Sunday, May 8, 2011

JANE RHODES 1929 - 2011

AFP reports that the great French mezzo who was the Carmen of her time has died in Paris. Jane Rhodes and I go back a long way - in fact, to the beginning. In the early 60s, as Sutherland was storming the opera world, my big sister escorted me for my birthday to town to buy my first record. I'd decided on Carmen and we were off to Rowe Street Records, (note - link has audio, and you need to open 'Rowe Street stories', then 'Theatre & Music', then 'Rowe Street Records' for the story, and the pictures) where George Cooks (Kux) presided over his imported classics.

Rowe Street was a small inner city lane with hints of bohemia - coffee, design, boutiques, and those progressives who sought something else - now long since sacrificed at the altar of development. This photo ('Jim Southwell collecting the plates', Lincoln Coffee Lounge and Cafe, Brian Bird photographer), from the State Library, caught my eye, as it looks like he did his.

There was, I think I recall, access to some of the more segregated facilities of the (sadly now demolished) Australia Hotel, and I also remember a book shop, downstairs, where publications of the male physique of the more salacious kind could be accessed from the equally salacious proprietor. But back to the birthday present; the other titillations were still some years away.

I stood sheepishly at the counter. My sister boldly asked, to my juvenile embarrassment, if there was a recording with Joan singing it. I didn't know much, but I did know Joan sang really high notes and Carmen didn't. Mr Cooks was very gracious I remember and assured us that no Joan hadn't recorded Carmen, and the one I should buy was the only one to buy - Jane Rhodes.

Philips Gold Label Series (made in Australia) Classical Favorites - Bizet: Carmen, Jane Rhodes, Albert Lance, Robert Massard conducted by Roberto Benzi, Miss Rhodes husband. I played it and played it, and played it. Hoffman would be next, my first complete opera, Ace of Spades label (they were cheap I think), so the French thing was there early on.

What Mr Cooks didn't tell us, if he knew, was that there was an antipodean connection after all. The tenor was Albert Lance, born with the fabulous name of Lancelot Albert Ingram in Adelaide, who would have a huge success in the Northern Hemisphere while remaining relatively unkown in his country of birth, and who now, at 85, has just been honoured by Paris Opera with an invitation to be president of the Paris Opera Jubilee.

Here they are in the Duet and Finale - burning it up, as they say :

If you got to the end of that without goosing up, go see a doctor. And now for something completely the same, more gypsy French singing, 'Connais-tu la pays?', from Thomas' Mignon :

There's something about them, isn't there.

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