B0135. (TREIGLE) Brian Morgan. Strange child of chaos: Norman Treigle. New York, iUniverse, 2006. 287pp. Chronology; Discography; Videography; List of Repertoire; Photo. Softbound. 1 Book - 0595388981
"This is the fascinating story of one of America's greatest singers, Norman Treigle (1927-75). Born in the South's most exotic city, New Orleans, he was acclaimed as one of history's finest singing-actors, specialising in rôles that evoked villainy and terror, and was a resident star at the adventurous New York City Opera.
In this, the first biography of the legendary bass-baritone, you will read of his colourful life in New Orleans, his self-destructive life-style, the seeming contradictions in his complex character, his passion for the race-track, his enormous voice and emaciated physique, his electrifying stage-presence and astonishing acting ability, why he never sang at the Metropolitan Opera, and his mysterious, sudden death at the age of forty-seven. Read also of his relationships with his closest colleagues, including Beverly Sills, Phyllis Curtin, Jon Vickers, Plácido Domingo, Michael Devlin, Carlisle Floyd, Julius Rudel, Tito Capobianco and Frank Corsaro.
Based on the singer's private files, years of extensive research, and interviews with many of his relatives, friends and colleagues, STRANGE CHILD OF CHAOS (a quote from MEFISTOFELE, his greatest triumph) is a tale of the troubled life of an incomparable artist of an elemental power, who bestrode the stage for too brief a moment"
Work with directors such as Tito Capobianco and Frank Corsaro focused Treigle's brilliant stage energy while allowing him room to create. In Corsaro's City Opera FAUST, Treigle's entrance as Méphistophélès was as a cadaver about to be dissected by old Dr. Faust. He sat up suddenly, singing Me voici! in that gigantic voice of his, and one simply jumped in one's seat. On the other hand, his Gianni Schicchi was a marvelously brazen rascal, and Dodon in COQ D'OR was a doddering comic creature whose physicality could not have been further from the demonic.
As he bounced back and forth between [home in] New Orleans
Treigle began to see where his heart belonged. Although he continued to perform with New Orleans Opera Association through 1968, remaining a favorite son, it was at City Opera that Norman Treigle, the alarmingly versatile stage animal, was given the opportunity to flourish, offering the public a dazzling gallery of characters over the next twenty years in 237 performances of thirty-seven roles at the company's New York home base alone. As assignments at City Opera rapidly changed from supporting to starring roles, Norman's career began to flourish elsewhere as well. The bass-baritone sang in virtually every major opera center in the U.S., including San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas and Seattle, also traveling to Havana, Mexico City and Buenos Aires. He enjoyed new works, creating roles in THE TENDER LAND (Grandpa Moss), THE CRUCIBLE (Rev. John Hale) and THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE (William Jennings Bryan in the second cast of the premiere run).
At New York City Opera, Treigle enjoyed performing regularly with costars such as Curtin and Beverly Sills with whom he'd formed an extremely close brothersister relationship. But there was gnawing ambivalence about his career, exacerbated by the absence of an invitation from Rudolf Bing to sing at the Met. In a 1963 New York Times interview, Treigle claimed, The Met was my dream when I was a kid, but I gradually got it out of my system.... When you have a company based on the star system, it's impossible to build that kind of rapport that you need for opera as I conceive it
. It's less important to me where I perform than how I perform. But the issue must have eaten away at him, as review after review noted the absurdity of his absence from Bing's Met.
on 21 September, 1969, came the greatest triumph of his career, as New York City Opera unveiled its brilliant Tito Capobianco production of Boito's MEFISTOFELE, conducted by Rudel. Brian Morgan's deeply researched biography of TREIGLE, STRANGE CHILD OF CHAOS, quotes a Time magazine feature: Small, skinny, seemingly naked, Treigle flashed through the role like a black-voiced cobra. Plunging from profundo depths to baritonal heights, his voice remained huge and perfectly focused through one of the cruelest bass roles ever written. Mefistofele was to be Normal Treigle's final new role.
Norman Treigle's recorded legacy, augmented by thrilling live performances released by VAI music, is unfairly small but ample enough to give one an idea of how immeasurably gifted this artist was. But perhaps his legacy can best be measured by the indelible memories he left. Once you saw and heard Treigle onstage, you could never forget the experience. As Sherrill Milnes told this writer, I think Norman was about the greatest singing actor in the world."
- Ira Siff, OPERA NEWS, March, 2013
The voice of Norman had mystery, a color like crude oil dark, flexible, but it could be tough. I think we don't have anybody today who can confront all those roles. He was unique. You can compare him only with Chaliapin."
- Tito Capobianco