- Category : Entertain-Music-Vocalist-Opera
- Type : PE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Obscuration 2
American opera singer with a coloratura facility rare in voices lower than soprano who gained an outstanding reputation in Europe before her dazzling debut in America in 1960. She received the first Golden Plaque award presented by the Rossini Foundation, which describes her as "the greatest singer in the world" in 1982.
Horne's father, Bentz, was a singer. Her career progressed from the time she was a child of four singing in the church choir, to patriotic songs with her sister during World War II and into her mature years from soprano to mezzo as her voice has grown lower in register. She was nicknamed Jackie by her older brother Richard who wanted a brother to play with as a child. Growing up in Long Beach, CA, she attended the University of Southern California where she became a member of the Phi Beta Phi sorority. Her professional debut was at 20 singing in Los Angeles in a production of Smetana's "The Bartered Bride," 1954. The same year she dubbed the singing voice of Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen Jones in Oscar Hammerstein's film recreation of Bizet's "Carmen." She headed for Europe in 1956, first to study in Vienna, then on to Gelsenkirchen, West Germany where she spent three years as the opera company's house soprano. Learning her craft as well as languages and style helped her prepare for her American debut in the San Francisco Opera Company's production of Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in 1960 which caused something of a sensation. She was so spectacular in this production that the Los Angeles Times nominated her their "Woman of the Year" and the Metropolitan Opera of New York offered her a contract to sing small roles, which she refused. In 1961 she billed herself as a mezzo-soprano for the first time.
Horne's Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1970 singing with Dame Joan Sutherland in Bellini's "Norma." Good at mimicry, her style of learning is to constantly go over things in her head. She can create drama in the space of a two page song with her thunderous low tones, creamy middle register and trumpeting top notes including spectacular high C, as she is a true vocal gymnast whose voice has been described as the Horowitz piano and the Heifetz violin. Feeling that resonance was one of nature's gifts to her, she has also worked diligently to keep her voice in condition over the years through exquisite control, patterning herself after the great nineteenth century contraltos. A perfectionist and a very traditional person, she misses the old days when the summer months were used to study new roles, opera houses were more intimate providing better acoustics and the state of singing itself was better. Feeling that microphones would kill opera the way they killed Broadway, she is disappointed that new facilities are larger with more emphasis on profitability and less attention paid to their sound.
Dividing her time between opera and concerts has always been her habit, singing about 25 roles and 25 concerts per year. A thorough understanding of text has allowed her to go through periods of working with the music of Wagner, Rossini and Handel as her voice has changed, even taking on parts meant for eighteenth century castrati and some roles created for tenors. Although she loved singing "Carmen," care was necessary in this part as she acknowledged the fact that she is short and stocky. In 1980, when she sang a transposed part in Verdi's "Don Carlo," one of her favorite composers, she had to rethink her views when she received some boos with her applause at the end of the performance. Horne was the first person to bring Handel to the Met and continues to perform there out of love in spite of the lower pay than the great houses of Europe provide. Although her memory is A-plus, she insists on a prompter and is most particular about production values in any opera she sings; bargain basement sets will not do. Working with some of the most celebrated people in the world in most of the great facilities of classical opera she has earned many honors. Igor Stravinsky dedicated his orchestrations of some Mahler and Hugo Wolf sacred songs to Horne, and the part of Samira in "The Ghosts of Versailles" was written for her. Continuing to record, when making a record she asks herself if it still sounds fresh, if it still does, she intends to continue to record.
Horne met her husband, the black conductor Henry Lewis, when he was a bass player at her debut in California. They were wed on 7/02/1960. The couple divorced in 1974 but remain close friends. Their only child, Angela, was born 6/14/1965 and both parents shared in her upbringing. Horne and Lewis still work together from time to time and she calls him "My second teacher and one of the great conductors of the day."
As food is her downfall, she relies on aerobics and calisthenics an hour a day, six days a week in place of dieting. At a 60th birthday celebration, 1/16/1994, in New York's Carnegie Hall, Horne launched her Marilyn Horne Foundation, the purpose of which is to support and nurture voice recitals, which she considers an endangered species. Throughout her career she has earned a showcase full of awards including Kennedy Center honors in 1995. Horne continues to help the cause of vocal music as she, Sutherland and James Levine conducted a three-day master class at the Juilliard Theater in 1998 on art song, bel canto interpretation and vocal technique to help inspire aspiring musicians to work harder. Horne's autobiography "My Life" was written with Jane Scovell and published in 1983.