Saturday, September 20, 2014

Remembering Joan Rivers And Her Operatic Connections

Joan Alexandra Molinsky (born June 8, 1933), widely known as Joan Rivers, was an American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and television host noted for her often controversial comedic persona — where she was alternately self-deprecating or sharply acerbic, especially toward celebrities and politicians. Rivers came to prominence in 1965 as a guest on The Tonight Show. Hosted by her mentor, Johnny Carson, the show established Rivers' comedic style. In 1986, with her own rival program, The Late Show with Joan Rivers, Rivers became the first woman to host a late night network television talk show. She subsequently hosted The Joan Rivers Show (1989-1993), winning a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host. As the author 12 best-selling memoir and humor books and numerous comedy albums, Rivers was nominated in 1984 for a Grammy Award for her album What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most? and was nominated in 1994 for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance of the title role in Sally Marr...and her escorts. Having become widely known for her red carpet interviews, Rivers co-hosted the E! celebrity fashion show Fashion Police (2010- 2014) and starred in reality series Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? (2011-2014) with daughter Melissa Rivers. Rivers marketed a line of jewelry and apparel on the QVC shopping channel, and was the subject of the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010). In 1968, noted New York Times television critic Jack Gould (1914–1993) called Rivers 'quite possibly the most intuitively funny woman alive.'" Joan Rivers passed away on September 4, 2014. [Source] Check out the connections this great star had with opera, after the jump.

Joan Rivers with Cesar Ulloa, Julie Adams’ teacher,
 at the Metropolitan Opera in March 2014.
"Burbank native Julie Adams was awarded the top prize at Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finals Concert. Along with four other grand prize winners, she was chosen from more than 1500 initial applicants from throughout the United States and Canada. The Grand Finals Concert on March 31 featured the top nine singers, all in their twenties. Each competitor sang two arias with the Met Opera Orchestra. Adams received huge applause from the packed house....Adams 'impressed me as the most mature of the winners with her elegant account of an aria from Debussy’s lyric cantata L’ Enfant Prodigue and an affecting performance of Mimi’s ‘Donde lieta uscì’ from Puccini’s La Bohème,' said Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times. 'Her voice is rich, full and slightly earthy in an expressive way.'....The soprano has been studying with her teacher, Cesar Ulloa, for over six years. With his guidance, she chose four arias to prepare for the Met competition." [Source

The Metropolitan Opera Guild collected a list of the ten favorite opera recordings of the comedienne back in 1993:
1- Turandot (Puccini) with Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Bjoerling and Renata Tebaldi; Leinsdorf 
2 - La Sonnambula (Bellini) with Maria Callas, Nicola Monti; Votto
3 - Norma (Bellini) with Maria Callas, Ebe Stignani, Mario Filippeschi; Serafin
4 - Madama Butterfly (Puccini) with Renata Tebaldi, Carlo Bergoni; Tullio Serafin
5 - I Puritani (Bellini) with Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti; Bonynge
6 - Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss) with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Teresa Stich-Randall, Christa Ludwig; von Karajan
7 - Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky) with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni; Stokowski
8 - Carmen (Bizet) with Regina Resnik, Mario del Monaco, Joan Sutherland; Schippers
9 - Andrea Chénier (Giordano) with Antonietta Stella, Franco Corelli, Mario Sereni; Santini
10 - La Bohème (Puccini) with Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti; von Karajan

"Nothing can keep Joan Rivers down – not even a very public Peta attack. The animal rights group arrived unannounced at a promotional event for her new book, Diary of a Mad Diva, held at Barnes and Noble in Times Square yesterday (July 1, 2014). They sat among the audience, then stood up holding graphic posters. One protester shouted out: 'Why do you choose to wear fur when there are so many cruelty-free alternatives?'....'All the fur I’ve worn has been killed over the years and those furs that would have been lying in a cellar have gotten to go to the opera...'" [Source]