Sunday, March 8, 2015

How A MET Usher Helped Samuel Ramey Learn "Bluebeard's Castle"

Castle of Secrets: The recording cover with
Samuel Ramey and Éva Marton
"It was fall of 1963, and Samuel Ramey was a young music student at the Municipal University of Wichita, soon to become Wichita State University. He was rummaging through the LP bins at a downtown Wichita music store when he flipped to a recording of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle that featured Ramey’s idol, opera star Jerome Hines, singing the title role. Ramey bought the record and took it back to his little apartment, which was near where the Ulrich Museum of Art is now. Ramey, with his deep, young bass-baritone voice, had just begun to develop an interest in opera the previous year. He became obsessed with his new record, a one-hour, psychological opera that told the story of poor, lonely Bluebeard and his new bride, Judith, who insists on seeing what hides behind seven locked doors in his castle. 'I took it back to my place and started playing it and thought, ‘Wow. This is fantastic,'' he said. 'I wrote off to a music store in New York, and they sent me the score.'....When Ramey heads to rehearsal for Bluebeard’s Castle with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra on Monday, he’ll have that score – which still has notes he made to himself in 1963 – with him. He’s saved it for more than 50 years and has used it every time he’s performed the opera, including in 1988 when he sang the title role for a PBS special at New York’s Metropolitan Opera....Before the 1987 album, which Ramey recorded in Budapest with soprano
Ramey at the Wichita Art Museum
with Dale Chihuly sculpture 
(Photo: Fernando Salazar)
Eva Marton, he remembers spending months working on the lyrics. Hungarian is a beautiful language, he said, but it’s far more difficult than Italian, French or Spanish to learn. Every vowel, he said, can be pronounced three or four different ways. Marton, a Hungary native, offered to help. 'She said, ‘Now there is a guy I worked with at the Met. He’s the head of the ushers, and I’ve already told him about you,'' Ramey said. He took Marton’s advice and found the usher, who agreed to help. Ramey would sit in his office for hours each day, just speaking the text. During the recording process, Ramey remembers with a laugh, a helpful bassoonist would turn around and correct him if he stumbled or give him a thumbs-up if he did well." [
Source] See a photo featuring Dale Chihuly's 9,000-pound glasswork set for the production of Bluebeard's Castle after the jump.

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