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Teresa Stich-Randall discusses her career

BROADCAST: Nov. 3, 1961 | DURATION: 00:19:15

Transcript

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Studs Terkel So you listen to the majestic Priestess, Toscanini, had something there. How is this done, this was done in the, your voice, you were on a-

Teresa Stitch-Randall Do you know the, the big studio in New York where maestro used to have these broadcasts, it's.

Studs Terkel Pictures [unintelligle], pictures.

Teresa Stitch-Randall 8A or something like that, it's enormous, at one time it was the biggest in the world. But my heavens who knows what who has build something bigger nowadays, it seems to be the criterion today, the bigger it is the better it is.

Studs Terkel Size is.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes. Uh, it was this enormous, enormous broadcasting studio where an enormous podium in front where maestro had the big NBC Symphony and there was room there also for a chorus and everything. Well, they even pulled the podium out farther. And in the back they put the chorus on the regular chorus stage and then the built a platform. I was about 10 feet in the air all by myself up there with the whole chorus around my feet and that's how they created this uh very temple, very hollow wonderful echoing sort of churchy temple sound.

Studs Terkel I suppose working with him, I mean, the attitude of all working with him is an experience.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh Studs. I couldn't begin to talk about it, really and truly. Firstly because, it's not the kind of a thing that you can tell in an hour. It's the kind of a thing you could talk about all of your life. And then, uh, I get so emotionally involved because this was, this was just absolutely unbelievable for a girl of my age. I was a young student that this at the beginning, at the very beginning of my career, that I was exposed and had an awful lot of the rules laid down to me by him. He was very fond of me and talked a great deal with me and gave me so much of that.

Studs Terkel So what you say, rules, but earlier you were saying, "don't anybody teach you." He meant not to lose that naturalness is that it when you were.

Teresa Stitch-Randall No he didn't want me to ever get in touch by huh, by any maestro. He didn't want ever any professors, nobody you see right from the very beginning, although I was very young, was one of the first things he said, I forgot to tell you that when I came that day to his studio he said, "Oh my heavens where do you have that technique from," he said, "This is unbelievable." And so he always kept after me with that.

Studs Terkel Where do you have it from?

Teresa Stitch-Randall From that man, that Veli, Velikanoff.

Studs Terkel From. [Unintelligible].

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes from.

Studs Terkel From when you

Teresa Stitch-Randall were fortunately. Yes and that was the one teacher I had you see and he trained me. And when you take a child at 10 and if you really are somebody who is devoted to your teaching Studs, then you're going to do the best by somebody you know. And uh, maestro was adamant in that in the two years where I was in New York and then I saw him every year after that abroad in Italy. He always said,"Oh my heavens just don't study, just don't let anybody touch you." And then the other things you know he knew even though I was a young girl, I was at that time very involved with all of my late teenage complexes, you know how terrible they can be and he knew I was terribly serious, terribly involved myself personally with music and with art. And so he constantly kept after me. Don't lose your ideals. Stay, you go on the way you are. You go on the straight way and the real straight and narrow with your beliefs, with your complete pure devotion to art. You'll get where you should get. Please don't pay any attention to what the world tells you where you should get or what you shouldn't do, you stick that way and it will take you where you must go [unintelligle].

Studs Terkel He said this to you, you see because in your case, the, he sensed what was pretty obvious, the talent, the voice was there, that was it. This probably is not a creature that can be followed by anyone. I think the element of the, the requisite of the talent has to be there, is the point.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Well yes of course uh, that's that always that's the, that's the great big number one before things go on but everybody has talent you know, everybody is talented for something or other.

Studs Terkel If we come.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Sure.

Studs Terkel And mostly the other. If we come to the one way now, the singing with Teresa Stitch-Randall, we made with you now. We had Aida. We had uh the Priestess, Verdi. At the beginning we are playing uh the Bach aria, the cantata.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes.

Studs Terkel Is it Hallelujah?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes. Oh yes. It closes with an Hallelujah [laughs], which is very correct isn't it?

Studs Terkel Try the, try the uh, uh would you mind just reading a bit of the of, of the words the lyrics of it.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Well you want and a, a few of the words before the corral because uh first as we said before she started praising God in all lands and then there's a second part where uh they are praying in the temple and then simply a beautiful, beautiful cantabile to God Himself and then comes the third, the fourth part where it's a chorale, uh solo of course. Uh, again all praises to God and then of course it closes at the end. Hallelujah.

Studs Terkel Hallelujah.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Hallelujah.

Studs Terkel I was [unintelligible] that while hearing part of how you wanted talking to various other aspects of uh, Teresa Stitch-Randall and, and this music. Again, thinking about your feeling now that you've returned to America, to sing various roles, uh is there a difference in, in attitude of audiences in different countries, do you find this toward opera?

Teresa Stitch-Randall No surprisingly this is something that I think everybody thinks exists and I swear to you it doesn't. People who love music and that's about 80 percent of the people in the whole world just love it you know, it's no different, Any place in the world Studs, if you go out there and they feel it immediately if you are sincere. I don't care if it's Tokyo or South America or North America or Alaska or South Italy or Africa.

Studs Terkel What reactions?

Teresa Stitch-Randall That's the same all over the world.

Studs Terkel And enthusiasm shows itself in different ways in Tokyo, so the firecrackers.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh yes.

Studs Terkel Are they different, different [Unintelligble].

Teresa Stitch-Randall But they had applauded madly for two weeks before, this was just their last way of saying oh that was terrific you know.

Studs Terkel But reactions basically.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh yes.

Studs Terkel You would say are, are the same, the world over?

Teresa Stitch-Randall I think music is truly and honestly the language of all humanity. You know everybody can understand and it certainly is, is. Ugh. Go on you say something now. [Laughs]. I'm getting emotional again.

Studs Terkel In this field, in this field of music now, in the various fields opera or the concert stage, do you find any particular challenge more intriguing to you? Is it a role say uh, Donna Anna tonight? Is more intriguing say than uh singing you know in a mahler the vocal part of a mahler or symphony?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Well I tell you quite frankly um, since I had the great fortune, thank God to have a musical background. I'm very involved musically, so I'm not that involved vocally. I just absolutely live for music and whatever I am studying or working and working on at the moment, I get a great deal of joy out of studying. By the way I didn't mention that to you before, I spend some of my most rewarding and glorious hours in my life studying. I have a, a man in Vienna with whom I work, I spend hours and hours and hours with him, a very serious coach and we have a wonderful time. We just work and work on everything possible but this covers everything, it covers from the very, very early, uh music through the baroque, the classic, right up to the very modern things. This is very exciting, musically. But to answer your question directly, truly whatever I am doing at the moment, whatever I'm singing tonight, that is the most important thing to me and the most intriguing.

Studs Terkel What is at, at that moment the present then?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes. Yes.

Studs Terkel The project of the present, then.

Teresa Stitch-Randall You see that answers also the question that I'm very often asks Studs, what's your favorite role. This is just impossible.

Studs Terkel Of course.

Teresa Stitch-Randall This is just impossible to answer. Whatever I'm singing at the moment.

Studs Terkel Each one has, each one.

Teresa Stitch-Randall [Ridiculious?]

Studs Terkel Has its own unique challenge of course.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes.

Studs Terkel Of, of the Don Giovanni tonight, you performed before Donna Anna with several of the same members that you worked with Verdi before.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh yes, Victor has been my Don uh, for the last three years in Vienna, uh [Seefried the Zerlina] Schwarzkopf, the um.

Studs Terkel Elvira.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Elvira. Mr. Jazari who is doing the Masetto, I have sung with him in the same role in.

Studs Terkel Waterbury too.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Uh, in Milan. Waterbury is also our Leporello in Vienna. That's practically the whole cast.

Studs Terkel So here then is the Viennese cast.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Actually yes, actually yes, we uh Simoneau also has done it in Vienna. Yes, this is really amazing.

Studs Terkel This is fantan- the staging of, I'm not, the staging of Giovanni, who did the staging?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Uh young Mr. Beber who is doing it tonight, is also from Vienna. [Laughs].

Studs Terkel So this is like Cosi fan

Teresa Stitch-Randall tutte [unintelligle]. Well he's a very talented boy and is certainly uh as, as much as it is possible to do in the short period that we are here. He has uh used some of his own personal touches, but of course uh if you do have a group of singers and ensemble where perhaps six of the soloists have been doing it for many years together, it is bound to.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Keep some of the form.

Studs Terkel Is there a byplay here that would not.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes.

Studs Terkel People doing on the first time with each other.

Teresa Stitch-Randall No.

Studs Terkel Is there this byplay isn't there?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes. It it certainly is.

Studs Terkel The role of uh Donna Anna is not the only Mozartian role [unintelligle].

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh no certainly not. I sing every role eh in all of the every opera which he wrote. I have the Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte with which I made my debut two weeks ago in Metropolitan, Pamina in Magic Flute, the Countess in Figaro.

Studs Terkel The Countess.

Teresa Stitch-Randall The oh yes I love it. Ilia in Idomeneo and the uh Ko- Konstanze in Seraglio, et cetera , et cetera. It's my great mad passion Mozart and then of course all of his magnificent, religious sacred music.

Studs Terkel I hear is there, we think of Mozart uh, there's so many Mozarts', but there's the man who loves life so much, the secular composer.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Poor man.

Studs Terkel Giovanni of Figaro. But yet uh, we don't hear as much about his religious, his mass for example.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh his mass in C and then the Requiem and then the many vespers. It's so fantastic really, the mass in C particularly very difficult it will be is very seldom performed because uh it's so difficult to uh find the soloists especially the two sopranos. It has it's the, the two sopranos or very second a high mezzo and it's very hard to get them together and perform this thing.

Studs Terkel The one you did a where was this uh?

Teresa Stitch-Randall We recorded it in Vienna.

Studs Terkel This was in Vienna.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes, we recorded it during the Mozart year in Vienna. And um my colleague from the Vienna State Opera Hilde Rossel-Majdan was singing the second soprano and did a beautiful job really.

Studs Terkel If we may the Et Incarnatus Est.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Et Incarnatus Est.

Studs Terkel Is what now, that would

Teresa Stitch-Randall mean. It is the offertory of the mass. And uh, this is probably also one of the most famous of his arias, certainly the most famous of his sacred arias.

Studs Terkel This one?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes.

Studs Terkel [Music playing]. As we listen to this Mozart passage, this vocal passage from the C minor of Mozart there's something you had said a moment ago is interesting, how naive your voice sounded then, you said this some six years ago.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Uh yes, but then when we had a discussion on it I realized that it's not exactly what I meant. Um it's, it's just um [laughs] our violent discussion as I was saying too, there are just those things Studs, uh which is a tragedy when a great, when a very very young person, thinks that they can force it. You just simply have to let time go by. There's just no changing it, there are the, the natural functions that a day or a month or a year or ten years bring with them and it changes everything. Otherwise, otherwise there would be no time. Otherwise there would not be no birth, no aging, no death. There's just this, this just, just would have no, firstly it wouldn't exist and then if it did exist it wouldn't have any sense. The ripeness, I don't want to mean that the naivety or as you said the purity and I don't mean that that changes, but it brings the profundity of the experience of aging and I don't mean the years, I mean mellowing, I mean, just the fact that maybe tomorrow you'll have a new idea, isn't that wonderful, just have a new idea.

Studs Terkel Beginning of life. Beginning of the life itself.

Teresa Stitch-Randall And be able to think about it. Just imagine. And these things are important to an artist. Important. This, this is, this is what makes an artist, this is what makes an artist great.

Studs Terkel In this perhaps what Toscanini may have meant when he said to you when he says, "Don't let them change you or don't let them move?" Wasn't this what he probably meant that life itself, having what you want have?

Teresa Stitch-Randall He said something, it just occurred to me when you said that to me he said something to me one strange coming from maestro, he said, "Really hitch your wagon to a star, but then stick to it." And I think perhaps that's exactly what he meant you know um, I'm, I'm a very, very active reader. I'm, I'm crazy about literature. I can never get enough uh, every kind of literature. The thing uh, I'm, I'm just a, I, I just can't get enough thoughts in other words. I just, I just don't, don't have enough to think about. Never. And this is so important to a creative artist. After all we are, we sing as our creative artist you see we have that unbelievable uh God given chance to have our instrument right there inside of us. I say God given because it has nothing to do with us and just exactly as I have it today I could not have it tomorrow, if, if fate meant it that way.

Studs Terkel Well your training has a lot to do with you, your belief has a lot to do with you, you or your, your skill has a lot to do with you.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh these are the things that we say in [German] "droman dra" and those are the things that circle around that. But the, the basic thing is that gift of the talent. And let's not get away from it, let's not, let's not uh.

Studs Terkel It's there or isn't there.

Teresa Stitch-Randall It's a point that it's a gift.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Teresa Stitch-Randall And neither you nor I have anything to do with it, you know?

Studs Terkel And so we come to this. Another aspect of this gift of your singing, Teresa Stitch-Randall. A wholly different language entirely.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Ah [Laughs], dah dah.

Studs Terkel A life, life of the Tsar.

Teresa Stitch-Randall [Speaking Russian] That was my mad Russian period.

Studs Terkel Well tell us about this matter, this uh language, what is linguistics?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh.

Studs Terkel Is there a manner in which you learn the language, you learn in conjunction with the.

Teresa Stitch-Randall No as far as I'm concerned there's only one way to learn it, go there and live there for a year and that's the most marvelous thing in the world.

Studs Terkel Is that where you learned Russian?

Teresa Stitch-Randall You just did to a, oh I wish I could have.

Studs Terkel This you learn from.

Teresa Stitch-Randall I've been dying to try to learn it but it's so difficult. When I was engaged to do this role um, I was fascinated because I'm fascinated by languages, I speak four and understand five, almost six and if I could I'd, I'd love to speak and understand all of them as many as I could get a hold of. So when Columbia telegraphed and said would you do it in Russian. Well, I was thrilled.

Studs Terkel The role of Antonida.

Teresa Stitch-Randall So but listen to what happened. Um I go out buy the score of the life of the top of the Antonida and I start working, I get a little Russian woman come into my apartment in Vienna every day and I was fascinated. It's such a beautiful language, it's really such a magnificent and beautiful language. And I was so fascinated it was my first experience with Russian. I thought, I'm going to learn Russian. So this went on for about a half a year and exactly one month before the record was to be made in Paris. I had a package in the mornings mail and I opened it up and it was a score of A Life for the Tsar. [Wasn't him Zimmer this interview score for life Tsar]. I don't need it. I have my own. And uh about a half hour or an hour later my little Russian teacher arrived and uh, I said look this is quite different than the one I have, what is this? And she took one look at it and got sort of white in the face and she said, "Well, this is a completely different text you'd better call Paris." So I called them immediately, I put through a person to person call right immediately to the musical director and I spoke with him and it turned out that I had bought the score of course that the uh Soviet of the present government turned out with a completely revised text, of course.

Studs Terkel But different.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes of course because they are not going to uh glamorize the Tsar or anything of the past, so they have a completely different text and the record is the original text from Count Rozen of course from the time of [Linka] you see and here.

Studs Terkel [Laughs].

Teresa Stitch-Randall I had gone through all of this uh, wonderful period of being so pro.

Studs Terkel [Unintelligle].

Teresa Stitch-Randall Russian language and having a wonderful time getting the vowels running around. That was the end of my Russian. I spent about the next three weeks pounding the new text into my head and I said, well adieu forever and ever [nostrovia] or something like that.

Studs Terkel So you learned.

Teresa Stitch-Randall That was the end of my Russian.

Studs Terkel So then came the new text, but apparently it sounds very well on the recording.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Excellent. They told me the record has in the meantime gone behind the iron curtain and the people are, are thrilled with it.

Studs Terkel On this recording of yours?

Teresa Stitch-Randall Yes. They say my Russian is excellent, but really and truly it was such a disappointment to me because I had such a good time with the language and you know I was being really pepped up because I thought and I'm going to get another language. And uh I had all intentions of seriously studying.

Studs Terkel But you still have the language with the study you have.

Teresa Stitch-Randall No then I never, then I didn't go on Studs. No it's much too difficult.

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah.

Teresa Stitch-Randall And it's the most complicated of languages.

Studs Terkel Suppose you lead in, set the scene for Antonida's aria a cavatina rondo here. This in their life uh, for the Tsar.

Teresa Stitch-Randall [Russian speaking.] That's enough uh this was about two years ago when I recorded it. I'm sure that was the wrong.

Studs Terkel [Laughs]. I gazed across the open planes.

Teresa Stitch-Randall I hoped that no Russians are listening and if they are I hope they forgive me.

Studs Terkel And this she describing the, the river, the place where she lives.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh it's magnificent, she's sitting all alone in this, in her little hut where she with her father and everybody lives and she's gazing. She has heard in the distance before the aria comes that's right the very beginning of the aria and you hear in the background the cossack singing. And she said, "Here I sit and gaze across my beloved plains" you know they love their plains and so you hear the plains. [Music playing]. The music of oboe.

Studs Terkel Antonida Glinka as Antonida and her love of land and that's perhaps the best way for the moment to bring to conclusion this conversation with Teresa Stitch-Randall and her love of music really. And this is a way of really, a, a preface as far as the audience is concerned. A preface to a great many in seeing you during your three performances here in Chicago. The lyric is Donna Anna, Don Giovanni.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Thank you so much for having me here Studs, it's been a great honor and an enormous pleasure to be able to speak and appear personally before your wonderful Chicago public.

Studs Terkel Ah good, obviously you, you're a very good guest as you may have guessed your very good guest to have.

Teresa Stitch-Randall [Laughs].

Studs Terkel And so much vitality and a ebullience and you're free and speaking so this, let's call this chapter one.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Oh yes let's do, thanks so much.

Studs Terkel Teresa Stitch-Randall, best of luck tonight.

Teresa Stitch-Randall Thank you so much.