Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Disco Queen Donna Summer Sang with Vienna Opera
Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 12:25 PM
Although best known for her numerous disco-era hits including "I Feel Love," "Last Dance" and "Love to Love You Baby," Donna Summer, who died Thursday at 63, got her start singing in musical theater and opera.
After a brief stint living in New York in 1968, Summer moved to Europe, where she was hired for a German-language version of "Hair."
She continued to work in musical theater in Germany and Austria for several years, appearing in productions of "Porgy and Bess," "Godspell" and "The Me Nobody Knows." Her credits included a stint at the Vienna Folk Opera, based out of Vienna's famous operetta house, the Volksoper. The latter experience was not always a happy one, evidently; in a 2008 interview with the Daily Telegraph she complained that other singers were mean to her because she didn't have formal operatic training.
Summer also became a studio session singer, which laid the groundwork for her first hit single, "Love to Love You Baby," in 1975. She returned occasionally to show tunes, including at a Carnegie Hall fundraiser in 1998.
Summer died Thursday after a long battle with cancer. Here is a German recording of Summer singing "White Boys" from "Hair":