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Whenever Donald Collup presents a program for the VRCS, we can be sure of something unusual, even unique. A decade back he gave us the honor of premiering his documentary NEVER BEFORE: THE LIFE, ART & FIRST NEW YORK CAREER OF ASTRID VARNAY, which subsequently was presented to numerous Wagner Societies across the United States (please visit http://www.collup.com/neverbefore/premiere.html.) Then came his second VRCS premiere, a documentary called FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS – A WORLD OF HER OWN, similarly successful (see http://www.collup.com/ffj/world.html). (The Jenkins documentary can be purchased at vaimusic.com) Other programs followed, including a wonderful introduction of an ongoing project of his called “The Operatic PastCast”, a podcast devoted to his interviewing at length many people from all areas of the operatic world – singers, collectors, authors, standees and die-hard opera fans, this to preserve and present operatic memories and impressions, both visual and aural, with some emphasis on hearing singers “live” in the house. Another podcast is devoted to Alfred Hubay, who was closely affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera in many capacities from 1943 through 2005. Donald’s most recent program for us was a memorable one, involving a close and riveting examination of the career of Italian-American soprano Elisabeth Carron, all in her own words.
Never one to repeat himself, Donald’s latest program for the VRCS will involve fascinating vocal highlights (mostly sung, a few spoken) from a huge collection of reel-to-reel tapes he only recently finished transferring, but we will let Donald tell the story in his own words (edited for space considerations):
“In January of 2013, a noted collector of photographs, autographs and antiques passed away. Over the years he had hired me to record live and archive Sirius Met broadcasts two or three times a week, since he attended the Met almost nightly. He also had me transfer a handful of reels which told me he had an unusual collection, but I couldn’t talk him into letting me start transferring them.
“I wrote to the executor of the estate voicing my concern about the collection, requesting that it not be discarded nor given to someone who would then just continue to store it, and learned that a friend and trusted colleague of the late collector was in charge of it. In June of 2013, another collector with whom I had traded in the past sent me dozens of pictures of stacks and stacks of these reels. When I responded, offering my help in transferring the reels, that collector responded that he had purchased that very collection! There were exactly 2,500 reels, half of it Met material, the other half from elsewhere.
“There were several great things about the collection: 1) The collector purchased reels of Met broadcasts from collectors/recordists in Manhattan, which meant they were very often in FM, whereas the rest of the U.S. received broadcasts in AM only. 2) The purchased reels were not multi-generational, meaning less possibility of gradation of quality via copies of copies of copies. 3) Most of the reels I’ve transferred have announcements/curtain calls by Milton Cross, intermission features and/or radio station signoffs. Many of the 1940s reels are rather pristine single-digit-generation transfers of transcription discs that were sent to South America and Mexico for re-broadcast, utilizing a Spanish or Portuguese-speaking announcer. 4) This collector took his reel-to-reel Uher deck into opera houses all over the world and made in-house recordings. 5) The reels were rarely if ever played!
“About 15 years ago at the VRCS, a man named Paul Micio (VRCS note: we remember him well!) asked me if I was interested in buying an AKAI GX-747 DBX 4 Track Stereo Deck, as he was moving to France. We arranged a meeting at my apartment to make the sale, but when he arrived, he carried the extremely heavy deck into my apartment and totally surprised me with the deck as a GIFT, for which I have been forever grateful. Every audiophile that has seen it compliments its high quality. Using this, I finished transferring the entire collection in the fall of 2015.”
We saved the best part for last. Donald tells us, “The collection consists of live, in-house or broadcast, opera, concert and recital performances from venues such as The Met, Town Hall, New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New Orleans Opera, Lewisohn Stadium, Carnegie Hall, Hunter College, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, NBC Opera Theater, Philadelphia Lyric Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, New Jersey State Opera, Pittsburgh, Pasadena, Sante Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Washington, Philadelphia, Covent Garden, Aldeburgh, Sadler’s Wells, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, BBC, Royal Albert Hall, Scottish Opera, Wexford Festival, Royal Festival Hall, Manchester, Venice, La Scala, Palermo, RAI Torino/Milan/Rome, Arena di Verona, Trieste, Florence, Naples, Bergamo, Vavarian State Opera, Westdeutscher Rundfunks, Bavarian Radio, Cologne Radio, Bayreuth Festival, Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Cologne Vienna State Opera, Salzburg Festival, Paris Opera, ORTF, Aix-en-Provence, Royal Opera Stockholm, Holland Festival, Helsinki, Geneva, Concertgebouw, Riod de Janeiro, Auckland, Teatro Colon, Mexico, City, Barcelona, Tokyo…shall I go on?”
Based on that last paragraph, Donald must have enough material to keep the VRCS going, not for two hours, not even for two months, but possibly for two decades (we’d throw in centuries, but don’t want to be accused of overselling the possibilities via hyperbole. Still....).
Donald Collup has had a wide-ranging career, first as a noted boy soprano, then as both lyric baritone and pianist. As a pianist he did a good deal of solo and accompaniment work, and then studied at both the Peabody and Curtis Institutes and at Yale University. He has participated in many master classes with Gerard Souzay and Dalton Baldwin, in addition to Hans Hotter and Martial Singher. In 1983, he premiered “Three Calamus Poems”, a group of songs that he commissioned from Ned Rorem. In 1984, he won prizes in the international singing competitions of Paris, s’Hertogenbosch and Toulouse. He has given recitals across the Eastern seaboard – 3 at Washington’s Phillips Collection, the National Gallery, New York’s Town Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall – as well as a Netherlands Radio recital. He was resident baritone at the Marlboro Music Festival for three consecutive glorious summers. In 1995, he also appeared as Pelleas in several concert performances of the Debussy opera conducted by Michel Singher, son of Martial Singher. Specializing in French, German and American song, Donald’s recently-issued CDs, taken from live performances, are probably the only ones in existence on which one can find a singer of his caliber also playing a movement from the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto! (Please visit http://www.collup.com.)
We have seen a list of what Donald plans to play for us, and you can take our word that it is all top-of-the-line where singing and vocal artistry are concerned, so we would urge you to be with us for our second September program (see below) to witness another Donald Collup success!
DATE: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2015 (THE FOURTH FRIDAY) | TIME: 7:45P.M. SHARP
VERY IMPORTANT!! VERY IMPORTANT!! VERY IMPORTANT!!
We would remind you here that there are two VRCS programs in September, Donald Collup’s on the 23rd, and our VRCS “HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY TO US” Celebration preceding it on the 9th, this postponed from its original July 8th date due to a renovation of our meeting place.
That program will be presented by the VRCS Directors (“God help us, everyone!” – Tiny Tim).
This page last revised 8/27/16 5:48 PM EDT
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