Reri Grist, Soprano (*1932)
Richard Strauss ARIADNE AUF NAXOS
Grossmächtige Prinzessin... Kommt ein neuer Gott gegangen
Conducted by Karl Böhm
My personal opinion: Ain't she sweet? Fortunately, there was much more than physical attractiveness, that Reri Grist (*1932 in N.Y.) could offer to the audience. Blessed with a "bright, high, beautiful, clear, bouncing and charming voice" (words of a devoted fan I found in the web), Reri Grist became a cute darling in the operatic world. "Her appearance was delightful, with her cheerfulness immediately she won the hearts of all!" said a friend to me, who once saw her at the Salzburg Festival in her significant role as Zerbinetta in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. This success unfortunately is a little bit forgotten by the subsequent fame of Edita Gruberova, who was the leading Zerbinetta in the decade after Grist. Critics described her voice as "silvery, flexible and accurate".
Her first solid voice training came from Claire Gelda when Reri was a teenager. During these days, she played and danced in small musical roles (One of her colleagues was the legendary Eartha Kitt). Reri Grist was casted for the Oscar Hammerstein adaption of CARMEN JONES, set in african-american cultural milieu. Leonard Bernstein noticed her and gave her the role of Consuela in the first performance of his new musical WEST SIDE STORY. Grist was the first soprano ever singing the immortal "Somewhere". One of the next steps was the participation in Bernstein's classic Columbia-recording of Mahler's fourth symphony. Reri Grist' professional opera debut took place 1959 in Santa Fé as Adele in FLEDERMAUS. Soon after, she came to Europe and sang her first Queen of the Night in Cologne. One year later, she received a contract from the Zürich Opera. It was the first time, she sang Zerbinetta. She repeated the role with great success in Chicago, Munich, Vienna, Glyndebourne and Salzburg. There she could extend her fame as the leading Mozart soubrette of her time: She triumphed as Blonde and Susanna in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. "Seldom has one encountered a Susanna of greater charm and bewitching charisma; the delicate, dark-skinned Reri Grist with the effortlessness and beguiling sweetness of her soprano voice is a delightful Mozart creature", wrote a reviewer. The film from the archives (now available on DVD) confirmed the assessment (and with Walter Berry as Figaro and Edith Mathis as Cherubino, Reri Grist had two congenial partner). The Böhm-recording of ARIADNE received only low reviews "The swift tongue and lovely coloratura of Reri Grist conciliated for a wrong cast with many voices not suitable for their roles!", wrote "Opera on Records". Ambivalent reviews also for the RIGOLETTO recording with Grist as Gilda, Cornell MacNeil and Nicolai Gedda. Grist is a girlish young Gilda, although for me her voice is a little bit too crystal clear (and therefore of colorless transparency). Her coloratura in "Caro nome" leaves no wishes unfulfilled, however I still prefer Lina Pagliughi. Also Reri Grist had a voice, that was only suitable to a limited extent for recordings. In theatres she was much more impressive. Sometimes it was only a skinny voice, that left the studio. Maybe a reason, why her recording legacy is without great response (and Reri never received star status just as Barbara Bonney or Dawn Upshaw). We have many fine broadcasts (L'ELISIR D'AMORE with Gedda/Pavarotti; ENTFÜHRUNG under Mehta with Wunderlich; ZAUBERFLÖTE under Karajan with Kollo (!) as Tamino; BARBIERE with Wunderlich - and many others). Her most important roles on records were Zerbinetta, her bubbly Oscar in BALLO (with Price, Bergonzi, Merrill) and Despina in COSI FAN TUTTE under Böhm with Janowitz and Fassbaender.
Whenever possible, I'm trying to save myself from Richard Strauss. It is reported, even Ms. Strauss disliked the music of her husband. A famous mezzosoprano (who often sung in ROSENKAVALIER) once said: "We sing Strauss, because he's a part of the repertoire. It's our job and we get paid for it. But believe me, most of us feel relieved, when it's over..."
Anyway, here we have Reri Grist with her famous showpiece...