The great opera singer Grace Bumbry died the other day at the age of 86. She had a big career in all the major houses and was a special favorite at the Met. She was the first to sing Bess in *Porgy and Bess* at the Met, a role she had avoided up to that point but she figured if it's the Met asking, why not?
The engagement that put her on the map was in 1961, at the age of 24, singing Venus in *Tannhäuser* at the Wagner temple, the Bayreuth Festival. She was the first Black singer to sing a leading role at Bayreuth. There was an outcry among certain members of the audience but the director, Wieland Wagner, said, "My grandfather wrote for vocal colors, not for skin colors."
Here she is singing her signature aria, "O don fatale" from *Don Carlo.* Burn the barn down!
My brother Howard alerted me to the death of Rita Lee, of the Brazilian band Os Mutantes. She was 75. I'd never heard of her or the band but wow, delicious! Here's an excerpt from her NY Times obit, which referred to her as "Brazil's Queen of Rock:"
"With Os Mutantes, Ms. Lee was a product of the tropicália movement (also known as tropicalismo), an anti-authoritarian Brazilian cultural flowering that started in the late 1960s. She ultimately became a commercial powerhouse, selling a reported 55 million records over a career that stretched over half a century."
One more cute story from her NY Times obit, this one starring that guy over in England:
"Her reach was global. Kurt Cobain, David Byrne and Beck are among the many musical innovators who hailed the subversive oeuvre of Os Mutantes. In 1988, King Charles III, then the Prince of Wales, requested one of her records for a dance at a banquet at the British Embassy in Paris. He was said to know the words 'by heart,' according to The Daily Mirror."