WHASINGTON, DC (Opera Music
Theater International/OMTI) - Opera Music
Theater International (OMTI), under the direction of James
K. McCully, announced plans today to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Marjorie Lawrence with an international celebration which promises to memorialize the rich legacy of the Metropolitan Opera Star in 2007.
On All Hallows, the Marjorie Lawrence Centennial Celebration Commission meeting was held at the National Cathedral with an All Hallows Guild Tea, followed by a performance of the Verdi Requiem Mass for the Dead, and a Moonlit Tour of the cathedral woods at night. A memorial gift was made to the National Cathedral in remembrance of Marjorie Lawrence. The National
Cathedral, the sixth largest in the world, was modelled after the great 13th century British and French gothic cathedrals; it was painstakingly built using the old construction methods of the masons with stone-on-stone and exhibits great height; its flying buttresses balance the outward thrust; its ribbed vaulted and pointed arches lead the eye upward; its stained glass windows use an iconographic system of images and symbols in its decorations; and it evokes the power of a majestic place through its silence, its space, its light, and its architectural grandeur.
The idea of a "cathedral for national purposes" is attributed to Pierre
L'Enfant's plan for a new Federal City. The cathedral was to be a place where the nation celebrates its history and values, mourns its losses, and commemorates its important events. After being granted a charter by an act of Congress, the National Cathedral foundation stone was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907.
Born in 1907, Marjorie Lawrence after winning an operatic vocal competition sponsored by the Melbourne Sun, studied in France for three years before making her operatic debut at the Monte Carlo Opera as Elisabeth in Tannhauser. The following year she made her debut at the Paris Opera as Ortrud in Lohengrin.
Miss Lawrence was shrewd in her choice of Ortrud's music at her Paris audition, well aware that there were very few singers in the French capital capable of handling those arduous passages.
Marjorie Lawrence's versatility was remarkable. She sang Tosca as well as all three Brunnhildes and Sieglinde. At the Paris Opera, she sang Alceste, Carmen and Rachel in La Juive in addition to Thais in French.
Miss Lawrence danced the role of Salome
as well as sang it with all the seven veils coming off on schedule in the dance. She recorded the role of Salome
in French, the language in which Oscar Wilde wrote his play, and later relearned it in German for the Metropolitan Opera.
Marjorie Lawrence made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Brunnhilde in Wagner's stirring Die Walkure. She succeeded in astonishing the most seasoned Metropolitan opera goers by riding a horse straight into the flames in the last scene of Wagner's Gotterdammerung.
In doing so, Marjorie Lawrence became the only soprano in history to carry out Wagner's specific stage direction to the letter. Usually the buxom prima donnas had led ancient nags across the stage by the bridle! She did so against the advice of absolutely everyone connected with the performance. The success of her bold venture is chronicled proudly in the first chapter of her autobiography.
Marjorie Lawrence's autobiography is one of tremendous triumph and tragedy-both in the personal and professional realm. At the height of her operatic career, Miss Lawrence was stricken with polio. It was some eighteen months before she reappeared in a public performance.
Miss Lawrence exhibited her incredible fortitude when she returned to the Met as Venus in Tannhauser, a role which allowed her to remain prone for the duration of her performance. The fact that she sang Wagner from a couch, absolutely brilliantly, has become even more legendary than her stunts on the horse.
Marjorie Lawrence's autobiography was made into an extraordinary inspirational film, "Interrupted Melody", starring Eleanor Parker, Glenn
Ford, and Roger Moore, which won an Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay.
The story traces Marjorie Lawrence's long, hard road to the top, and her success on two continents. After a triumphal debut at the Paris Opera, she becomes famous overnight, and her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York establishes her as one of the great singers of her time.
"World-renowned dramatic soprano Marjorie Lawrence has been recognized as one of the truest Wagnerian interpreters of our time, unchallenged for the stirring magnificence of her Brunnhilde, the tender simplicity of her Sieglinde, the stately loveliness of her Elsa, and the compelling malevolence of her Ortrud. Her truly powerful and beautiful voice was a rare combination and one of the finest voices of the 20th century." explained James
K. McCully, general director of Opera Music
"In honor of his mentor and friend, Metropolitan Opera soprano Marjorie Lawrence, Mr. McCully has established scholarships for young, talented singers." stated Dr. Tomas C. Hernandez, the director of the National Endowment for the Arts former Opera-Musical Theater Program and president of Opera Music
The Marjorie Lawrence Centennial Celebration, in addition to concert performances, Marjorie Lawrence's outstanding contributions to opera will be highlighted by numerous organizations across the United States and around the world.
These organizations will include renowned opera companies, symphony orchestras, concert halls, museums, large libraries, governmental agencies, and historic universities.
Considered one of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos of her time, these programs will illustrate Marjorie Lawrence's teaching methods, her significant musical influence in the twentieth century, and her Academy Award winning film Interrupted Melody, which influenced generations of young singers in our operatic culture today.
"Some opportunities like this one only come along once every 100 years. It is a privilege and honor to celebrate not only the centennial of Marjorie Lawrence's birth but remember the life of this incredibly talented singer and determined woman. As such, we the members of the Marjorie Lawrence Centennial Celebration Commission have begun our work making plans, forming committees, setting up programs, and establishing budgets for the celebration." added Mitchell D. Treger, Esq., general counsel, Marjorie Lawrence Centennial Celebration Commission.
"The Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competitions attracted an international elite of singers from around the world hoping to become the future opera stars of tomorrow. Sixty contestants from North and South America, Canada, Great Britian, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Ukrania, Russia, Sweden, Korea, and Israel
participated for the prestigious Marjorie Lawrence Awards. The Competition was open to all singers regardless of nationality, race, or age, whose operatic repertoire and vocal caliber met the demands of an international career." noted Andrew D. Malloy, affirmative action/equal opportunity employer administrator, Marjorie Lawrence Centennial Celebration Commission.
The 1998 Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Awards were held at the Embassy
of Colombia in Washington, DC. His Excellency Ambassador & Mrs. Juan Carlos
Esquerra were the International Honorary Patrons for the Competition. The Judges for the 1998 Competition were Metropolitan Opera soprano Shirley Verrett, tenor George
Shirley, baritone Thomas
Stewart, soprano Evelyn Lear, Opera Orchestra of New York maestra Eve Queler, and Washington National Opera artistic administrator Edward Purrington. The winners included Gilung Yun from Seoul, Korea; and Jeremy Hedrick from Denton, Texas.
The 2001 Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition was held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Dame Joan Sutherland and Maestro Richard Bonynge were the International Honorary Chairs of the Competition. The Judges for the 2001 Competition were Metropolitan Opera soprano Mattiwilda Dobbs, baritone Ryan Edwards, baritone Dominic Cossa, baritone Thomas
Stewart, soprano Evelyn Lear, and Baltimore Opera music director William Yanuzzi. The winners included Charles Reid from Harlingen, Texas; Lorraine
Hinds from Washington, DC; Anna Tonna from Flushing, New York; Cristina Nassif from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland; Chen Reiss from Israel; and Michelle Gutrick from Washington, DC.
"During the celebration we will be remembering past participants and looking forward to the future winners of the Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition. It is our mission to continue the work and build upon the reputation of the Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition in providing exposure and tens of thousands of dollars for young singers, master artists, accompanists, and musicians." states C. Derrik Land, chief financial officer, Marjorie Lawrence Centennial Celebration Commission.
As an instructor, Marjorie Lawrence moved to the mysterious and majestic French Quarters of New Orleans to teach on the voice faculty of the historic Tulane University. One of Miss Lawrence's most treasured possessions was a letter from Gian Carlo Menotti who praised her portrayal of Madame Flora in his opera The Medium.
The Marjorie Lawrence Opera Theatre was established where she taught on the campus of Southern Illinois University. Her personal effects and papers documenting Marjorie Lawrence's career are archived there.
Young opera singers from around the world came to Hot Springs National Park and Harmony Hills Estates to relax, coach, prepare, and perform roles with Miss Lawrence. The reputation of the Marjorie Lawrence Summer Opera Workshops, under the auspices of the University of Arkansas, were so respected that the workshops were one of the few artists training programs for young opera singers in the nation during that era that was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Before her death, Marjorie Lawrence was appointed Master and Commander of the British Empire
(CBE), and was later buried in Hot Springs National Park at Greenwood Cemetery.