Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Catherine Anahid Berberian, 1925-1983

Almost certainly, she was the most intelligent singer

ever to have graced the face of the earth.--

Massimo Mila (1910-1988), Italian musicologist

It is twenty five years since Cathy Berberian, the celebrated mezzo-soprano, composer, polyhistor and artistic non-conformist died in Rome at the age of 57. She was an incredible artistic personality who inhabited her own exquisitely hybrid Universe of The Arts blending music, theatre, cinema, dance, languages, design and devilishly clever wit. She was as funny as she was intelligent: a very rare and uniquely special person.

Her individualistic interpretation and colourful performances were so distinctive that many composers -- Berio, Bussotti, Cage, Henze, Maderna and Stravinsky (amongst many others including the author Anthony Burgess) composed for her inimitable capacities and talent.

Cathy Berberian invented the new vocal techniques, 'la nuova vocalità'. She unsettled encroached conservative conceptions by sheer individuality, talent and ability. Her capacities as an actress were as dazzling as her musicianship, according to Peter Brooke with whom she worked.

She shook free Monteverdi from years of dust and reached across centuries of répertoire to the avant-garde of her day, ennobling Kurt Weil, Folk Music and The Beatles en passant.

Cathy was a true multiartist with a comparativist perspective and philosophy, the centrepin of which was:

There is no division between the Arts -- there is good and there is bad; nothing else!

She appreciated all genres of music and art inside a multi-disciplinary concept. To be aware, to appreciate, to be forever inquisitive upon a deeper level of study and social history were her prerequisites for work within every discipline. She acted, translated, composed, researched brilliant programmes and filed her work in a pre-computer age inside her head and paper folders.

Cathy Berberian's rightful place as Muse to the evolution of Music in the second half of the twentieth century is yet to be fully appreciated.

Source: Jennifer I Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland, in an article from 6 March 2008, in Music and Vision.

Visit my recent post "Luciano Berio - Cathy Berberian - Recital I for Cathy in the Kammermusikkammer