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<<  -- 3 --  Jennifer I Paull    CATHY BERBERIAN - A MUSICAL COLUMBUS


Berio admitted in Music is the Air I Breathe (a Dutch TV documentary), that to replace her as soloist in his (eleven) Folksongs at La Scala for her memorial concert meant that he needed to amass a mosaic of mezzos. Cathy was a vocal chameleon. Each song needed a different voice and only she could change timbre, personality, colour and style at the blinking of a false eyelash.

I recently watched film of an unaccompanied Peter Ustinov parodying a Bach Cantata aria with what was undoubtedly an oboe d'amore obligato -- judging by the veiled, not simply nasal quality that other Great Chameleon was pulling out of his vocal chords in an hilarious, seamless pastiche. The audience was rolling about with laughter as he improvised a flowing, tissage of both parts: brilliant as well as brilliantly funny. That's exactly how her audiences relished Cathy's recital masterpieces; A la recherche de la musique perdue (From the Sublime to the Ridiculous), or Secondhand Songs and so many more of her unique, extraordinary, programmed menus.

In fact, were I to compare Cathy to another artist, it would be to Peter Ustinov: both wrote, were polyglots, actors, gourmets, brilliantly intelligent, overflowed with boundless imagination and creativity and orbited above the confines of one artistic discipline.

A man's got to do what a man's got to do. A woman must do what he can't.
quotha -- Rhonda Hansome, actor, producer, director (date of birth not available).

Cathy Berberian. Photo courtesy of Ervant Berberian
Cathy Berberian. Photo courtesy of Ervant Berberian

You certainly did, Cathy. For everything you gave to Music, we shall be eternally in your debt. Thank you and BRAVISSIMA!

Copyright © 4 July 2005 Jennifer I Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland


In With All My Love, Cathy Berberian (1925-1983) describes her life with music. Berberian and Jennifer Paull were close friends, and you can read more about Jennifer's Memories of Cathy Berberian in an article published here in 2002.

All I know, a fascinating audio interview with Cathy Berberian, is now available online. Recorded by Charles Amirkhanian at Cathy's Milan home in November 1972, the programme runs for over an hour, as an MP3 stream, and includes many examples of Berberian's art.

Jennifer Paull can be contacted via her publishing company Amoris International.

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