Monday, July 25, 2016

The Elisabeth Schwarzkopf of Movie Musicals

Starting as a teenager in the late 1940s and continuing for the next two decades, Ms. Nixon lent her crystalline soprano to some 50 films, sometimes contributing just a line or two of song — sometimes just a single, seamless note — that the actress could not manage on her own.
That's the soprano Marnie Nixon, who has died at 86, described in Margalit Fox's NY Times obituary for her.

The singer had a long and distinguished career, making many recordings of 20th c. and contemporary classical music and sometimes appearing on stage under her own name. But she still seems to be best remembered as the voice of Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King and I, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. And I am pretty well enraged by the tiny pay she received for her enduring excellence singing for those three.


Anonymous said...

Here's a little story. Once in, I think, the 1980s I was standing in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion before a Pierre Boulez concert, scanning the crowd and looking to see if anyone had an extra ticket that they were willing to let me have for cheap or free (I think I ended up buying a nose-bleed seat at the box office). A nice-looking red-haired woman near me noticed this, came up to me and asked, "Are you looking for Marni Nixon?" I said no, explained what I was doing, and then said "Are you Marni Nixon?" Well, indeed -- she was looking for someone who had a comp ticket for her. I said I was pleased to meet her (I knew who she was), and asked if she had ever worked with Boulez. Yes she had, at the New York Phil when he was music director. Not much of an encounter -- but she seemed very nice, and it reminds me what a uniquely diverse career she had.

I haven't been able to identify what she did with Boulez, but here's a performance from 1960, with Bernstein, of an early version of what became the second movement of Pli Selon Pli. Note that Bernstein precedes the performance with a talk to the audience, an apologia really, that's about the same length as the piece.


She also sang a number of late Stravinsky world premieres at what was then called Evenings on the Roof (now Monday Evening Concerts).

And then there's this, something that I had no idea existed (the text at the top of the video explains what it is):


An amazing woman.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

except that Marni Nixon sounds like a wonderful person and generous artist and Schwarzkopf . . . not so much

OTOH said...

I remember first hearing her in a recording of Villa-Lobos Bachianas Braselieras #5. It must have been good, or I wouldn't remember it after these many decades. I think I heard her in some Ives, as well. It was a surprise when I found out much later about the movie side of her career.