ARIA FOR GEORGE by Nora London


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A loving memoir by the widow of the famed American bass-baritone, George London, who sang the great operatic roles around the world from 1941 to 1967. London's widow reconstructs the triumphs and tragedies of his career, which began in the Hollywood Bowl at the age of 21 (under the name George Burnstein, later changed to Burnson, then finally London), and which propelled him to fame in Vienna and then at the Metropolitan in Aids in 1951. But perhaps London's greatest triumph came in 1960, when he became the first non-Russian to sing the role of Boris in Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi. The author recounts all of this as the starry-eyed wife, so her account is by no means a definitive critical assessment, but the memoir shines in its account of London's tragedies. First, there was the loss of his voice in the mid-60's, which caused him to forsake singing for a career in operatic administration (among other things, he worked at Kennedy Center in Washington, was Director of the National Operatic Society, and produced and staged operas--the first being the complete English Ring in the US). Then, in the late 70's, he was stricken with a massive heart attack that resulted in momentary cardiac arrest with subsequent brain damage. The latter left him totally helpless, and his widow gamefully describes her devotion to him in the final seven years of his life. This is the first extended commentary on London since a New Yorker ""Profile"" back in 1957. As such, it should be taken to heart by all opera buffs, though the saccharine treatment holds no pretension to do more than educate us to the facts of his career. London still awaits his Robert Craft, but in the meantime, this will fill the void.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1987
Publisher: Dutton