In celebration of Black History Month, we asked Vinson Cole, renowned tenor and Creative Consultant and Director of Resident Artists, to share some of his favorite opera singers.
“One of the greatest singers of all time. She was the pinnacle of her repertoire. I was listening to an Aida on the Met station that she did from 1967 with Grace Bumbry as Amneris, and I thought, God, to have been in the audience that night and to have heard this…they were on fire!”
“A wonderful, wonderful singer who sang both mezzo and soprano. She sang in Europe a lot, like I did. A great thing of hers on YouTube is her singing Lady Macbeth, which is a soprano role, but she was magnificent. I was lucky enough to have been in Boston when she was singing Aida. (I was singing the Steuermann in The Flying Dutchman.) She was an incredibly gracious person. I sang with her ten years later at Tanglewood; we did a Verdi Requiem together. She was just a wonderful lady, besides being a great artist.”
“Florence sang in Kansas City when I was a student. I saw they (LOKC) were doing The Crucible, and I went over to the hotel where they used to rehearse years ago. I said to her, ‘I don’t know if you remember me’ (I had met Florence in NYC briefly at the Met) and she said, ‘No, but let’s go.’ So we went and got something to eat and had a great time!
When I was in school in Philadelphia, she called me and said I’m coming to town, can you come to dinner? And I said sure! She had brought BBQ back with her because I had taken her to Gates BBQ in KC! She is a very, very dear friend, and a GREAT singer. We did a million Verdi Requiems together.”
“We were singing Rigoletto at NYC opera together, and Carol’s rather tall. When Beverly Sills asked me to sing Rigoletto with Carol, I thought, ‘She’s too tall – I can’t do that.’ But Beverly said, ‘Don’t worry, I will make her sit down.’ And she did! Whenever Carol stood up, I was on the stairs going out of the place. So it worked out! We’ve been great friends ever since then – many, many years!”
HERBERT VON KARAJAN
“I was always a conductor’s singer because I could do what they wanted musically and vocally. And that’s why Karajan liked me. When I auditioned for him in Carnegie Hall he said, ‘What are you doing this summer?’ and I said I wasn’t sure. He said, ‘You’re coming to Salzburg.’ And I got the telex, (because that’s how they did it in the olden days…) from the Salzburg Festival to come to Vienna to record the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavilier. I also recorded Beethoven 9 and Missa Solmenis, Mozart Requiem, and did performances of the Bruckner Te Deum and the Verdi Requiem.
It was seven years of mutual admiration. I was very much smitten with the way he made music. It was unique and out of the ordinary. I try to give my students musical ideas the way he gave them to me!”