Thursday, 27 December 2012

"I'm not making this up, you know!"

Ever wondered about the mysteries of grand opera?

Ever thought that Wagner's Ring of the Niebelung was impenetrable?

Here's another of today's birthday girls - whose centenary (unbelievably) I missed celebrating last year - Miss Anna Russell to make it all that much clearer for us.

Enjoy! (It's worth it...)

Anna Russell was a magnificently talented woman - in my opinion, one of the funniest of all the one-woman-show comediennes this side of Hermione Gingold, she was actually a trained pianist, wind instrumentalist, composer [she studied under Ralph Vaughan Williams] and singer who discovered early on in her career that her true talent lay in operatic parody. As well as Wagner, she laid comedic waste to the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan and the pretensions of operatic divas in a variety of singing styles.

Some po-faced devotees of Wagnerian opera publicly challenged her right to lampoon the great master, to which she replied: "I merely tell the story as accurately as possible and play the bits of music exactly as written. I can't help it if the story is absurd." In a significant show of support, however, the saintly Birgit Nilsson (one of the most lauded "Brünnhildes") recommended her students to listen to Russell's analysis of The Ring before tackling it.

Miss Russell was born in London, lived in Canada, and retired to Australia, where she died at the ripe old age of 94.

Anna Russell (27th December 1911 – 18th October 2006)

[Thanks once again to Muscato for the reminder]

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