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GENERATIONS: Evan Hazard: A prima donna who is not a “prima donna”

The Encyclopedia Britannica has published its last print edition. Instead, you can now consult it, plus oodles of other info sources, online. However, I'm old enough that my first impulse is to go for a book, and sometimes that's better.

Evan HazardThe lower shelf of the small table just to my left houses “Milton Cross' Complete Stories of the Great Operas,” four bibles (KJV, NKJV, NRSV, NEB), two United Methodist hymnals, a stupidly illustrated edition of Wm. Strunk and E.B. White's “The Elements of Style,” the new coast-to-coast “Peterson Field Guide to the Birds” and Modern Library's “Complete Plays of Gilbert & Sullivan.”

Cubbyholes in the computer desk hold phone books, an Oxford American Dictionary, a guide to nutritional content of many foods, sundry other field guides, a small world atlas, the National Geographic Road Atlas to the USA and Canada and “The Mammals of Minnesota.” Generally, I consult those rather than go online. The most massive tome sits atop the bookcase under the window: “Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible” (KJV). I rarely use it, going online instead.

To listen to something, none of these work. Sometimes, I want to hear a birdsong, but more often it's music, instrumental or sung. If you object to parodies of hymns, don't do an online search for “keillor whispering hope.” Jean Redpath does the melody, Garrison Keillor a combination of harmony and commentary.

In  2017, I wanted to hear Offenbach's Barcarolle from “The tales of Hoffman”, writing about it here in August. If you search, “offenbach barcarolle sisters,” you get two choices. Click the one with two brunettes.  Both the soprano and the mezzo do well, but, to me, that mezzo is incredible.

Last spring I sought an aria for which the late Maria Callas was famous, the Habanera from Bizet's “Carmen.” There is a YouTube example by Callas herself, an old version that may not do her justice. But I ran across another by Elīna Garanča, a Latvian who has starred in many mezzo roles in recent years. (The line over the ī is a “macron” and the downward curve over the č is a “háček.” Pronounce it approximately “Ay.LEE.nah  Gah.RAN.tchah.”)

Copying long URLs from a paper easily leads to frustrating typos. Instead, best search for: “garanca dudamel habanera,” then select one of the “5:03” videos. Elīna is in a black strapless gown, and Gustavo Dudamel (originally from Venezuela) is in the usual black tie and tails.  Sadly, many explicit videos are available to you and your children, but this fully clothed one maybe should be rated at least PG-13, even if the kids don't understand French.

Garanča's singing and acting are superb, and Dudamel is obviously enjoying the attention “Carmen” is giving him. My responses were two: 1. This is a fantastic performance; and 2. This is one dangerous woman. Actually, she isn't.

Elīna Garanča is now about 42, has been married for years to a Spanish orchestra conductor (one of their two homes is in Spain); they have two daughters, and my guess is the girls are not particularly spoiled. Garanča is obviously bright and well educated, fluent in at least five or six languages, and adapts well to various international and social environments.

Just because Garanča understands many languages, is she really fluent in them?  Search for “garanca interview european” and listen to those titled “proud to be European”* and “Elina Garanca-Habanera (Interview).” Then also listen to her interviews in other languages: I've found German, Spanish, French, and probably Russian. And, of course, she speaks her native tongue, Latvian. I've no idea what that sounds like.

In her English interviews, Garanča has an obvious accent, but she is easy to understand. And she speaks as rapidly as you or I do, with only occasional pauses to search for the right word. She quickly finds it, or something pretty close (*I think “glad,” rather than “proud” comes closer to what she meant in that interview). The clue to my claim that she is fluent in several languages is that she speaks them as rapidly as a native would. She may speak all with a “foreign” accent, but, if I didn't know better, I'd have taken her, respectively, for a native speaker of French, German, Spanish, etc.

So, Elīna Garanča is not a “dangerous” woman, but rather a normal wife and mother, who happens to be multiply gifted. She is obviously bright, well-informed, multi-lingual, self-confident, and an acclaimed operatic singer and actor. Elīna Garanča is a diva or prima donna, but only in the best sense. I will probably never see her live on stage, but may hear her in a Metropolitan Opera broadcast at noon, and will happily settle for that and any new videos that surface.

Evan Hazard is a retired BSU biology professor.