La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

In Memoriam: Rita Gorr (Feb. 18 1926 - Jan. 22 2012)

Photos (lower): Rita Gorr as Orfeo;

(top) Gorr signed my score of Les dialogues des Carmelites during her appearance as Mme. de Croissy at the Canadian Opera Company

In Memoriam: Rita Gorr (Feb. 18 1926 - Jan. 22 2012)

by Joseph So

The great Belgian mezzo soprano passed away last Sunday in Majorca where she had lived the last decades of her life. Gorr was born Marguerite Geirmaert, in Zelzate in Belgium, between Ghent and the coast. She studied voice in Ghent and Brussels, won first prize at the Verviers vocal competition in 1946, and made her professional debut in Antwerp as Fricka in Die Walkure the same year. (Interestingly, she bid farewell to her 60+ year career in 2007 as the Old Countess in Pique Dame, also in Antwerp)

From 1949 to 52, Gorr was a member of the Opera du Rhin in Strasbourg. After winning another competition in Lausanne in 1952, she made her debut at the Opéra-Comique and the Paris Opéra, singing such roles as Magdalena in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Delilah in Samson et Dalila, Venus in Tannhäuser, Charlotte in Werther, Mère Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites, Carmen, Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande, and Amneris in Aida. She was Mother Marie in the first recording of the Poulenc opera on the EMI label. Gorr made her debut at Bayreuth in 1958, Covent Garden in 1959, La Scala in 1960, and the Metropolitan Opera on October 17, 1962 as Amneris. In four seasons at the Met, she sang Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, Eboli in Don Carlo, Azucena in Il trovatore, and Dalila.

Gorr's magnificent mezzo is best remembered for its incredible opulence, power and intensity. She had a wide repertoire from Baroque to Wagner to contemporary works. Her upper extension allowed her to assay the occasional soprano roles, such as Santuzza. She also recorded the Liebestod, although to my knowledge she never sang the role on stage. She is well represented on disc, with many superlative recordings. Among her very best output is her Ortrud in Lohengrin under conductor Erich Leinsdorf, and her Amneris opposite the Aida of Leontyne Price and the Radames of Jon Vickers under the baton of Georg Solti. She sang comparatively little in North America, and to my knowledge she sang only in Toronto once, as Madame de Croissy in the last Canadian Opera Company's revival of Les dialogues des Carmelites. She was in good company, with a cast that included Anne Sophie Schmidt (Blanche), Lauren Flanigan (Mme Lidoine), Elizabeth Vidal (Constance), Nadine Denize (Mother Marie), and Benoit Boutet (Chevalier de la Force) Even with such a great cast, Gorr's Croissy was the most memorable. To honour and enjoy the artistry of this great singer, here is the link to a concert from 1993 when Gorr, at the grand age of 67, sang with great authority and lovely tone "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" from Gluck's Orfeo. Requestiat in pace, Rita Gorr.



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