Lebendige Vergangenheit - Rose Bampton

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

Rose Bampton was born in Lakewood near Cleveland, Ohio, on 28 November 1907, the daughter of a father of Welsh and a mother of German origin. After the family moved from Cleveland to Buffalo, she began studying voice with the local church organist, Seth Clark, and singing in his choir. Because of her obvious vocal talent, he recommended that she continue her studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Bampton had only limited musical experience during her time in Buffalo and it had little lasting effect. During her time in the church choir, she sang coloratura soprano, learning the entire role of Gilda. At Curtis, she soon began having problems with her high range, and her teacher, Horatio Connell, decided she was a mezzo. But while she possessed a fine mezzo sound, she never had a low chest voice. Among her colleagues at the Curtis Institute were Helen Jepson, Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber. She studied with Connell for four years. In her fifth year she intended to study with Marcella Sembrich, but when Sembrich became ill, Queena Mario took her place. She was a lyric soprano and a member of New York’s Metropolitan Opera from 1922 to 1938. Under Mario, Bampton learned the roles of Cenerentola and Semiramide. He voice gradually began to gain stability, and she continued to work with Mario even after leaving Curtis. During that period she made the acquaintance of the conductor Wilfried Pelletier, who at the time was married to her teacher and had been a vocal coach at the Met since 1917. Despite the sound training she had received at the Curtis Institute between 1929 and 1932, Bampton continued to have vocal problems. In addition, her teachers had failed to prepare her for the stage, believing that she was better suited to a concert than an operatic career. Nevertheless, she found opportunities to sing a number of stage roles in concert under Leopold Stokowski, including an appearance in Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo and another singing the “trousers role” of Feodor in Boris Godunov. She even made a recording of Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder under Stokowski in which she sang the role of the Wood Dove. Bampton had made her operatic debut in 1929, the year before she entered the Curtis Institute: as Siebel in Faust at the Chautauqua Opera in western New York state. She subsequently joined the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company but was given only minor roles in Carmen, Lakmé and Thaïs. During her time at Curtis, she took advantage of an opportunity to travel to London, where she attended a recital by Elena Gerhardt. Afterward she asked Gerhardt to teach her, and the two became friends and worked together for many years, with Bampton receiving valuable suggestions for the interpretation of lieder and German articulation. Having heard the recording of the Gurrelieder, the Met’s general manager, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, invited Bampton to New York for an audition in 1932. She sang Dalila’s aria from Samson et Dalila “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” as well as “Bel raggio lusinghier” from Semiramide. The conductors who were present at the audition (Tullio Serafin, Artur Bodanzky, Louis Hasselmans, Vincenzo Bellezza and Pelletier) decided that she was a soprano rather than a mezzo. Bampton, however, did not agree with their opinion and in the discussion that followed with Gatti-Casazza, she said she felt she was not yet ready for the Met. She feared that she would be given only minor roles and felt that she was unsuited for them because of her larger-than-average stature. If she came to the Met, she said, then only to sing major roles. The Met promised to meet her demands, and she signed a contract. Bampton’s first performance with the Met ensemble was on 22 November 1932, singing Laura in Amilcare Ponchielli’s La gioconda in Philadelphia, where the Met performed every Tuesday. Her first performance in New York came six days later, again as Laura, with Serafin on the podium and with Rosa Ponselle as Gioconda, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi as Enzo, Armando Borgioli as Barnaba and Tancredi Pasero as Alvise. Other roles she sang during her first Met season were Waltraute (Die Walküre), Sandmännchen (Hänsel und Gretel) and Wellgunde (Das Rheingold). The following year she sang Brangäne in Tristan and a Flower Girl in Parsifal. Among her other major roles were Amneris on 24 March 1933, in the final performance of the Met’s 1932/33 season. She experienced problems with the relatively low range in the first and second acts, but not in the trial scene in the third act, where she could show off her brilliant high range. While in New York she also worked with the celebrated choreographer Martha Graham, who was greatly successful in helping Bampton improve her movement and acting on stage. An early highlight in Bampton’s career came on 31 March and 1 April 1933, when she sang in concert performances of Parsifal conducted by Stokowski in Philadelphia. This was the first time the opera had been broadcast on American radio, and there was a highly positive nationwide response (a fragmentary recording has been preserved). In 1934 Bampton toured the US and Canada as a member of the Metropolitan Quartet (with Grace Moore, soprano [later: Helen Jepson], Edward Johnson, tenor [later: Charles Hackett] and Richard Bonelli, baritone). In 1935 she made a sensational debut at the Hollywood Bowl (singing lieder and arias from operas by Purcell, Rossini, Debussy, Massenet, Mozart, etc.). The following year she resumed touring with a reconstituted Metropolitan Quartet. Pelletier and Bampton married in 1937. …