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Today's Birthday in Music: Marilyn Horne

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Happy Birthday Marilyn Horne!

Marilyn_HorneMarilyn Horne (January 16, 1934) is an American mezzo-soprano opera singer who has been performing professionally since the 1950s, when she dubbed the singing voice of Dorothy Dandridge in the film Carmen Jones. The singer also appeared as "Jackie" on The Odd Couple, as a meek singer who transforms into a diva and performs the role of Carmen to great acclaim. She later sang on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and debuted with the Los Angeles Guild Opera in the role of Hata in the The Bartered Bride. Her singing prowess was recognized by Igor Stravinsky and she was invited to perform in the 1956 Venice festival, when she was 22. Her subsequent operatic career in Europe earned the young singer a serious reputation for her bel canto performances. Today, the singer turns 79.

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via MagWeb

After performing for Igor Stravinksy, Marilyn performed in Europe for three seasons with the Gelsenkirchen Opera. At the inauguration of the Gelsenkirchen's new opera house in 1960, she performed a highly acclaimed interpretation of Marie in Alban Berg's Wozzeck, which she later performed with the San Francisco Opera in her 1964 return to the U.S. The role of Marie was also her debut performance with the Royal Opera House in London.

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The singer made her debut at La Scala as Jocasta in Œdipus rex on March 13, 1969, with Stravinsky at the helm. In the same year, she received a seven-minute ovation for her performance of Rossini's Le siège de Corinthe. Horne often performed with soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, including Beatrice di Tenda, which was so successful that it was repeated twice at Carnegie Hall.

In 1979, their joint concert was telecasted live from Lincoln Center. Horne debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Adalgisa in Norma, with Sutherland as the titular character. In 1984, she sang the title role in Rinaldo, the first Handel opera ever performed at the Metropolitan Opera.

Horne lent her voice to the soundtrack of Flower Drum Song, on "Love, Look Away", and she sang the part of Lady Thiang on the soundtrack of The King and I starring Julie Andrews and Ben Kingsley.

From 1960 to 1979, Horne was married to the conductor Henry Lewis, with whom she has a daughter, Angela. Reportedly, Marilyn's mother initially had misgivings about the effect of an interracial marriage on her career and told her daughter, "Be his mistress, for God's sake, not his wife," but they soon reconciled.


Marilyn-Horne-5Horne has received much recognition for her career and contributions to opera as well as contemporary music. In 1983, she was included as the only singer still active on a list compiled by Robert Jacobson for The New York Times, of the hundred greatest singers who had ever performed at the Metropolitan Opera. On July 5, 1986, she performed on the New York Philharmonic's tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, which was televised live on ABC Television. In 1993, she sang at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

MarilynHorne Marilyn Horne in 2011, via Capital New York

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Horne retired from the concert stage in 1999, with a performance at the Chicago Symphony Center, although Horne occasionally still performs at various pop concerts.

Since her retirement, Horne has taught a series ofMaster Classes at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music; the University of Maryland, College Park; the Manhattan School of Music; and the University of Oklahoma. 

Since 1997, Horne has directed the Voice Program at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, since 1997, and is known for her passionate patronage of young musical talent. 

Each winter at Carnegie Hall, The Marilyn Horne Foundation holds a series of concerts and master classes for young singers. This year, there will be a round of workshops on January 19 at Zankel Hall. More details here.

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