B0730. (DAME EVA TURNER) Linda Esther Gray. Dame Eva Turner, ‘A Life on the High Cs’. Accompanied by CD of recordings by Turner, Schumann, Schöne, Leider, Widdop, Kipnis, Muzio, Stignani, Schipa, Gigli, Pertile, Lauri-Volpi & Martinelli – recorded 1927-46. Transfers by Norman White. England, Green Oak Publishing, 2011. 400pp. Index; Chronology; Numerous Photos; DJ. Temporarily out-of-stock. - 9780955550522
“At long-last, a biography of one of Great Britain’s greatest sopranos and one whose international reputation has not generally been fully appreciated….[Linda Esther Gray] treats her subject with love, respect and in very good humour, reflecting the personality of Dame Eva perfectly….The book contains a number of photographs, some of which will not have been seen before, and contains some spicy anecdotes. It can be heartily recommended to all those interested in the life and times of an opera singer and is all the more interesting as it was penned by a singer herself.”
- Alan Bilgora, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2011
“Despite the somewhat hackneyed title (and, to be fair, it's based on an Eva Turner seafaring anecdote), soprano Linda Esther Gray's biography of her beloved teacher is a scrupulously researched, intermittently amusing, levelheaded portrait of a singer whose long life saw profound changes in the world - and in the business of singing opera. Dame Eva is best remembered as one of the first exponents of the rôle of Turandot, a part she sang for two decades. Right in the middle of those decades, during the 1937 Coronation Season at Covent Garden, extracts of two performances were recorded live and have assured her place in vocal history. The ease of emission of her enormous voice is simply miraculous. But Turner's career was a good deal more than just Turandot; in fact, it's probably safe to say that she sang Aïda far more frequently. And Gray's book is more than a biography of a soprano; it is a chronicle of British operatic life from the turn of the last century to 1990, when Turner died at ninety-eight.
The earliest chapters of the book are probably the most fascinating, as Turner comes up through the ranks of the traveling Royal Carl Rosa Opera Company from chorister to prima donna, is heard by Ettore Panizza and brought to audition for Toscanini at La Scala, and forges a career in Italy, Chicago and South America, appearing with mouthwatering casts including the likes of Stignani, Pertile and Pinza. A proud Lancashire lass, sturdy and forthright, Turner resisted suggestions to Italianize her name, although, ironically, she was appreciated more in Italy than at home, where she was somewhat taken for granted. This resulted partly from the fact that until after World War II, Covent Garden didn't have a resident company fostering its own artists. Another factor was timing; the war robbed her of the final part of her career. She also resisted suggestions that she glamorize; Dame Eva was thrifty and insisted on daily records of all expenses, which were kept by two consecutive partners. The first was Albert Richards Broad, known as Plum, a gay man who was her voice teacher and coach, living companion and personal manager until he passed away in 1940. Subsequently, she met and lived with Anne Ridyard, taken on as a ‘secretary/companion’ but generally regarded as her partner for the remainder of her life.
When singing engagements dwindled, Turner took to teaching, and she boasted a roster of students that included Amy Shuard, Pauline Tinsley, Rita Hunter and Gwyneth Jones. In addition to teaching and adjudicating, a good deal of her later life was spent being honored. She was made a Dame Commander in 1962 and fêted with a ninetieth-birthday celebration at the Royal Opera House in 1982. Dame Eva was quite a character, and the book is peppered with humorous anecdotes concerning her foibles, her exaggerated style of speech (illustrated with words containing multiple rolled rrrrrs) and even her flying dentures when illustrating frontal voice placement for a student. There are also touching stories - of disappointment (no offers came from the Met until it was too late for a début to serve her well) and of devotion (Plum's and Anne's to her, and hers to Anne, who suffered a severe stroke in 1985).
Gray takes great pains to provide the reader with background on the era being dealt with in the narrative, using sidebars, photos and an appendix about principal players in the story. This is enormously helpful, but despite all the effort an occasional typo can be spotted; the most glaring is the claim that the Carl Rosa Company presented the British première of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA in 1882, although Mascagni's opera didn't have its première anywhere until 1890.
An attractive bonus is the accompanying CD featuring Dame Eva in arias from Turandot, Aida and Trovatore,as well as a dozen other tracks of singers she worked with, including Martinelli, Pertile, Lauri-Volpi, Gigli and Stignani, and one she simply worshipped, Claudia Muzio.”
- Ira Siff, OPERA NEWS, Sept., 2011