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Teresa Stich-Randall talks with Studs Terkel ; part 2

BROADCAST: Dec. 1, 1964 | DURATION: 00:24:00


Studs Terkel interviews soprano Teresa Stich-Randall. This is an interview done in two parts.


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


Studs Terkel Donna Anna. Really, honor is the word. What's that word again? "[Italian]."

Teresa Stich-Randall L'onore.

Studs Terkel L'onore. Honor is the word. Spain. Of course, we think of [unintelligible] Mozart again. You made your debut in "Cosi Fan Tutte" at the Met, didn't you?

Teresa Stich-Randall Yes, that was four seasons ago. It was my first, my first step on that glorious stage with the golden curtain and it was pretty exciting, I can tell you, and listening behind us in the studio was Mother and Bob, the whole family was there rooting. It's been such a strange career, you know, I started really--when you stop and think, Studs, how I started in this country, it's pretty earth-shattering, such a young girl to have those opportunities with Toscanini and they meant so much to me, and it was so--it formed so much of my whole life I can't tell you.

Studs Terkel Toscanini was one of the early mentors.

Teresa Stich-Randall He was the one who found me, so to speak, and I did then in his production of "Aida" the high priestess, and the following year when he did "Falstaff". Can you imagine for a girl of my age to have been able to do the Nannetta in "Falstaff", that great glory of Verdi, that great piece of, that gem in all music? One of the greatest things that exist? And I, in my teens, I sang the Nannetta with him. That year, he said to me, "Get abroad, child. Don't study, but get abroad. That's where you have to go." He also said to me, "Build yourself a great big elephant skin, a great big wall," because he thought I was much too sensitive and I couldn't make a career. And I got abroad and went abroad and started at the Vienna State Opera, that was these 12 years ago. And that's why I sat. Maestro telegraphed me two years following in a row, immediately, the first year I was abroad he wanted me to do the Eurydice in his "Orfeo", I couldn't come because at that time I was a real little beginner and I was hooked right down for 12 months at the Vienna State Opera, and the following year he telegraphed me again for Oscar in "Ballo Maschera" and I couldn't come for that, either. But I saw Maestro every year. He came every summer, you know, to Milan, to the lago, and I spent a lot of time with him and I spent rather a lot of time with the family in Via Durini Venti in Milano where Wally Toscanini still is, with whom I spent a great deal of time last year when I was at Scala. And, oh, she's wonderful, she's just so wonderful. I had lots of fun with her last year and after all of those years, Studs, and singing in every opera house in Europe and even trips to the Orient and trips all over the world, I finally came home.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking of your triumphs and the various roles, you also--since we opened with Strauss, we'll end with Strauss, too. You did Sophie, did you not, in "Der Rosenkavalier"?

Teresa Stich-Randall Oh, that's a story in itself. My first Strauss opera, my first in Vienna, and Sophie I learned, oh, honestly. Making a career. You know, we should, I should really come back more often and we should just have some talks about things in general. One subject there, one subject there. Making a career is something. When you really just struggle through, and I mean struggled, you have so much to say and could say so much to young people. But you know what I say, a great deal, and I believe it and it's true? The voice, we were talking about before, which I still contend and stick to that it is one of the glorious gifts of God, that could be. However, it's not the deciding factor nor the principal factor.

Studs Terkel What is?

Teresa Stich-Randall It's one of the--

Studs Terkel What are--

Teresa Stich-Randall Oh, Studs.

Studs Terkel What are the factors? Several, right? A certain dedication?

Teresa Stich-Randall Discipline.

Studs Terkel Dedication.

Teresa Stich-Randall An enormous dedication, but discipline. Discipline, mostly. Because if you have discipline that will carry you through all of the list of things that you have to have before you really could ever open up your mouth or that you would have to have a long, to produce the voice and that is this enormous amount of study. The study that never ends, Studs, never. Never never never never. You're studying over and over. But let's get back to Sophie, which is what brought me on sort of wobbling out on that side street, I do that all the time. You should stop me.

Studs Terkel No, no, it's all connected, all related. Sophie.

Teresa Stich-Randall Sometimes I miss it, though. Sometimes I get so far away I forget the relationship. Here I was, wet behind the ears, etc., little Connecticut New England girl, member of the Vienna State Opera, and I had sung everything. I was singing sometimes three times a week. My first year there, I relearned nine of my roles in German. That time in Theater an der Vien was still under the Occupation. The opera had not been rebuilt. The rule was everything in German, which was so funny, Studs. Honestly, my first "Carmen", everything in German was a joke. Firstly, most of the roles I sung the first year, I would have to sing them in the original language which I knew them before I could learn them, relearn them. It was a hard year for me. That's how I learned German, too, by the way, you should have heard my first year German.

Studs Terkel The German was in the doing.

Teresa Stich-Randall All I could do was, you know, get my phrases out of opera, so I was sounding quite classical, I must admit. It's changed in the meantime. But, the thing is, for instance, my first "Carmen", that was wonderful. The tenor was a Yugoslav who sang in Yugoslav, Slavish. The "Carmen" was a steady member of the opera, but she, too, was a born Yugoslav. But she sang in French with a Yugoslav accent. The Don Jose--Escamillo sang in German and I sang in French, too, yes. That can't be it. There was another opera once where I know we had five languages.

Studs Terkel So five, it was sort of a United Nations, United Nations opera.

Teresa Stich-Randall In any case--

Studs Terkel You were Michaela.

Teresa Stich-Randall In any case it was certainly a schooling for me my first three years there before my big European career burst out. I sat a great deal in Vienna and went for occasional concerts in other countries, but it took a while and then I had this great international career so that I was singing in the entire Europe and Scandinavia all over. But those first three years I was more or less welded there and would probably only go out about two months split up into concerts. And--

Studs Terkel Sophie.

Teresa Stich-Randall I had a repertoire of about 48 operas and it wasn't very long when Strauss came along. Well, my singing knowledge of Strauss was new because I had sung songs in school and songs before I went abroad and songs in Europe but they were also the known Strauss songs, you know, Morgen Sweig, I hadn't been deeply involved with Richard Strauss, nor had I ever as you easily can understand had an opportunity to sing a Strauss opera. Here I was, Sophie in "Der Rosenkavalier", and I had to get that done in a very short time. That's another one of those things that depends if you make it or you don't make it that I was talking about, all these different things. You've also, you've got to work like a dog, you've got to learn quickly and it has to stick. You've got to have a capacity. But, of course, I think that, again, comes under discipline, Studs, if you want to get back to it. So I learned, oh boy, did I learn, day upon day upon day upon day, I had Sophie pounded into me, but let me tell you something: going to an opera studio in the Opera House and learning "Rosenkavalier" with piano is not very difficult. It was gorgeous. I was having the time of my life floating in this, what do you call, the stratosphere of Sophie, these marvelous long phrases and I was delighting in this beautiful, beautiful opportunity to sort of just float around with the angels, and I was having a wonderful time. Comes the need for me, just like that overnight, they had to have my Sophie. And I--somebody, I didn't even say it, I mean, I was just about as--the biggest idiot as I still am, that ever was created. Somebody said, "But, she's got to have an orchestra rehearsal. She's never sung Strauss before on the stage." So, no, no, no, no, I don't need an orchestra rehearsal, thinking, you know, and it just so happened Professor Moralt, it was with him that I sang my first Sophie, was having a Philharmonic concert. Oh, he was the one who did it. He was a wonderful man, oh, I just loved him very much. He died so terribly young a few years ago. And Professor Moralt was one, he said, "Oh, no, Stich she has to have an orchestra rehearsal. Not an orch-- Full orchestra rehearsal, have her come over, I'll cut my Philharmonic rehearsal, have her come over with Maria Reining and Sena Jurinac, and we'll do just her scenes. So we'll just do the second act scenes, skip everything else, don't even have the [Aux?] or anybody else there. And we'll do the trio, we won't even have a chance, we didn't even have a chance to do all those terribly difficult little things that come in between. And thank God, Studs, I was really idiotic, you know, really naive. Because if you had any idea of what's in front of you--

Studs Terkel The difference between

Teresa Stich-Randall the piano and the orchestra. You couldn't go through with it. So I'd come over to the Philharmonic house and sit right there in front of Professor Moralt on the chair and he conducts, and we sing, and here it is an ordinary orchestral session. I must say, when they broke in on the beginning of that second act, I went about three feet out of my chair. I had never heard that sound before. You know--

Studs Terkel Then you realize

Teresa Stich-Randall there's a slight difference here between piano rehearsal and orchestra. I mean, this is, this man was this great genius because he changed the whole color of the orchestra and he was a genius. And he's going to take his place, I'm telling you it's going to take a while coming, but he's got to fit in along with all the great geniuses, but at the same time here's this stoic New England character, and I said, "Don't show him, you know, don't show him you're scared to death." So I thought, "I know it musically terribly well. The thing is, just sing, don't even listen. If I had listened, Studs, I couldn't have gotten through it, because if you listen, you hear everything, and nothing, you don't know where you are. And you have this swelling! As soon as we play this next song, I'm going to point it out to you, you have this swelling sound, you have--it's just really impressionalistic (sic) painting, it's--and I say that because I adore the impressionalistic period more than anything in the world. This myriad of colors. So I thought, "Hold on, gal, hold on." I got through the rehearsal alright, and afterwards Professor Moralt said to me, he took my hand and said, "Don't be frightened, you'll be right." And I said to him, and the orchestra almost collapsed, I said to him, I wanted to say to him, "Oh, I'll be leaning on you through the whole performance," and I said, "Oh, Herr Professor, I'll be laying on you through the whole performance," because "lugen" and "lehnend" is so close together, and that as I say was my first--

Studs Terkel The orchestra broke up on that.

Teresa Stich-Randall Year. They went to pieces. And they've never forgotten it, you know, this is 12 years ago and everybody still talks about it. But for someone who didn't speak German, who had only stage--

Studs Terkel You did very well.

Teresa Stich-Randall "Lehnend," "lugen," it is not much--

Studs Terkel Very well. Obviously you made an impression.

Teresa Stich-Randall I got on the stage that night and I said the same thing to myself, "Just hold on, you know, be as hard as rocks, you'll get through it." It was a new thing all over again, Studs, because I didn't have the orchestra behind me. I was up on the stage and they were down there in the pit in front of me hitting me in the face!

Studs Terkel So you were doing it by ear, flying blind.

Teresa Stich-Randall I flew blind because that night, too, thank heavens, I have perfect pitch and I just said to myself, "Gal, you know this role, and you do know it, you know it beat for beat, note for note. You just sing and don't pay attention to anybody or anything." And I got through it.

Studs Terkel And here's a thought since Richard Strauss really is the hero of this particular sequence with Teresa Stich-Randall and Mozart, of course, but I'm sure this is going to be merely the second visit, because obviously, as the audience can gather, Teresa Stich-Randall is colorful, indeed, and the stories are quite revealing. We were saying about "Der Rosenkavalier", does the thought of you ever doing, some day, some day, your doing the Marschallin occur to you?

Teresa Stich-Randall The night before I came here, I had--what is today, Monday? Yeah. Two weeks ago, this just this past Saturday, I had a recital in Geneva, and the day before, Professor Graf, Dr. Graf, who is now the director of the opera, called me up and asked me if I would do it. I had done Sophie with him last year. If I wouldn't think of doing it in the future, and I said to him as I have said to everybody else emphatically, "No. Never."

Studs Terkel Why do you say never? Hardly ever, but why never?

Teresa Stich-Randall Dr. Graf said to me, he was quite upset and said he thought I should think of it and he said, "But of course I would never argue with you vocally or musically or your feeling because I know you know." And I said, "Dr. Graf, there are so many reasons. Firstly, because I have no intention of ever changing my 'fach.'" Now, I don't know what that word is in English, Studs. It's the limit that you are in. You see, I don't believe that there has ever been born a singer who can sing everything.

Studs Terkel And you feel that Marschallin may be outside your particular world.

Teresa Stich-Randall Has nothing to do with my vocal limits. That is the most principal thing. That is the reason because I said that to Dr. Graf, and he just couldn't believe it and argued with me on the phone and he said, "Yes, but people mature and change and their voice changes," and I said, "No, Dr. Graf, a voice may grow somewhat in strength and the colors." We go back again to the beginning of our talk, Studs, when we were talking about the--getting riper. So I think this changes also the color of the voice, but the vocal chords don't ever change. Which means that if I'm born a lyric soprano I'm never going to be able to sing "Lakhme", never! Although lots of people try. But then, as you see, lots of people go to pieces early. It's such a mistake--

Studs Terkel Of course, you have

Teresa Stich-Randall an idea, you have an idea of what you can do. To leave your limits, Studs. It's not right if a beautiful lyric soprano, for some reason or other, someone, a person, perhaps in a great position, takes this poor person and insists and then turns them, tries to, into a dramatic soprano, it's the end. You know, anybody can get through it. I've said that time and again, "Sure, I can sing Isolde, if you want I'll sing Brunhilde, anything you want.

Studs Terkel

Teresa Stich-Randall But that isn't it. The question is, how long? How long? Maybe not even one season. And the thing about the Marschallin is that it belongs to what we call in German, "[German]," it belongs in the dramatic "fach"--

Studs Terkel Rather than the

Teresa Stich-Randall lyric. In the dramatic. Oh, yes, it's not lyric at all.

Studs Terkel And yet it's hard to tell, isn't it, you say you never will, and yet quite possibly a time may come when you may be just right for the Mar-- you say no. This is quite astonishing, here is a singer herself who knows--

Teresa Stich-Randall I know why, my dear, and there are more reasons than one because that time will never come, either, as far as age is concerned.

Studs Terkel Well, this is, of course, an astonishing comment by a singer who says, no, she will not do the Marschallin because she knows what her world is like--

Teresa Stich-Randall I pray practically daily, Studs, to have the courage, and it certainly is going to be hard, but I do pray and hope for the strength and courage to stop when I should and that means when I'm still quite young.

Studs Terkel Oh, this was Lehmann's great moment, wasn't it. Some called her great, her shining hour, when on the stage she said, "I remember the Marschallin look in the mirror, and as I am doing it now," the voice is still, the audience is crying, "No,"--

Teresa Stich-Randall You must never forget--

Studs Terkel And she stopped.

Teresa Stich-Randall How this woman did it, too. I mean, I don't know, I don't want to go that long. I don't want to sing that long. But don't forget, Studs, that she had gone on for a long recital career, but many years before she had left the operatic stage with the same statement more or less, what a courageous woman, what a great character.

Studs Terkel And, so, this matter, coming back to this theme aside from Lehmann, of course, and her--The Titanic--

Teresa Stich-Randall Her greatness.

Studs Terkel Quality of Lotte Lehmann, this matter of a singer recognizing her world, her music, her operatic world, in sum, of course, remarkable; don't, and the career is cut short. Is that it?

Teresa Stich-Randall I think that that outside influences have so much to do with it. You know, Studs, you get surrounded by organizations or people--

Studs Terkel Impresarios say do it, do it, do it.

Teresa Stich-Randall Or organizations, and they're going to exploit this talent. And, my dear, what you do, we are human beings, dear God, with all the weaknesses of human beings, and if you get nothing, nothing, except glorious scrumptious praise poured into you from day to day, "You're the greatest thing that was ever born, the greatest singer, you can do "Salome", you can do "Norma", you can do Brunhilde"--

Studs Terkel And you get to believe it.

Teresa Stich-Randall I suppose they believe it after a while, and you see, I suppose, that they are so worked on, and then they get so excited themselves that they carry it through for a couple of years. But I said to you before anybody can, you know, I can sing Isolde, anybody, a Very Griss, that delightful gorgeous coloratura soprano could sing Isolde if she wanted to, but I think both of us want to sing a little bit longer than one or two years.

Studs Terkel This is the tragedy apparently of some of the superb singers of our day, of this very point. This stretching, the stretching the world beyond what is human and right.

Teresa Stich-Randall You do agree with me, don't you, Studs, that vocal chords have their limits.

Studs Terkel Well, you're telling me, you're the authority on this, baby, you're the one. Teresa Stich-Randall.

Teresa Stich-Randall Well, stop and think about it. We are physically limited with everything.

Studs Terkel Teresa Stich-Randall is our guest, and as the audience can gather, a very stimulating one as well as remarkable singer. We started, aside from the roles she's played in opera and the successes she scored, Mozart, one of the heroes of this morning, and Richard Strauss, the other. We opened with, you haven't heard this either, for this is the first time you're hearing it, with a new Strauss album, "Westminster", one side the Daphne arias and the other side the "Four Last Songs", and we opened the program with "Fruhling", with "Spring", suppose we close the program for now, although there's much, much more to be said--

Teresa Stich-Randall "Beim Schlafengehen".

Studs Terkel "Beim Schlafengehen", also Hermann Hesse's lyric. "Time to Sleep". Here again the theme of, you feel, a man approaching the end of a very rich and rewarding life. At least that's the way you interpret it, don't you, this cycle of songs, don't you?

Teresa Stich-Randall No, I think we misunderstood us at the beginning. I felt that it was not the end, Studs. That's where we, remember we questioned where the "Four Last Songs" came from, whether it was Strauss or not. I don't feel it honestly, and I feel it's just a great preoccupation, occupation, a great, great inner thinking of what it's all about. Everything, life, death, the universe, everything.

Studs Terkel So not the end so much as a realization of a mature man, of what it's all about in that way. So suppose, by the album, is "Westminster", quite a remarkable one, it's "Westminster", XWN 19081, and there are a number of arias here from "Daphne", three--

Teresa Stich-Randall That's also an extraordinary

Studs Terkel opera. And the "Four Last Songs": "Fruhling", which we heard in the beginning, "September", "Beim Schlafengehen", we're about to hear, and "Im Abendrot", in that case the words by Eichendorff, but the Hesse, well, suppose we end now, Teresa Stich-Randall, with again your reading and the music. This is a good way of saying goodbye, too. Goodbye, as Dylan Thomas would say, but just for now.

Teresa Stich-Randall "[German]."

Studs Terkel "Now the day has wearied me," goes the translation, though a translation never matches the original. "All my gain, all my longing like a weary child shall be night whose many stars are thronging."

Teresa Stich-Randall "Hands, leave everything now. Brow, forget all your idle thinking. All my thoughts and my feelings want to sink softly into sleep and the soul will rise in flight gliding, softly swaying in the magic realm of night deep, very deep, the laws of life to obey."

Studs Terkel Teresa Stich-Randall, thank you very much, too, as we're about to hear "Beim Schlafengehen".

Teresa Stich-Randall Thank you,