Mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne made her operatic debut 45 years ago in Los Angeles; this season, after a career that has secured her a place among the greats, she’s bidding farewell to classical music–though she’ll continue to give pop concerts and master classes. Dubbed the “star-spangled singer” by critic Harold Schonberg (she’s performed in all 50 states), she’s both the diva next door and an embodiment of America’s rise on the opera stages of the world. When Horne started out, American artists didn’t enjoy the status and prestige of their counterparts across the Atlantic; she was coached by Lotte Lehmann, the legendary German soprano. But she eventually mastered coloratura techniques that eluded all but a few European mezzos, earning worldwide renown and facilitating revivals of operas by Handel, Rossini, and Meyerbeer that are rarely mounted due to the difficulty of their lead roles. She’s drawn her share of criticism over the decades: some find her stage persona too florid or her enunciation of certain vowels peculiar. In its prime, though, her voice was brassy, dashing, and flexible; she could trill with breathtaking agility and dart easily through the tricky zigzags of a roulade, wringing genuine emotions from even the showiest phrases. Her fans can be grateful that she’s bowing out now, while she’s still in fine form. Her Chicago recital will include a Handel aria; lieder by Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms; and an all-American second half with tunes by Bernstein and Berlin. Horne also makes a point of introducing less well-known pieces to her audiences; the rarity on this program is Cinco canciones negras, by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge. She’ll be joined by Martin Katz, her longtime accompanist and one of the best in the business. Sunday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Umans.