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Marilyn Horne Remembers Triumphs, Battles and 'Singing Everything'

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Video: Marilyn Horne on Television Stardom

The mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne ignited numerous trends in opera over the last half-century, including the bel canto revival of the 1960s, the growth of the art song recital and the fleeting burst of opera on television. In an in-depth interview with host Naomi Lewin she talks about how she came to dominate many of these areas. She also wades into more controversial territory.

Horne argues that opera houses have been too infatuated with overly conceptual productions while ignoring the lavish, albeit traditional, spectacles by director Franco Zefferelli. She sighs that too many singers are hired today because of their appearance (“if you got three singers vying for a role today, and they sing equally, the person who looks great is going to get it”). And she feels that microphones are an inevitable next step for opera houses, just as they have taken over on Broadway stages. 

Horne, 77, was a fixture on many of the world's opera and concert stages for some five decades. She speaks passionately about some of her famed musical partners including Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballe, James Levine and her late husband, the conductor Henry Lewis. While considering her own battles -- with everything from conductors to pancreatic cancer -- Horne reflects on her legacy. “I’ve sung everything – from soup to nuts I’ve sung it,” she said. “If I have a legacy, it’s that I did sing so much variety and that it can be done.”

Horne is being honored at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s annual luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria on Oct. 31, with many tributes from past and present colleagues expected. Listen below to Horne on key topics in her life and career and tune in to WQXR on Saturday, Oct. 29 after Saturday at the Opera to hear more:

On finding her voice and discovering bel canto roles

On the Metropolitan Opera, television and weight loss

On recital singing

On leaving a legacy


Produced by Naomi Lewin and Brian Wise; Video produced by Kim Nowacki