Lebendige Vergangenheit - Martial Singher

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

Born August 14, 1904, in the little town of Oloron Ste. Marie in the Basque country, Martial Singher sang boy soprano in church, attended the University of Toulouse and then went to Paris to complete his preparation for a teaching career. But when Paul Painleve and Edward Herriot, then Ministers of War and Education, heard him sing they changed the course of his life by insisting that he must not teach literature but become a singer. After studying three years at the Paris Conservatoire, he won first prize in every subject: music, singing, and opera In November of 1930 he sang Orest in two Amsterdam performances of "Iphigenie en Tauride" under Pierre Monteux. His official Grand Opera debut in Paris was as Athanael in "Thais", December 21, 1930. In May 1931 he stepped in for the indisposed Vanni Marcoux in the gala "Otello" performance with Lauritz Mekhior and consequently got a new contract as leading bari­ tone. He created the role of Orest in the first Paris "Elektra", February 25, 1932, sang his first Telramund in February 1933, and triumphed in the revival of "Hamlet", December 11, 1933. In March 1935 he created the role of Bassanio in Reynaldo Hahns "Le Marchand de Venise". 1936 was the first of his five seasons at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. There he sang Werther, Count Almaviva and Figaro ("Le nozze di Figaro"), Amfortas, Hamlet, Escamillo, Wolfram, Flying Dutchman, Papageno and leading roles in "Iphigenia", "Ariadne auf Naxos", "Fidelio", and "Marouf': In January of 1940 he married Eta Busch, the daughter of Fritz Busch. The great conductor warned him, this would prevent him from singing at Glyndebourne. Since Glyndebourne Festival House was closed during the war, Singher did not care about that intimidation. Back in France, he became very i1l and was bedridden for several months. Barely cured, he managed to escape from occupied France and via Spain and Portugal reach freedom in the USA with his wife and their infant son, Michel. Singher's Metropolitan Opera debut was as Dappertutto in "Les Contes d' Hoffmann", December 10, 1943. The highlight of his first season was his acclaimed Pelleas, January 26, 1944; he was the first baritone to sing that role with the Metropolitan. Later he portrayed Golaud in the same opera, the only singer ever to sing the two parts. The most famous Melisands of all, the fabulous Mary Garden, honored him by asking him to sing the Tower Scene with her at her "farewell" at Town Hall, New York. During his Metropolitan career he sang many other French roles, including Valentin, Escamillo, Mercutio, Frederic ("Lakme"), Lescaut, and High Priest ("Samson et Dalila"). His Italian roles were Marcello, Scarpia, Count Almaviva and Figaro (in "11 Barbiere di Siviglia" and "Le Nozze di Figaro"). In German he sang Wolfram and a superb Amfortas. He was also one of the leading recitalists of his times and made countless coast to coast and international tours as recitalist and as orchestral soloist. He finished his career at the Metropolitan as Dappertutto December 27, 1958. On June 10, 1959 he was awarded the Cross of the Chevalier de la Legion d' Honneur for outstanding services to French culture. Besides appearances in both opera and concerts, he was a successful teacher of voice, first in his own studio, at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and at the Mannes College of Music in New York. From 1962 to 1981, he was director of the Voice and Opera Department at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Califomia,where he died March 9, 1990. His pupils included James King, Louis Quilico, Donald Gramm, Judith Blegen, Jeannine Altmeyer, Norman Mittelman and Thomas Moser.