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Rita Streich discusses her upcoming recital and Studs plays selections ; part 2

BROADCAST: Feb. 17, 1962 | DURATION: 00:26:57


Studs Terkel interviews Rita Streich about her recital coming up. He also plays selections from her work for viewers to listen to. She also talks about music during World War II.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel You've chosen a Nicolai song, a lullaby. You know, that Nicolai lulla- that we play so often on the station, "Schlaf Herzenssohnchen".

Rita Streich "Schlaf Herzenssohnchen". And "Schliesse die blauen zu. Alles ist ruhig und ich wehre die Fliegen dir ab." This is a sense of, be quiet, my beloved child. Ever si- all it is peaceful and you just sleep, and I will also put the the flies away, so nothing gets to--

Studs Terkel Shoo away. shoo away, so they won't bother you.

Rita Streich Shoo away, nothing has to disturb you. And then, after this very simple line, then there comes some variation, two verses with different variation. And for this I love it this song very much because also it is always in this lullaby feeling, but it has more color in the second and again in the third verse and its ending, it has also to show in singing way some difficult passage. And it's a wonderful ending with a long schlaf schlaf, which is just beautiful composed.

Studs Terkel So, the audience has has returned, the people have return to their seats.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel And so, now it's a re-creation of mood again at the same time not--

Rita Streich I think so.

Studs Terkel The beginning of the program. See now we're a step beyond, as you say.

Rita Streich I, yes, I think again you have to, to--

Studs Terkel Take them to you.

Rita Streich Get.

Studs Terkel Get to them.

Rita Streich Get your audience again to you. And also after the after past intermission you know concentration again. It must be built up.

Studs Terkel But at the same time it's a step beyond.

Rita Streich Beyond.

Studs Terkel What you had in the beginning.

Rita Streich Absolutely.

Studs Terkel It's no longer a beginning, it's a second half beginning.

Rita Streich Yes, yes. This makes a program more interesting to work on, what you put in the beginning of the second half.

Studs Terkel "The lullaby", Nicolai [pause in recording].

Rita Streich You know, this song is from the program of - Maria Ivogun sang this in her time, and she gave it to me. It's very very [sad?] sang song, and she also told me you just be careful and you just take it for you, so you have something special to sing. You know, it's very very nice of her because she had to and her husband, Professor Raucheisen, a very big library of wonderful music just for coloratura, so many of my pieces--

Studs Terkel So, she wanted you to have this.

Rita Streich Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel As exclusively yours.

Rita Streich Yes yes. But you know, when it's on record then it's no more exclusive.

Studs Terkel You mentioned the teacher whom you revere so much Maria Ivogun and her feeling--

Rita Streich Yes, and Anna Berger.

Studs Terkel You said something, and Anna Berger.

Rita Streich Anna Berger is my teacher, too, yes.

Studs Terkel Apparently, recently when Paul Ulanowsky was your accompanist.

Rita Streich Yes, last year--

Studs Terkel We know he was--

Rita Streich Yes

Studs Terkel The accompanist of another artist who was also a teacher today. Lotte Lehmann.

Rita Streich Oh, yes.

Studs Terkel Did you meet Madame Lehmann?

Rita Streich Oh, yes, between two recitals, one in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. We were one day in Santa Barbara and there I met Lotte Lehmann my the first time, was a wonderful day for me, of course. And she gave lessons in her in the academy there in Santa Barbara, and we visited her there. And so, I could be there to see how wonderful she teaches the pupil of different kind. Some were lieder singer. Some sang arias, and always she had wonderful comments and with very little sign, but just the right one she could explain what was the important thing in this lied or this aria to do. Then we went to her house and, I must say, she was so wonderful in telling about her time with Paul Ulanowsky playing for her. When, for instance, they went to Australia and she really said she said, oh, do you remember, Paul, we had really pioneer time, pioneer time.

Studs Terkel Pioneer time.

Rita Streich It was sometimes not very luxurious, but how wonderful it was to give the audience the some of the first heard songs for them, you know? So she she really has a wonderful - she had a wonderful full life, and you can feel it, how rich she is in her--

Studs Terkel And her interest in the young singers at the time--

Rita Streich Oh how wonderful.

Studs Terkel She was interviewed on this station and she spoke of a young singer, a young Negro singer, was her protege, Grace Bumbry.

Rita Streich Oh, yes.

Studs Terkel And since then, well we know of her various--

Rita Streich Of how wonderful she--

Studs Terkel But she's a protege of Lotte Lehmann.

Rita Streich Of Lotte Lehmann.

Studs Terkel At the time, she was working with her at Northwestern.

Rita Streich Oh, what a wonderful - I think every every singer who has worked with Lotte Lehmann has something rich in the--

Studs Terkel If we may return to Rita Streich now, who has her own form of richness here. The second song, now we play with two French songs you chose here.

Rita Streich Yes, from Darius Milhaud.

Studs Terkel Incidentally, Miss Cassidy, in reviewing your recital, mentioned the fact that you had sung two Foret pieces, and then she said, "The hope was stirred that another time she", Rita Streich, "might really explore the now neglected enchantment of French songs."

Rita Streich Yes, I really would like to do it. And I take that advice and I would like to do, to sing more French songs. This Darius Milhaud songs, this is a [French], and I remember that my last time when I was in San Francisco, Milhaud sat in his chair and was in the concert. I was very happy to meet him.

Studs Terkel How did he feel about your singing his songs?

Rita Streich Oh, I think he liked it very much.

Studs Terkel So we have after the lullaby, after the Nicolai German lullaby, we have two French Songs of Milhaud, "A Une Fontaine."

Rita Streich "A Une Fontaine, ecoute moi fontaine, vive", and shall I say the second one also? "A Cupidon", it starts with the word "Le jour pousse la nuit, et la nuit sombre pousse le jour."

Studs Terkel But first the "A Une Fontaine", this then deals what? With with the someone resting near the fountain? Is it someone who loves to drink from this fountain?

Rita Streich Yes, the summer, the warm warm summer atmosphere, you know? It's so it's so - both the hotness of the summer and, therefore, the wonderful to stay on the, near the water. The fontaine.

Studs Terkel The good feeling--

Rita Streich Yes, good feeling.

Studs Terkel Of the act of a creature comfort in the sense of the drink. After the lullaby we have this [pause for recording]. This then your first Milhaud piece, "A Une Fontaine". Now you would follow this, you would follow this one--

Rita Streich With "A Cupidon."

Studs Terkel With "A Cupidon", why?

Rita Streich I think this has beautiful words. "Day drives out the night and night drives out the day, but the fever of love that torments me does not ease. God of love, you should not have wounded me, follow the [island? idled?], amuse them, but not me and not those who love the Muse."

Studs Terkel Then the third step: the the child, lullaby, the mother, that was the Nicolai. The the simple comfort, the water, the joy of the actual--

Rita Streich And again the inside.

Studs Terkel And now we come to the inside again, the the love. It is a spiritual, the third [pause for recording].

Rita Streich Very very very difficult to sing, you know, the [Springe?] for the voice.

Studs Terkel The range?

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel The range.

Rita Streich Yes, range.

Studs Terkel And yet the--

Rita Streich But the, it's beautiful. I love it and I am looking forward, I'm doing this very soon again in my next recital [unintelligible]--

Studs Terkel That which what Miss Cassidy calls, the enchantment of the, neglected enchantment to some extent of the French songs, part of - Before we come to what may be the meat, certainly part of the meat of your second half of five lieder of Hugo Wolf, before that a comment made by another critic, Robert Marsh, an interesting comment about your concert which he admired very much, praised very much, he spoke of you being a classic coloratura. That is the phrase itself perhaps has been misused. He writes, "No true coloratura soprano is a "big" voice", big in quotation marks--

Rita Streich That's right, mhm.

Studs Terkel "If your idea of a big voice is Birgit Nilsson, the true coloratura must be light and flexible, achieving in its effects through brilliance and clarity."

Rita Streich Thats right.

Studs Terkel And he speaks of Joan Sutherland, who is not truly a coloratura in that sense, but a bel canto soprano and Miss Streich is a classic coloratura, a true Zerbinetta voice. Wo- would you mind?

Rita Streich Zerbinetta voice. Yes, I know this is probably - this very very intelligent said. This comment about voice coloratura. It is a special kind of voice, as Maria Ivogun and Anna Berger were two [unintelligible] from this range of singing. It is a certain a certain flexibility, the voice has to have from nature. I can also train of course, you have to work on the on the voice. Most hardy, you know, it needs probably the refined technique to have the line and to have always the flexibility to show and it is is concentrated in the, let's say, is in an instrument like between clarinet and flute, or you you can hardly just say. But the concentration of a good sitting voice, is this what carries the voice. The coloratura is never a very big voice, then then she loses this refined concentration of--

Studs Terkel And the delicacy, too, perhaps.

Rita Streich Of the delicacy, too. And as she has to to as the voice has to master very difficult passage and, therefore, in all real coloratura which is a really a special--

Studs Terkel Art art form, in some--

Rita Streich Art, she has to be careful not to thicken the voice, not to make it heavier, to stay, of course, always to to to to get more warmth in the cadenza, to to make it more colorful. And as I always like to show that I don't like the cool, the very cool [German] kind of brilliancy in the coloratura. I like, as I learned from Maria Ivogun and Anna Berger, and that's also in my mentality, you know, to feel the cadenza and not to just show how able the voice is to do and like a fallback to go on difficult cascade. But to put the Ausdruck in this.

Studs Terkel Rita Streich, what you're saying now, I think, as though we didn't know, what you're saying, now it reveals why you are the artist. As you say, it isn't the cool showy technique--

Rita Streich Oh, no. I don't--

Studs Terkel Of the cadenza. The element of the - your own feeling. What's that word you use, aust-? What is that word?

Rita Streich Ausdruck.

Studs Terkel Ausdruck.

Rita Streich Ausdruck. When I would, how is it in English, "Ausdruck"?

Studs Terkel Your your your feeling about it, your spirit feel about it. Ausdruck.

Rita Streich The Ausdruck, what shows what I feel.

Studs Terkel To reveal.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel To reveal yourself, maybe.

Rita Streich Yes. Yes.

Studs Terkel To reveal your feeling through it.

Rita Streich Yes, I--

Studs Terkel But not just a not just a brilliant--

Rita Streich Oh!

Studs Terkel Piece of work.

Rita Streich Oh, no no no. And so you know, sometimes the people think, oh she's coloratura, and now she goes like this a [unintelligible]. This is what I what I don't like so much. And I must tell you, therefore, I'm very happy to sing both the coloratura pieces and the lieder and this gives the most satisfaction in in the work. And that those is possible for me to do because of voice. I try not to make it just only an instrumental, good working instrument, but to put put also in the coloratura, as I have to do and in the lieder, the whole soul, the whole warmth, the whole really natural voice, which is well-trained and always has to be further on trained, you know, in our [branch?] we never stop. We never have have the possibility to to stay on a on a place. We always have to be better and better every year. And so the coloratura voice really has to work on it that it's not gets not too big, as some critics write, "Oh, she has a small voice." This is this is not well-known that a coloratura really is a flexible and [from posture?] a more smaller voice.

Studs Terkel Petite.

Rita Streich But a special, special voice, very very well-written in this from [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel The coloratura and Hugo Wolf. We come now to what perhaps might be described as the meat of the second half of your recital. There are five songs, five pieces of Hugo Wolf together here.

Rita Streich Oh, yes.

Studs Terkel Why Wolf in this part of the program?

Rita Streich I like to sing Wolf so much, I'm looking forward to this time that I have a whole half program of Hugo Wolf, probably later a whole Hugo Wolf program. If I can do it like I plan in the future, to sing my coloratura pieces with orchestra, and then really have a recital, a lieder recital, do the composer like Mozart and Schubert is one of the greatest and this is Hugo Wolf, the music itself and the words together, and just for a colorful or refined voice. It's just the songs which need the most shadow and the most intense of raffinesse to go in the in these songs.

Studs Terkel Thus, you would not have had Hugo Wolf in the first half of the program, rather here because of the--

Rita Streich I like to put Hugo Wolf, I like to put him in a second half more sometimes. I do some Wolf songs in the first half, but I prefer to put Wolf in the second half and never less than four or five, because to show Wolf how wonderfully different his songs are. And I must say that I'm always very glad, if I can sing more. Also, in Japan, the audience has not heard very many Wolf songs and they just liked it so much. And this needs an audience you know, which is very--

Studs Terkel Asking.

Rita Streich Asking and sensitive.

Studs Terkel And sensitive.

Rita Streich And sensitive, yes, I think that's the most raffiniert.

Studs Terkel Refined.

Rita Streich Refined, yes.

Studs Terkel And that point you made a moment ago is interesting, there can't be less than four or five Wolf pieces, you say. It's as though in this category of Wolf songs, there's a microcosm of your whole recital. That is, as your whole recital grows and builds, thus in this particular sequence--

Rita Streich Yes, I feel also--

Studs Terkel In miniature we have it, you see.

Rita Streich Yes, I feel also it is a pity if you cut his possibilities in in showing how wonderful, different these songs are, the the color of these songs. You just cannot put alone two or three songs to show how wonderful the [unintelligible] are.

Studs Terkel And so you open this group with "Zum neuen Jahre."

Rita Streich "Zum neuen Jahre."

Studs Terkel Now, off-hand we say well, the new year, this is a toast. This is gay, this is happy, this is our first reaction when we hear the words.

Rita Streich Oh, no, this is another, this is the thanks for song and it starts like the angel come, the angel come very slowly on new, on the steps to the new year, you know, and you thank God for everything He has done good to you [pause for recording].

Studs Terkel We continue to the next one from the "Spanisches Liederbuch", "Bedeckt mich mit Blumen", "cover me with flowers."

Rita Streich "Bedeckt mich mit Blumen". Yes, "cover me with flowers because I'm dying of love." I'm I'm loving so much that I die, therefore. It's a very beautiful poem. And just dying for love. You just have to to to cover me with flowers.

Studs Terkel This from the Spanish.

Rita Streich From the "Spanisches Liederbuch".

Studs Terkel After the second Wolf, again I suppose, towards the building of mood too, isn't there? Is there is there one have a deeper mood than the other? As we go?

Rita Streich Yes, "Bedeckt mich mit Blumen" has a deeper mood and is again a very very strong inside feeling. And this [lied?] next one I would like to take "Mein Liebster ist so klein" is from the "Italienisches Liederbuch". And this is such a more funny song, showing that the "Liebster ist so klein" that the flies and all the little thing can--

Studs Terkel Can knock him over.

Rita Streich Yes. Knock him over. Yes.

Studs Terkel It's so little.

Rita Streich And therefore, the last last words are very funny that it's very different to kiss the beloved, which ist so klein. [laughter]

Studs Terkel That makes it very rough, then, "Mein Liebster ist so klein."

Rita Streich So klein.

Studs Terkel Here then is Hugo Wolf in a gay mood.

Rita Streich Yes, very gay.

Studs Terkel In in a light - and we don't think of him as being in a light mood, but he had that, too.

Rita Streich Oh, very, very.

Studs Terkel A variation [pause in recording]. And so from the from the Italian liederbuch, a light - and then we come to the words the lyrics of Goethe "Die Bekehrte", here is something wholly different.

Rita Streich "Die Bekehrte", yes. This is a song where feeling for love, which is gone. Just to know now this feeling, to know how it was and just to remember this melody of the shepherd who made happy feeling to the girl who--

Studs Terkel And is this, too, an element here of experience, the the mellowness that comes with--

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel Experience.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel The awareness.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel "Die Bekehrte".

Rita Streich There is some, just some la la la, which are full of of happiness and then of thinking how happy and the sadness in in remembering the love after it's gone.

Studs Terkel The combination of the two moods.

Rita Streich Yes. Yes.

Studs Terkel The love, sort of the wistfulness too.

Rita Streich Yes. Yes.

Studs Terkel The wistfulness.

Rita Streich Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel "Die Bekehrte" [pause in recording]. So, after we hear this, the fifth, how would you end the Hugo Wolf group?

Rita Streich Oh, the Hugo Wolf, he has so beautiful songs to end, and just I think one of his nicest is this "Mausfallen-Spruchlein", where the words are before singing "[German]" then the lied starts with [singing] "Kleine Gaste, kleines Haus, Liebe Mausin oder Maus." Be very careful, and because the cat is probably dancing with us, you know, and always this little, very nice [unintelligible]. And this is a song which is nice to end [pause in recording].

Studs Terkel And so, the different moods of Hugo Wolf, ending with a little couplet, a little mousetrap couplet.

Rita Streich Mousetrap couplet.

Studs Terkel Almost almost a children's song in feeling, isn't it?

Rita Streich Yes, it is, it is, absolutely, yes, because is is a child goes three times around this, how you say?

Studs Terkel Three times around in a

Rita Streich circle. Yes. There's a mausfallen, where the mouse, the trap--

Studs Terkel Where the mouse trap is.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel Three times around, almost like a little circle [unintelligible].

Rita Streich She goes three times around and then she sings this little words to the mouse and the [German].

Studs Terkel Interesting the variations you have not only of Wolf and the lyrics and the music, but also back to the idea of your whole recital, different aspects, almost a children's kind of song following what? Following "Die Bekehrte", the lyrics [unintelligible] Goethe.

Rita Streich Yes, which is really [womanly?] lied, yes.

Studs Terkel And thus we come to the last part of the second half of your recital: folk songs.

Rita Streich Oh yeah, this is something I also love very much to sing these little little folk songs. Sometimes as encore, sometimes I put a fol- group of folk songs, like I did in Chicago, many different languages. I would like to always to sing this little nice Swiss schatzli, which is a lovely song about - I have two schatzlis and one is too much looking to the other ones, you know. So it's, therefore, I would like to sell one.

Studs Terkel [Guetzli?] -- what is [guetzli?]?

Rita Streich "[Guetzli?]" is ausdruck for schatzli, for schatzli is liebling, how you say, my--

Studs Terkel Beloved.

Rita Streich My beloved.

Studs Terkel Beloved. Ah, so this then is a Swiss folk song. I'll ask you in a moment about your feeling about folk songs and recital [pause in recording]. We have this gay, this gentle, light-hearted little Swiss song. You feel no contradiction, then, between, say, offering very light and gay little folk songs on the same program as Schubert and Mozart and Wolf?

Rita Streich Oh, no, I probably - because my teacher, Maria Ivogun, also gave me a nice group of folks lieder, I think that the audience, to the end of the program, like the simplicity of these songs which are, this is just more familiar, familiar.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Rita Streich You know, after the the time you are together, just this is a nice ending of feeling happy together.

Studs Terkel Happy and the relaxed feeling now--

Rita Streich Relaxed feeling.

Studs Terkel Of people who know one another.

Rita Streich Yes, yes--

Studs Terkel Now you have known one another.

Rita Streich The relaxed feeling and mostly also for the audience, it's something to go home from the concert with this with this little folk song. Many from the audience know these songs from the record and they like to hear--

Studs Terkel Something familiar, too.

Rita Streich This again. Something familiar, too.

Studs Terkel Also, isn't there something interesting here, too, the element of release? Release, after you had the the the sensitive Hugo Wolf group, now the element of release that is also part of life and the pattern.

Rita Streich Absolutely.

Studs Terkel Tension relaxation, the continuation.

Rita Streich Absolutely. This is just what I like to put out in my program, and I think also this is what the audience is looking for, to to have this--

Studs Terkel Again the word, the key word, earlier that appeared at the beginning of this program, "naturlich."

Rita Streich "Naturlich."

Studs Terkel Again, nature, itself, the natural thing.

Rita Streich Yes. It's a natural tenderness, you know, for the end of the program.

Studs Terkel And we had one in English, then we had one in Swiss, when love is kind.

Rita Streich "When love is kind, cheerful and free, love sure to find welcome from me. But when love brings heartache and pain, tears and such things, love may go hang" [laughter].

Studs Terkel When love is kind, the words of Thomas Moore. And now, the audience and you pretty much are set and you end with one--

Rita Streich A little, like a little yodeler, you know, [German song title], it's also a song of Maria Ivogun gave me.

Studs Terkel We think of [German song title], we think of this as a very funny, a humorous song of a country bumpkin. You did this, you sang this last during your your last appearance here on this program.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel But it's always worth repeating. Then it was with a laugh. Now the element you have known throughout in the very beginning of the concert, the very first calm Mozart song, of Italian, to the end, various facets of living, of growth, the reservation of the audience, your own knowing each other. If we use the Japanese audience as the, as the standard perhaps. And now the freedom, is the complete freedom is there. We have almost the clown song, in a way, the [unintelligible].

Rita Streich Yes, and and yes. I I think naturally going it's like a 'kreis', you know, like ein 'kreis', it's something round, so you're happy--

Studs Terkel Cir- it's a cycle.

Rita Streich Cycle. Yes. And, therefore, this little funny [German].