Maureen Forrester, a well-known operatic contralto and one of my favorite singers, passed away last night at the age of 79. She has left behind a gold mine of recordings, all of which have taught me invaluable lessons about music, expression, and life.
Her Orfeo was the first recording of hers that I ever heard. I was studying "Che faro senza Euridice" at the time and this is the first recording of the entire opera that I listened to. I was swept away by the deep expression she evoked with her singing. Even the recit stuck out as immensely alive. I sat there with my headphones on and my eyes closed and I could see Orfeo and understand his predicament. I felt the depth of his loss and it moved me.
A bit later, when I was studying Mahler's Rückertlieder, I turned once again to her recordings and once again, I was blown away. She is a subtle and expressive artist and her singing has changed the way I feel about music.
Even though the world has lost a great singer, we have not truly lost her because her recordings remain and they can still affect us. I suppose that's the beauty of music; in a way, it's eternal and time cannot dim its power.
Here is a segment from Ms. Forrester's Orfeo where he enters Elysium, the Greek version of Heaven, and sings about its beauty.