Marion Lignana Rosenberg, a writer, critic and translator who chronicled the classical music world with a stylish insight for outlets including WQXR, died on Thursday near Albany, NY. She was 51. She had been celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and suffered a pulmonary embolism, according to those who were present.
A multilingual writer of wide-ranging interests – from Italian art and literature to the life of Maria Callas – Rosenberg’s feature stories and music criticism appeared frequently in Time Out New York, as well as Newsday, Forward, Capital New York, Opera News, Salon, the Classical Review and La Voce di New York.
In even the most workaday journalism assignments, Rosenberg had a literate and avid style that stood out in an age of sometimes glib, snark-infused writing. For WQXR's Operavore blog, she explored the theme of women and madness in the works of Monteverdi, Donizetti and Sciarrino; analyzed Cecilia Bartoli’s ever-evolving image; and wrote vividly about the Italian adventurer and author Giacomo Casanova, among other articles (early and modern opera were often focal points).
Rosenberg had precise opinions and didn’t shy away from contrarian viewpoints. While many critics lauded the Bach Cantata series on the Soli Deo Gloria label, and especially its multicultural cover photography, Rosenberg argued in an essay for WQXR.org that the concept eluded the composer’s intentions. "With all due respect," she wrote, "Bach’s cantatas transcend nothing, and that is their glory. Bach was a pious Lutheran, and to deny him his particularity is to wrong him and those who share his beliefs—and to wrong others, as well."
New Jersey to Harvard
Rosenberg was born on Dec. 8, 1961 and grew up in Fort Lee and Secaucus, New Jersey. She studied Romance languages and literature at Harvard and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1983. She continued her studies in theater and opera history at the Università degli studi in Florence, Italy, and in comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1989 she married Michael Rosenberg, a recording executive; they later divorced but she kept his name.
Returning to the New York area, Rosenberg became an Italian and French translator, working for clients such as Barron’s Educational Series, a test preparation company, as well as Harper Collins, A&E Television and numerous musicians (she described translation as "an invitation to abuse and exploitation" and "an engulfing pursuit").
Described by friends and acquaintances as sensitive and sympathetic to the underdog, Rosenberg was vocal on social media about gay rights and Jewish causes. "She was a Renaissance woman, oozing culture from every pore, yet she never boasted about that, she never sounded posh,” wrote her friend Giorgia Meschini, on the blog Will That Be All.
In an e-mail from Paris, the author Fred Plotkin, who also writes for Operavore, remembered Rosenberg's love of Verdi. “One of the first long conversations Marion and I had was about early Verdi and I told her about a particular book in Italian," he said. "On a trip to Italy I picked it up for her and she always remembered that (in her words) I thought enough of her to do that. Therefore, our touchstone point of reference was early Verdi in a time when most people thought he began his career with Rigoletto after having done Nabucco early and then somehow having no accomplishments until Rigoletto came along.”
Along with her work for mainstream news outlets, Rosenberg also wrote for a number of Italian language publications. Her essay “Re-visioning Callas,” published in (the now-defunct) USItalia, won an award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York, and her blog of the same title was an ongoing chronicle of Callas news and musings. Radio work included appearances on WNYC and specials on Verdi and Callas for WHRB in Cambridge, MA.
Rosenberg lived in Greenwich Village and is survived by her parents and stepmother. A memorial service is currently being planned.
With thanks to Steve Smith, Marion Lignana Rosenberg's longtime editor at Time Out New York, for additional research and reporting.