I saw *Jarmila Novotná: Her Life in Song* at Urban Stages on 12/13/18. Novotná was a Czech soprano, a star at the Met in the 40s and 50s, sang at many other international houses, did a few movies, some work on Broadway, and was an inspiration to the last wave of great operetta composers. The show was produced and hosted by William V. Madison with music director Eric Sedgwick at the piano.
The program opened with Shelley Mihm singing Rusalka's "Song to the Moon." Her voice was extraordinarily rich and colorful in its upper third. Margaret Newcomb was another impressive singer on the program, she sang the "Vilja" from *The Merry Widow,* which perfectly showed off her lustrous middle voice. She also had a nice arch at the top. If I could ask for anything, I might ask for a bit more indulgence - - operetta should be a little soupy.
The undisputed star of the show was Janice Hall. She sang a wide variety of numbers: "Chacun à son goût" from *Die Fledermaus* (crystal clear diction), "Speak Low" from *One Touch of Venus* (she sang that with a microphone, which made it more intimate), a Czech folk song with Brendan Eprile on guitar (charming), and best of all, "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß" from *Giuditta,* which Franz Lehár wrote for Novotná. Hall had just the right amount of soup! She was wonderful, and she has a winning manner with a tambourine.
Novotná's granddaughter, violinist Tatiana Daubek, performed Tartini's *The Devil's Trill* with a cellist and guitarist from House of Time, a Manhattan-based early music ensemble. They gave a nice bit of variety in the program.
I knew Novotná by reputation but had never heard her voice, so earlier that day I found this treasure from early television. I find it amusing that she sings in German when she's in the kitchen, but when she's magically transported to Vienna, she's singing in English!