April 11, 2011

Anna Russell's Ring

One of the first memorable voices I heard as a kid was Anna Russell singing the role of the Witch on a recording of Hansel and Gretel. Scary stuff! Her voice was big, brash and penetrating. And the dialogue was funny and terrifying- perfect for a wicked witch. Fast forward two decades to the summer of 1985, and there I was, sitting in the McCarter Theater in Princeton listening to her Farewell Concert. I laughed so hard it hurt. What had happened to the Witch on the record? She had become a beloved comedienne in the style of Victor Borge.

Anna Russell hamming it up as Brunhilde

Anna Russell studied piano and voice quite seriously as a young woman before finding her niche in hilarious send-ups of classical music and musicians. A first-rate musician herself, Russell displays considerable skill as a vocalist and pianist in her legendary explanation of Wagner's Ring below. More Can Belto than Bel Canto, she makes me smile and remember a time when being an elitist wasn't a pejorative. You had to know something to both get and make the joke.  

For those who want to create there own merriment, there is The Anna Russell Songbook, the introduction of which reveals that Russell's father frequented Adelina Patti's company by virtue of a well-heeled aunt. Gems such as "Je n'ai pas la Plume de man Tante" and "Jolly Old Sigmund Freud" beg to be performed.  

The Ring Part 1

The Ring Part 2

The Ring Part 3

1 comment:

  1. Daniel, she is fabulous! I remember her funny clip of how to be an opera singer! I fell off from my chair by laughing!!


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