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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: April 5, 2007 Archive

More on Amateurism

Posted at 8:00 AM on April 5, 2007 by Rex Levang

In answer to Gillian Martin's question, I have one amateur performance that I remember vividly. This was a soprano--unfortunately I don't remember her name--who entered the Metropolitan Opera auditions some years back, and sang the Letter Aria from Douglas Moore's "Ballad of Baby Doe."

I suppose it was the "aria in English" that many auditions require, and it's not a piece that is necessarily going to knock an audience's socks off. But in her performance, what directness and simplicity she gave it:

Dearest Mama, I am writing
For I'm lonely and distressed. . . .

I'm not sure if it happened because she was an amateur, or because she was a talented singer. I suspect the latter; to paraphrase Andre Gide, in the arts, sincerity is the hardest thing to achieve.