Adele Addison

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Adele Addison, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

Adele Addison (born July 24, 1925, Springfield, Massachusetts) is an African-American lyric soprano who was an acclaimed figure in the classical music world during the 1950s and 1960s. Although she did appear in several operas, Addison spent most of her career performing in recital and concert. Her performances spanned a wide array of literature from the Baroque period to contemporary compositions. She is best remembered today as the singing voice for Bess (played by Dorothy Dandridge) in the 1959 movie Porgy and Bess. Addison can be heard on numerous recordings, of which her baroque music recording are perhaps her best work. Known for her polished and fluent tone, Addison made a desirable baroque vocal artist. Many of her recordings were made with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

Early life and education[edit]

Addison began studying voice seriously as a teenager and, following high school, won a scholarship to study at Westminster Choir College. Further scholarships enabled her to pursue graduate studies at Princeton University and at summer sessions at the Berkshire Music School at Tanglewood. At Tanglewood she studied with Boris Goldovsky.[1]

Career[edit]

Addison made her professional recital debut in Boston, in 1948 while still a student at Princeton. Following graduation she moved to New York City to pursue a career as a classical soprano. Of her 1952 New York City recital debut The New York Times wrote, "The recital season reached a high point last night when Adele Addison, soprano from Springfield, Massachusetts, made her debut in Town Hall."[2] Following her New York debut, she continued to study voice at the Juilliard School with Beverley Peck Johnson[3] and with Povla Frijsh.[4] In 1955 she made her New York City Opera debut as Mimi in Puccini's La bohème. The New York Post said the following of her debut, "Adele Addison is about the most appealing interpreter of the little Parisian seamstress yet to appear on the City Center stage. Small, frail looking, and pretty, Miss Addison enhanced these assets by acting and singing with moving poignancy and sincerity."[5] That same year, Addison was invited by Aaron Copland to perform the world premiere of his Dirge In Woods at a concert sponsored by the League of Composers.

Although Addison was offered more opera roles with several companies, she did not appear in many more opera productions as she preferred to sing in recital and on the concert stage. She did appear in a few more productions with the New York City Opera, the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, and the New England Opera Theatre. Her other opera roles included the title role in Handel's Acis and Galatea,[6] Liù in Puccini's Turandot, Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto, Micaela in Bizet's Carmen, Fiordiligi in Mozart's Così fan tutte, and Nannetta in Verdi's Falstaff among others.[7] In 1959, Addison sang the role of Bess in the film version of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. The role was initially supposed to be sung by Urylee Leonardos, but apparently Leonardos' voice sounded too shrill when recorded so they replaced her with Addison at the last minute.[8] In a 1996 Opera News interview she said, "Today, young singers are almost forced to make a choice, because they are counseled that becoming established in opera is the way to make a career in music. I never had to make a choice. I loved the song repertoire from the start, and as I began to sing, for even the smallest ladies' clubs, etc., those inviting me expected and accepted that.... Even as the years passed, and I sang all the rest of the repertoire – opera, oratorio, chamber music, etc. – the first love remained.... My curiosity, joy and love for song never changed. It still has not."[6]

Addison made numerous appearances with major orchestras, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1961 she was chosen by Charles Münch as the soprano soloist in the American premiere of Francis Poulenc's Gloria with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She became a favorite of Bernstein and the two collaborated frequently, including on a number of recordings. In 1961 he invited her to sing the soprano solos in the world premiere of Lukas Foss' Time Cycle' with the New York Philharmonic. She performed the work again later that year with Izler Solomon and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. She also sang under Bernstein for the opening of Lincoln Center's Philharmonica Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall).[9]

Other noted performances by Addison include the world premiere of Lester Trimble's Canterbury Tales and her interpretation of Debussy's L'Enfant prodigue.[6]

Towards the late 1960s, Addison's performing career began to slow down as she focused more on teaching. Although retired now, she taught voice on the collegiate level for more than thirtyfive years. She has been a voice teacher for SUNY at Stony Brook, Eastman School of Music and Aspen Music Festival and School. For many years, she was also on the faculty, serving for a time as Chair, of the Voice Department at the Manhattan School of Music, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2001. Many of her students, such as Dawn Upshaw, have gone on to have successful careers.[10] Addison once said,"What I try to pass on to my own students at the Manhattan School of Music is to make them aware of their own abilities, to know how much they need to know in order to be a singing musician."[7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1958, Addison married Norman Berger, a senior research scientist and clinical professor of Prosthetics-Orthotics education in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University. Berger died in 2005 after forty seven years of marriage.[11]

Opera and oratorio roles[edit]

Recordings[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Adele Addison. Answers.com. Retrieved on 2011-07-31.
  2. ^ "Addison, Soprano, Excels in Debussy", The New York Times 1952-01-18.
  3. ^ Juilliard School
  4. ^ Adele Addison (soprano). bach-cantatas.com. Retrieved on 2011-07-31.
  5. ^ "Adele Addison", New York Post 1955-03-28.
  6. ^ a b c ''Opera News'' August 1996. Metoperafamily.org. Retrieved on 2011-07-31.
  7. ^ a b ''Opera News'' January 1993. Metoperafamily.org. Retrieved on 2011-07-31.
  8. ^ ''Opera News'' 1994. Metoperafamily.org. Retrieved on 2011-07-31.
  9. ^ Adele Addison. Beinecke.library.yale.edu. Retrieved on 2011-07-31.
  10. ^ Footlights. New York Times (1998-02-18). Retrieved on 2011-07-31.
  11. ^ Paid Notice: Deaths BERGER, NORMAN. New York Times (2005-08-14). Retrieved on 2011-07-31.