Julie Andrews, the operatic sensation that never was – Telegraph Blogs

You won’t know this  – although I’m positive diehard followers will – however Dame Julie Andrews began out in opera. In reality she was as soon as billed as “Britain’s Youngest Prima Donna”.

She had the voice of a light-weight, vibrant coloratura soprano with extraordinary vary (4 octaves) and unimaginable flexibility. It’s a voice that doesn’t fairly sound like Julie Andrews as we all know her.

Here’s a younger Julie singing Adolphe Adam’s “Ah vous dirais – je maman” from his opera Le toréador (a.okay.a Twinkle, twinkle, little star, however based mostly on a set of themes and variations initially written by Mozart) and Gounod’s “Je veux vivre” from Romeo et Juliette. You’ll be astonished by the precision of her singing (what she calls her “freak voice”):

As a toddler she was despatched to a throat specialist and the physician declared that she had an virtually grownup larynx. Shortly afterwards she was taken by her mom Barbara and stepfather Ted Andrews (each well-known vaudeville performers of their time) to see a voice instructor, Madame Lilian Stiles-Allen. “Madame”, as she was referred to as, advised Julie’s mother and father that her singing was “simply pretty”, however would they take her again till she’s 12 so she will have an extended childhood?

In any case her voice developed unexpectedly shortly. By 9 years previous it was apparent that taking correct voice classes was the factor to do, and Madame agreed to take her on.

Julie Andrews stated that Madame was a nasty accompanist (versus her personal mom who might make the piano sound like a full orchestra). Madame wore rings for one thing to take a look at while she performed and her music making was solely “recommended” – a sort of impressionistic sketchy accompaniment the place Julie needed to fill in the lacking bits in her head.

“Madame hoped very a lot that I would go into opera, however I all the time sensed that it was too massive a stretch for me,” wrote Dame Julie in Home, her autobiography. “My voice was extraordinarily excessive and skinny, and although clear and clear, it never had the vital guts and weight for opera.” Her instructor significantly believed that Julie was the reincarnation of Adelina Patti (Madame was a critical spiritualist). However, Julie’s intestine feeling was that she never discovered the “particular place” in opera the place she was snug.

When she was 12 she was contracted for one yr in a revue present in London referred to as Starlight Roof staged at the London Hippodrome. Starlight Roof was a collection of theatrical acts strung collectively, and Julie was certainly one of them. She sang the Polonaise “Je suis Titania” from Ambrose Thomas’s opera Mignon, which completed with a excessive C above prime A.

Madame and Julie labored collectively for the subsequent 15 years or so. Even at this age she appeared to exude every thing brilliant and sunny. She confessed that she couldn’t sing songs in the minor key or cope with Dvořák’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me” or “S Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. They have been too upsetting for her to aim and the voice “can be gone in a multitude of emotion”. On this account it appears to rule out a future profession in opera.

Perhaps singing completely happy songs was her means of blocking out an sad childhood. Her household was poor and she or he needed to work very exhausting to get the place she needed. Her stepfather tried sexually molesting her (unsuccessfully) when she was 9. Then at 14 she found that the man she believed to be her start father was not her father in any respect. It was a really troublesome childhood.

We know from Home that Julie Andrews additionally carried out “Sempre Libera” from La traviata for a radio broadcast (in all probability now misplaced) the place she embarrassingly completed half a tone sharp. For a BBC radio present referred to as Educating Archie she additionally carried out “Caro nome” from Rigoletto and the Shadow Song from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Dinorah. Archie was a ventriloquist’s doll and he was “educated” by numerous tutors together with Tony Hancock, Harry Seacombe and Benny Hill over the years. Julie Andrews performed Archie’s girlfriend.

Julie Andrews with Archie

Around this time in the direction of her late teenagers she started steadily to unfastened the prime notes of her voice. Her center register matured into the heat golden tone that we’re acquainted with. She was nonetheless performing coloratura arias in public and hitting the prime notes now turned a trial.  “They have been very combined luggage with these exhibits,” commented Tony Walton, Julie Andrew’s childhood sweetheart and first husband (who can also be an Academy Award-profitable set designer). “Sometimes they have been by accident fantastic, and typically they have been virtually coronary heart-breaking.”

In December 1953 Julie Andrews starred in a London Palladium manufacturing of a pantomime, Cinderella. The director of a then very profitable musical referred to as The Boy Friend went to take a look at Julie upon the suggestion of her Educating Archie colleague Hattie Jacques. The director was impressed and Julie was provided a contract to star in The Boy Friend in New York. She made her Broadway debut the day earlier than she turned 19 and never seemed again.

Julie Andrews at the recording of The Boy Friend

In February 1973 Julie made a return to opera, on The Julie Andrews Hour. She sang an English model of “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” from Saint-Saens’s Samson and Delilah with Sergio Franchi. By then she was singing together with her Broadway voice:

Dame Julie is again in the public eye once more as she tours the UK with Aled Jones. From the programme description it’s understood that she in all probability gained’t sing (she sadly misplaced her voice in a botched routine operation in 1997). But how good to see her again in her house nation, following the footsteps of one other British-born Hollywood celebrity Angela Lansbury.

One of the composers Madame Lilian Stiles-Allen rated very extremely was Handel. Here’s Julie Andrews singing “Where’er You Walk” from the oratorio Semele together with her crystal clear voice and filled with appeal. This monitor is from her 1958 album “The Lass With the Delicate Air”.

I marvel if she’d have made it as an opera star if she had persevered. Although she was fairly a particular youngster prodigy and sang each word appropriately, there never actually was a sense of true communication. Compare her Polonaise with, say, June Anderson’s version and also you’ll know what I imply. You may say it’s unfair to place a young person’s try alongside a seasoned professional, however If you take heed to Julie Andrew’s unique Broadway album of The Boy Friend, made in her teenagers, you understand she discovered her true calling. She was a totally shaped musical performer with all the proper eleven:00 am – Source: telegraph.co.uk
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