Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Double Loss


At a time like this, I can only say that I have always been deeply grateful for her superb sense of her craft and the abundance of heartfelt imagination and acute musicianship she always brought to everything she sang. This was a performer for whom the word "artist" never seemed hyperbole to me. She took the dots on a page already fashioned by geniuses and transformed those dots into something that seemed to me both utterly individual and universal at the same time. This doesn't always happen, no matter the high genius of the composer.

All the light in the world doesn't reveal the stars in the sky. It takes the sun being absent to reveal the full majesty of the whole cosmos. The great performer becomes a true artist as well when there is an impression (possibly an illusion, but still worthwhile) that the ego is absent and so the sensibility of the original composer can be revealed. An illusion or not, this was what Sills seemed to me to reveal selflessly every time she performed. And I remain grateful for that every time I recall her finest singing.


On one hand, Liz and I had already learned from a friend of ours several weeks back that Beverly Sills was in the hospital and gravely ill. So we had prepared for the worst. But on the other, we never received any indication that Crespin was in ill health at all, so I have to say this news has left me in much greater shock than the news of Sills's passing. There is a yet more painful aspect to this, as well: Just last month, I did a four-hour radio program on Crespin and her pedagogical forebears. So the full magnitude of what she accomplished and the full significance of what we've lost are still very fresh in my mind today. The loss is really hitting me especially painfully. I'm even surprised at how deeply the loss seems to cut.

What a very sad week. Two supremely gifted artists who were two of the very few inheritors still left us of the celebrated Garcia singing tradition. Sills inherited it through Liebling who studied with Marchesi who studied with a Garcia, and Crespin inherited it through Lubin who studied with Litvinne who studied with a Garcia. A devastating coincidence as we lose two invaluable human beings who were both precious not just for what they had achieved on stage yesterday but for what they still embodied today, given their priceless vocal heritage.

Is it possible that the only remaining inheritor of this tradition now left with us is Rise Stevens, whose studies with Schoen-Rene place her in another direct line with a Garcia? If so, how lonely and how precious Stevens' presence in our world today is.

One can only hope that there may be one or two distinguished pupils of one of these three artists ready to start a career today and waiting in the wings to carry on the Garcia tradition through the opening decades of this century.

-- Geoffrey Riggs