was a guest
conductor in other places he asked for me as soloist. As a result
that, I got to sing with many of the American orchestras all over the
country, so on this side of the Atlantic I became much more known
as a concert singer. In fact it still happens now. A
wonderful choral conductor in Cleveland, Robert Page, made me laugh
this summer because he came
up to me in the middle of The Magic
Flute and said, “You are so
marvelous. I would never have dreamed that you could do
this. I always think of oratorio and you as being absolutely
hand-in-hand.” That’s after all these
years, now! Also I’ve sung with a lot of
orchestras here and the concerts have been broadcast, so a lot of
the broadcasts that people have heard of my work has been
orchestral and oratorios.
BD: Is that
good that live concerts get broadcast?
LH: Yes, yes!
than listening to a studio-made record?
LH: Yes, I
think so, because there may be a
couple of wrong notes or a couple of blurbs that have not been
scratched out or adjusted with the knobs, as we spoke about, but you
feel the electricity of a live audience there. And
the singers are certainly more on their metal because there’s a live
audience. You create a thread, a communication, hopefully, and
for all those people sitting out there it’s extra special. That’s
being in the theater too. It really is tied up
from both ends — not just from the audience
point of view seeing and
being there and feeling that electricity in the hall, but
also from the performer’s point of view. A lot
of the recording studios are dismal to work in.
BD: Do you like
LH: Well, of
course it’s fun, but I haven’t done
all that much. The ones that I have done I’ve enjoyed very
much. This is what I tell
my students — don’t take recordings as absolute
because it can’t be that in performance because they are taped.
They’re taped a number of times, and they can scratch out a
bad note and substitute and that sort of thing... though it has never,
ever been my experience! [Huge
laugh] Actually, I’ve suffered from quite the opposite,
and that is a recording with Michael Tilson Thomas
and the London
Symphony. It’s a record of some lesser-known
Beethoven choral works. [Record
cover shown at right.] I received a call from London,
where I was going to be, asking if I could come over a
day earlier to record this. I never heard of the piece
to start with, and I was in Washington at the time, so I searched all
the music stores in Washington. Nobody ever heard of it. It
was called Lobgesang, but
then there turned out to be
several of those and not just one. So I didn’t know which one it
was. So I got the music when I got to London. In
fact I had to call them up and tell them it would be
nice if they got the music to me before the recording session! It
was quickly delivered by a gentleman on a
motorbike, and I was very impressed by that. So I
learned it, and when I got to the studio I said to Michael that it
would be nice idea if we ran through it first with
piano. He thought that was a good idea, and so we did that, and
we recorded it, and that was it! Other times, however, it was not
so much fun. I’ve done quite a lot of
recordings for the BBC, including Rienzi.
[The cast included John
Mitchinson, Lois McDonald and Michael Langdon.]
came to the end of a very long day of recording, and we’d never
run through my big aria ever. Edward Downes was the conductor and
said, “We’ve got ten minutes. Let’s just
run it and we’ll
record it tomorrow.” I said that would be
okay. So we did,
and of course tomorrow never came. I was furious. They had
tapes rolling, and then the next day he said, “We
don’t have time now but
that was fine yesterday!” So I was very
cross because it wasn’t fine in my
book! They hadn’t said it was a take.
BD: Would you
have sung it a little differently if
you’d know it was a take?
course. Or I would have had a choking
spell in the middle so they would have had to stop. I
learned that trick too late. I’ve seen people in action do
that. If something goes wrong, they have a coughing attack.
BD: So they
can’t possibly use the take?
Exactly. There are little tricks and there are instances like
that. But talking about live performances versus recording, it’s
just a special thing to actually be there.
recordings, then, a fraud?
LH: I often
think so. They can splice in notes and whole
sections of arias. It’s so refined today that they can splice a
thirty-second note in some
place within the texture of the orchestra. It makes
for a perfection that there isn’t. You
cannot be that perfect, and if you listen to it with that
knowledge, that’s fine. But so many people listen without that
knowledge, and then expect to hear that same perfection in the concert
hall. They’re very incensed when they don’t hear what they heard
earphones. It is not the same as on the recording, and it’s
an unfair comparison.
BD: How do
you educate the audience?
LH: I don’t
know because this is all ‘behind the
scenes talk’ actually, and I don’t know that people are aware or even
want to know that this is the way recordings are put together.
BD: How much
do you expect out of the audience?
LH: I expect
them to get there in time to
read the program notes, and to have done a little bit of homework as
to the plot so they have just a skeleton idea of what
actually takes place in the opera or in the oratorio. There’s a
lot of criticism of how to get taught singing in English. There’s
a lot of criticism leveled for poor diction while singing in English,
their own language. There’s a lot of snobbery that goes on, “I’d
much prefer to hear it in the original language!”
Having done a little bit of research on it, it’s my experience
that people who prefer to hear it in the original language do not
speak that original language at all. Some of them have a
smattering, but there are very few people who are really fluent
those languages. They are prepared to sit back and just listen to
it in French, Italian, German, whatever, and think that it’s just
wonderful. It’s as if they can hear every single
word and understand every single word. They can’t,
and they don’t! However when the language is English, which they
speak and should understand, they feel a sudden irritation because the
fact that it is in their own language puts an extra burden on
them. They have to listen carefully in an attempt to get it
all. They can’t help themselves, but they do try to catch every
that irritates them. They can’t just sit back and ‘be
BD: They just
listen to beautiful sounds?
Exactly. The fact
is that a lot of people are there to be entertained, which is
fair enough, but you put a little responsibility on them by singing it
in English, which means they have to listen a bit more carefully.
BD: Do you
work harder at your diction when it’s in
LH: I do,
Because of the things I have just been telling you, I am
aware of this and the criticism that’s leveled at English
singing singers. So I really do try to make things as clear as
possible without destroying the musical line, which has to be
predominant. If you ask
a French person or an Italian person who see operas or works in their
own language, they’d all say that they couldn’t understand a
too bad. Have you seen any of these
operas now with the supertitles in the theater?
LH: When I
was in San Francisco I saw it for the
first time at a Traviata
BD: Is that
the ideal compromise?
LH: I must
say it was awfully good. I was
prepared to hate it... like watching a foreign
movie with subtitles and you won’t be watching what’s going on the
stage. Whether it was because I really did know what was
happening in the opera, I was able to glance occasionally and
appreciate that it was the translation and was good. I don’t know
how it would work for someone who,
perhaps, hadn’t done their homework or read the plot at all in the
program, and was really relying on these surtitles to know what was
happening. I haven’t actually talked to anybody who was in that
position, so I’m judging it from my point of view, which is not a
particularly good one to judge the success of this.
BD: But I’m
glad you enjoyed it because some singers
have said they don’t feel it will be any good.
LH: I wasn’t
involved in that
performance. I was part of the audience, and I liked it.
I feel that anything that makes an opera audience grow is fair game,
even Walt Disney’s
Fantasia. People sat
there for two hours and watched it,
listening exclusively to classical music without knowing it really, and
enjoy every second of it.
BD: Are we
going to get a resurgence of Mozart now because of the Amadeus film?
that wonderful? You’re talking to an Amadeus nut here. I
was fortunate enough to be over in England, in fact in my home town of
Birmingham, when they had the Birmingham Repertory Theatre,
which is very fine indeed, put on a production of Amadeus. Keith
Michell was Salieri, and I saw that they were having previews, so I
went. I couldn’t stay away. I went and saw it seven times
until I ran out of money. It was
brilliant, and then I saw it when it was on tour in Detroit, and then I
saw the movie four times! I know the play from memory, just
about. I thought
it was absolutely fantastic. Yes, it has done a lot for Mozart,
and a lot of people for whom Mozart was just a name are much more
conversant with it now, and I think that’s wonderful.
BD: Is that
enough to get them into the theater, and
into the opera houses and concert halls?
yes, in many instances. I
have a teenage daughter, and she of course has been brought
up with music, so I didn’t have to take her kicking
and screaming to see it. She of her own volition has been
to see it at least three or four times without me, and has
dragged various friends who were kicking and screaming to see it.
been completely bowled over and then gone to see it a second
time. Actually one of her friends went and bought a Mozart
symphony, and that was really
something. This is a hard rock person up to this
point. So you see, it does have in-routes. It’s very
important for the younger generation to see a
composer portrayed, be it accurate or not. That’s obviously a
of contention and the voice of the gods. A lot of people were
outraged by the way Mozart was
portrayed, but if they were to read some of his letters, they would see
BD: He was a
smart-ass much of the time.
LH: Yes, he
was, and I don’t think that he was that
exaggerated in the movie. Peter Shaffer used his own
brilliant imagination, but a lot of people were horrendously offended
that. They didn’t want to think of their blue-eyed boy
being raunchy. But to the
younger generation, to see a flesh and blood person so that they can
relate to that name and to the music, was a tremendous move. In
fact my daughter asked for the
soundtrack of Amadeus for her
birthday. She has
been surrounded by music, but she’s a big one for all the pop groups,
and that was one of her chosen records.
BD: What really
is Rock music?
LH: I think
Rock is rhythm. I can’t listen
to it for very long. Sometimes I am tied to a chair because
my daughter wants me to hear certain pieces. I manage to escape
time and time again, but occasionally
I run out of excuses and I have to go and sit and
listen. It’s mostly that she wants me to hear the lyrics of some
the poetry. I must say when I did sit down and listen, I couldn’t
understand most of the words. Some of them are printed in the
record jackets, so when I sit and read, I was quite impressed by some
of the stuff actually! Not all this stuff has been publicized
just recently, but some very deep philosophical points were made,
wasn’t necessarily expressed in the music. What annoys me with
Rock is the repetitive nature. The beat just goes on and on and
on and on,
and enough is enough. If you’re in another room, all
that you can hear is the beat. I tell my daughter to stop playing
that same record over and over again, and she says she played six
different records! It’s the same incessant
rhythmic thing that drives you crazy. I’m concerned about kids’
ears. The hearing loss that’s going on these days is appalling.
BD: Does she
ever listen to your records?
BD: Does she
Yes. I don’t have all that many recordings, and the ones that she
of all are the PDQ
Bach. My claim
to fame is that I was the soprano on the PDQ Bach records. Even
when I have sung
a Verdi Requiem or a Missa Solemnis, someone will bring
record to be signed and it will be The
Stoned Guest! [Both laugh] I went way up in my
estimation at the university when they realized it was me on those
recordings, because they love that. I was Carmen Ghia in The Stoned
Guest [photo of recording below],
and then I’m a soprano in The
Seasonings and in
madrigals, The Triumphs of Thusnelda.
remember when I was at college we transcribed
the Schleptet for a quick
performance. We had to make up our own notation for the
LH: Oh, Peter
[Schickele, aka PDQ Bach] would love that actually. He’s a
wonderful person. We were at Juilliard at the same time. He
was teaching at the extension and they started doing those things just
for fun on a lunch-break or
something. It was so riotous he decided to put a concert on, and
the first one was in the Town Hall,
New York. I was not involved in that. He did Iphigenia in Brooklyn.
After that we would fill Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. It was
standing room only, and you’d walk out to sing those
concerts, and in the first six rows you’d maybe see Isaac
Stern and Leonard Bernstein, wonderful musicians just there to have
a good time, which we always did. It’s not easy to perform that
stuff, you know. You cannot smile or laugh. That’s the
absolute thing. During the rehearsal time
we all had to be carried out of the room paralytic on occasion, but the
funny part was not to laugh in the performance. We had got pretty
damned disciplined by
then, though there was an occasional moment or two! The very
earliest things were really the
greatest. When Peter started, I don’t
suppose he thought for one second it was going to develop into
such a big thing. He tours practically all the year now. In
he’s coming to Ann Arbor next
February, so I’m planning to have a little party for him. It
be kind of fun for the students to meet him. I used to live
in Columbia, Ohio, and had a dinner party for him once when he came
there. He is such a wonderful person. He hasn’t
changed at all over the years. He’s like a naughty little boy
actually. He’s so much fun and so imaginative. When he came
in he said, “Oh my God, you’ve cooked Italian
food. This is terrible! I’ve been trying to be on a
It’s so hard when you’re on the road to eat properly.”
So he went over to the piano and improvised a blues number on the
spot about how difficult it was to diet while you’re
touring! [Gales of laughter] Unfortunately I
didn’t have my tape recorder ready as that would have been a gem.
But it must be very difficult to come up with
original stuff constantly, and I’m sure he’s bombarded with people
saying, “Hey, Peter, I thought of a great bit.”
It’s very easy to think of isolated bits, but what is absolutely
brilliant is Peter’s
narration, which I can guarantee, is improvised most of the
time. He had a basic spiel, but very rarely have I heard
him stick to it. He would play it off the
audience and whatever happened, happened. He was one of these
who would just grab it and do something with it right away.
BD: Tell me
about some of your operatic roles.
Have you a role that’s a particular favorite?
already mentioned the Janáček
operas. It sort of happened by accident, but it seems like
fate meant it to be. When I was a student at the Royal
College, we were taken to a dress rehearsal of a Janáček opera
was then Sadler’s Wells Opera, and it was Katya Kabanova. It
just hit me between the eyes like a mallet; bang, wow! I’d never
heard of it and I never heard of it immediately
after. Then in my late years at the Royal College I was over
in Europe, in East Berlin. I was to a record store and one of the
records I just picked straight up was Katya
Kabanova, so I bought it and
The Bartered Bride. Then
when I went to Juilliard, the opera
director there announced that he was going to put on Katya Kabanova for
me. That was my first Katya, and maybe that why it’s closest to
me. We also did a wonderful
production at the Coliseum in London.
BD: Have you
recorded any of that?
unfortunately. This is the
problem. The Janáček operas are only available in
Czechoslovakia on the old Supraphon recordings. Charles Mackerras
very close friend of mine and with whom I’ve been very privileged to
sing all of my Janáček. Outside
of Czechoslovakia he is the authority, and so I really count
my blessings there. We’ve always done them in
English. Mr. Janáček was very specific in that he
opera should be sung in the language of the people when hearing
it. They are very tight and concise dramas. There’s
not a superfluous note in Janáček scores. It’s pure drama
beginning to end. Things happen, but you don’t take time
out to rhapsodize in an aria about somebody’s eyes or whatever.
It’s action, action, action, action.
BD: Too much
no. The operas are comparatively short, but you still feel as if
it’s been three hours
because the emotional gallop that you run in those operas is
fantastic. In Jenůfa
Katya you come out of there
like a wet
dish-rag. Very exciting! There was a gentleman in
England who paid for the Ring
to be recorded in English with Reginald Goodall
interested at one point of doing recordings of the Janáček
operas. We had tremendous success with them in
London, and right at that time Decca has just done all new recordings
of Janáček with Mackerras conducting.
BD: Oh yes,
with Elisabeth Söderström.
LH: She’s a
great linguist so they recorded it in Czech. People were
scared to record them in English because they thought it was too
chancy. This one gentleman who was almost ready to take the
plunge when this London contract came up for them in Czech, and
Charles was conducting them all. Elisabeth
Söderström is a very fine artist, and she is an incredible
linguist. She was involved in languages before she became
a singer, and she sings wonderful Russian and of course Swedish.
She is just so proficient with all of those things. Czech
is a very, very difficult language.
BD: It’s all
LH: Well, no,
not quite, but it certainly looks like it. I did sing Jenůfa in Prague, which was a very
great honor, as he is their national composer.
BD: I would
think it would be terrifying?
was! But the thing was I wasn’t sure I would have time to learn
Czech. They said they didn’t want me to! I would just sing
in English and the rest of the cast will sing in Czech, and they said
be just fine. I gather they do this quite a bit in Prague,
actually. All operas there are sung in Czech including Verdi and
Puccini, so international singers go in and sing in the original
languages — French German or Italian.
They’re quite used
to that happening. I was very fortunate in many respects.
For the start, I knew the opera inside out. I had
wonderful colleagues, although we couldn’t converse terribly much, and
had no rehearsal with the other singers at all, which maybe was a good
thing. It was rather like surtitles. I was on stage singing
to people in English, and they were replying in Czech. [Both
laugh] I had little surtitles running through my head
translating what they were saying. I was just hoping that my
responses to them were happening exactly the right time in the
sentence. That is what scared me. The construction in Czech
would be different to the construction in the English, and I was going
[gasps in imitation to what might happen] prematurely, and this
kind of thing. However, I realized at that time how
superb the English translations are because there was no problem of
that type at all.
accepted it very well?
Absolutely. The other thing was that the audience was
full of Americans and Australians, who were just absolutely over the
moon that they could understand what I was saying!
BD: They got
half the opera then!
LH: Yes, and
that was really exciting, very exciting. Hair-raising, of
course. The drama just speaks for itself.
the Rienzi, you have also
done an ever earlier work by Wagner...
LH: Once for
the BBC, which was Wagner’s first opera called Die
BD: Tell me a
bit about the very early Wagner. How is early Wagner different
from late Wagner?
LH: The seeds
are there. Early Wagner is more
not through-composed like the later operas. It’s stylistically
accurate at that
period of time, but still there’s a special sound there that is
unmistakably Wagner in his use of certain instruments. Also
a certain depth of the music and the chords.
BD: So he was
trying his hand?
LH: Yes, I
BD: What was
your character in Die Feen?
LH: I was
Lora, and in Rienzi I
was hired to sing the part of Irena. There was another young
to sing Adriana, and she got ill just a few days before the
recording was to start and had to pull out. Geoffrey Tate was
the repetiteur for that production, and he is now onto great
glories. He is wonderful, a stupendous musician. Anyhow,
Edward Downes was very
concerned and said, “We can
easily get another Irena. It’s much harder to get an
Adriano. So why don’t we let Lorna learn the Adriano and replace
her as Irena.” This was with two days to go
before the first day
of taping. I said, “What???”
and Geoffrey Tate said, “Shut up
Lorna! I will teach it to you. That’s all settled!”
blow me, he did, he did! He was pretty close to the wire, I must
say, because we’d be learning the notes a couple
of hours, then I’d go and work it with a German coach, and
then we’d walk into the studio and tape it! Bang, bang, bang,
bang like that. So I
know both the roles in that opera.
normal conditions, how
much do you delve into the character? How much do you really get
under the skin of these people who you’re singing?
you’re playing one character in an opera, I think you should know an
awful lot about the other characters. I
know an opera from page 1 to the last page dot.
BD: You learn
the whole thing?
LH: The whole
score, and the whole orchestral
score. I learned earlier that people are only human, and they
can make mistakes. On occasion I have had erroneous cues from a
conductor or two, and have been able to come in at the right place,
regardless, because I knew the orchestral score. I’m very
interested in the acting side of opera, which is where opera has
suffered in the past by not being a viable drama on the stage.
The day of ‘the fat lady singing in the middle of the stage’
is over, because if opera is going to survive, we are competing with
television and movies and live theater, and it better look
good! People want to see
action on the stage, not people just standing there singing
arias, and I think they’re getting much more of that now. That’s
the composer had in mind because what inspired him to write the
opera in the first place was the drama and the situation.
BD: Not the
both. This is why opera is so
wonderful. I would like to have been an actress, but I
also love music and love to sing. This way I have the best of
worlds so I’m very lucky indeed. I probably wouldn’t have
been good enough to be an actress, but I am interested in the theater
much. I spend my summer going to Stratford, Ontario, to see all
Shakespeare and enough plays. I am very
interested in that aspect, and if you are worrying about cues
and having to keep your eye on the conductor constantly, you can’t
really be involved in the action and the drama on stage. If you
really know what’s happening in your orchestra, there’s a
lot of clues to your character. A lot of clues to your mood and
the emotions that are going on often are very graphically portrayed in
orchestra. If you’re not aware of that, you’re missing the boat,
or just getting fifty per cent of what you
could have. I was very lucky in my early years as a
student. I studied with some incredible people both at the
Royal College and at the Juilliard School of Music. I was
shown how to study, which is something that doesn’t happen these days
you’re just shown what to do?
Yes. Students say they learned this aria. Okay, where does
it come in
the opera? What’s she singing about? It hadn’t
occurred to them to check any of those things out, and so I’m trying to
show my students this wonderful thing that was shown to me
as a student. I had a wonderful director, Christopher West,
who was one of these people in my life who taught me how to
study, and with that comes a wonderful independence of being
able to study yourself. You don’t have to depend on a coach all
the time. You do the basic ground work
BD: And then
go and polish?
right! It’s insulting anyway to expect
people to spoon-feed you these things. If it’s you that’s going
to be out there, it’s you that should do the basic work. Then you
gather from other people’s expertise. He taught me that
when the curtain goes up it is at a certain moment in time. It
to go up at that moment in time. Before the curtain goes up,
have already been going on, and when the curtain comes down, life
continues. It just happens to go up and down at those two
moments. So there is a flow of action that starts before the
goes up and continues after the curtain is down. You need to
things about your own character before you appear. You listen to
what people say about you for big clues. For instance, you learn
lot about Tosca before she ever shows her face. You learn a lot
about Butterfly by listening to the conversation between Pinkerton and
Sharpless. Those are big clues, and so to learn only your part is
pretty stupid. The only way you can get a complete
round character is by eavesdropping. You might think that
if you’re that person you wouldn’t be there to hear that
conversation, but the point is that you are two people.
You are the character that you are portraying but you’re also the
doing the portraying. So you have to know these
BD: Do you
then become the
character on stage?
yes. It’s really a case of having a split personality in a way,
because you do have to become the
person but you also have to be on the outside watching a lot of the
time. That’s where technique comes in. Vocal
technique should be taken care of before you get on the stage.
Those things should be worked out. Stage technique involves maybe
the pair of eyes of the director who says that’s not
looking right, but if you’ve been in the business for a
long time, you get to know the effect you are having
by standing a certain way. That is stage
technique. Also you have to be in complete control of
things. How else can you be spontaneously portraying that
character? For instance, if you are singing Butterfly, you have
wept buckets at home and in the studio, going through all those
terrible moments that have rained upon this girl. But if
you really are experiencing that on the stage, you’re not going to be
able to sing because it interferes with the vocal mechanism. So
you cry at home and in the studio, and the audience cries in the
theater. It doesn’t mean there aren’t real tears on the
stage. There are, often, but they’re the kind of tears
that do not interfere with what’s happening in the throat. Also,
quite often you’re called upon to
portray people you do not like very much. For instance, Athalia, the one we did
earlier this year with Music with the Baroque. You’re hell
on wheels, but you have to find something in that
character that justifies her in her own eyes. You have
to believe that what you’re doing is right, even if she murdering
people and chopping
heads off. You might wonder what kind of person is this! I
would never do anything
like that. Well, that’s not quite true. If you
really dig deep inside you’ll find some little streak of
something there. Maybe you won’t chop somebody’s head off
but you might occasionally wish that you could! [Both
So you take that seed, and that’s what the characterization grows
from. In the Pagliacci
that we did, Nedda was a very belligerent and brassy kind of woman, and
were very much with Tonio, not with Nedda at all. It was an
updated modern dress performance, and it was very
like one of those raw Italian films like La Strada, updated
in that way. She was so awful, wow, what a bitch! I
I can play this, but the thing is that it isn’t you. You have to
really look at the situations, look at this girl’s
background, or if there isn’t one you make one up. This is the
other thing this teacher taught me, and that is this person
was born and lived for number of years before the curtain went
up. You have to decide what had happened to her in that life
span to make her the person she was when that curtain went up.
BD: In some
cases the character would have lived all those years and known those
others and how they think and react to her.
LH: But what
you’re hearing from them when you eavesdrop is
their opinion. Sharpless
says Butterfly’s such a delicate little thing, and she spoke with such
soft voice, and she’s just so frail, and Pinkerton must be careful the
way he treats this girl. Those things are all true, but
beneath that is this resilient, strong, volatile character that
Sharpless didn’t see on the occasions when she visited him at the
Consulate. This is the person who can grab a knife and say she’ll
kill you and mean it! Several
times Butterfly grabs a knife and threatens other people. She
threatens Suzuki, she threatens Goro with violence.
BD: She could
carry it out?
LH: Well, she
does. She does it on herself in the end. She does carry
through with violence, perpetrated on
herself finally because even though others see her as delicate, she’s
not that delicate. She’s very violent
spasmodically through the opera, and so it’s not so strange that she
stabs herself in the throat at the end. I like to have
lots of blood at the end. It should not a pretty sight!
There’s the ‘bloody lady’ at the
Coliseum. They’re big on stage blood sweeping down tablecloths
things. As long as I don’t get it on the costume, they don’t mind
what I do.
BD: Is it
to be washable, but some of it stains.
BD: Are there
any characters that are perhaps a
little too close to the real Lorna Haywood?
LH: Tosca is
kind of like me! [Huge laugh] There’s not a knife in sight
so you can relax!
[Much more laughter]
BD: I just
wondered if that posed any problems on
stage. Do you catch yourself and make sure you’re doing
Tosca and not the real you?
LH: Oh no,
never that. It’s just that all your experiences as a person can
be used in some way. You can
call upon all the emotions you’ve experienced, and if it calls
upon an emotion that you haven’t experienced in your life time, then
you have to use your imagination. I will do that or
go and talk to somebody who has gone through that. When I
did my first Trovatore
Leonara, I was puzzled by the last scene
when she was dying slowly of poisoning. It gets very violent
towards the end, but there’s the long period when the poison is taking
effect. Having never been poisoned that I was aware
of, I went and talked to a nurse friend of mine, and asked her about
the long, slow acting poisons, and what
the effects would be. The same goes for Manon Lescaut who is
dehydration in the desert. There’s no water, there’s no nothing,
and the tongue would start to swell in a certain amount of
time. When I study the scores, it’s
astounding actually to try to collate these
details with what’s written in the music, and I see how accurate the
usually are. There is a place where the words become not as
important anymore. So if her tongue is swelling up, it doesn’t
matter. Then the words become unintelligible or blurred, and it’s
a point in the scene where it is perfectly valid.
BD: Was that
a conscious thing on Puccini’s
was a man of the theater, and Verdi was, too. They knew those
scenes. There were
people dying of consumption in those days, so they could have seen or
known about it.
Handel a man of the theater?
LH: Yes he
was in many
respects. This has been the tercentenary of Handel and
Bach and Scarlatti. I did a Bach-Handel concert, one half Bach
and one half Handel, and there was a description in
the program that Bach was the ultimate musician and
was inspired by religious fervor, whereas Handel was
more a man of the flesh, inspired by dramatic situation. The
versus the profane in a way, and that’s
very clear. It was particularly clear in this program to put it
like that, having one half of one and one half of the
other. Both were geniuses in their own way. Handel was the
fleshly man, but it was Bach who had the twenty-five children!
BD: [At this point we stopped for a moment so
that my guest could record a station break for WNIB.]
LH: That’s a
nice idea. I love radio.
BD: I like
radio because the pictures are better!
true. Just think
how wonderful we appear in people’s imagination. I did quite a
lot of radio work in Columbus when I lived there. Sometimes I
would introduce the opera evening. I learned a lot about
that, and I did a program of Christmas music which was picked
up by National Public Radio and used for three years at Christmas
time. That was exciting and fun. I’d like to do more of
in Ann Arbor, and yet you’re singing here and there...
right. I’m never bored! I have a wonderful Dean at the
University Music School, and when
I was asked to go to the University of Michigan, we had a very long
serious talk as to the commitment and everything, and he was very
insistent they wanted a performing artist.
BD: So there
will be voice lessons missed because Lorna
is out performing in some place?
Yes. I have big chart on my studio wall which
tells the students when I’ll go away, where I am, and what I’m singing,
and who with, so they don’t think I’m having some vacation in the
have almost exclusively a graduate studio because that’s mostly where
expertise is valuable.
BD: Like a
masterclass instead of
teaching basic technique?
there’s a lot of technique that goes on too,
let me tell you. But for a lot of people who are really have
aspirations to a career, and it’s a very good experience
for them to see and hear about the real nitty-gritty logistics of
having a career. A lot of people come in there all dreamy-eyed,
thinking it’s standing up on stage in a beautiful costume and people
falling all over you afterwards, and rushing off to champagne
receptions. I get back looking more like what the cat
brought in, and they tell me with great amazement that I look so
tired. I tell them I rehearsed for two and a half weeks solid
from nine o’clock in the morning until twelve o’clock at night,
and we thought we were going to get a day off before the performance
something went wrong with the theater so we had to the dress rehearsal
the day before. Then they canceled my plane and I
had to sit in the airport overnight and catch the first plane out the
next morning instead, so I slept on a bench. It’s not quite what
BD: Do you
ever purposely discourage them to get them out of the theater?
Yes. Some of my great success stories are now lawyers
and computer scientists, and things like that. When people come
to me we’ll work for a while. It’s really sad
because so often there are people with the big vocal talent,
and I think they have what it takes but they’re not so sure
they want to sing. They’re not sure that they want to be away
from home for that length of time, and there it is. The
decision is made as far as I’m concerned. Then there is the
is going to die if they can’t sing, are they quite often are the ones
very minimum talent. It’s not just as vocal equipment
either. Of course vocal equipment is needed, but also a
flare that you know is going to speak on the stage; a persona that has
something to say and has that zip to it. Then on
top of that, it’s having the strength and the resilience and the
courage. Very, very rarely do I actively
encourage someone and say I really think they should consider a
career. I’m not sure that I’ve ever
said it yet. Maybe a couple of times perhaps, but not ever
without big reservations because it’s a hard life.
BD: Too hard?
one thinks so, yes. There are
a lot of things that go out the window because you really have to be
very, very dedicated. It really takes a tremendous
amount of strength just to stay healthy. That
sounds like a thing you take for
granted but I say to my students that you are your instrument.
The pianist can play with a headache or
maybe even with a toothache and the piano doesn’t go out of tune
because of that. But you are your own instrument, and you’ve got
to be as strong as a horse. They might come bounding
in, enthusiastic to sing one day, and then the next day they say this
not be a very good lesson because they’re really tired and had to do
or that last night. I ask them, “What if
you were singing tonight, and the fee from that performance was going
to pay your rent or you’d be out on the street? How do you feel
it now? You better pull yourself up by your boot straps.
go!” Those are the times when
you remind them of what we’re talking about — that
you have got to get up
some mornings even when the last thing you want to do is sing.
You have a performance tonight but you want to
burrow back into
those covers and phone in and say you’re sick. It doesn’t
BD: Thank you
for being a
it’s a great privilege and a great joy for me
personally. It’s true it takes a lot of dedication, and it’s
on occasions, but the rewards are so wonderful that I’ll keep
on doing it for a while. This has been very good. You’re
very nice to talk to.
© 1985 Bruce Duffie
Photos in costume from lornahaywood.com website
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on October 13,
1985. Portions were broadcast on WNIB two days later.
This transcription was made in 2015, and posted on this
at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una
Barry for her help in preparing this website
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been
transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975
its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His
interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since
and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well
on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.
You are invited to visit his website
for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of
other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also
to call your attention to the photos and information about his
grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a
century ago. You may also send him E-Mail
with comments, questions and suggestions.