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MUSIC AND DANCE NEWS : A Return to Montecito for Horne

November 20, 1994|Daniel Cariaga | Daniel Cariaga is The Times' music writer

There is logic and symmetry in Marilyn Horne's returning, in the summer of 1997, to the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, to become director of the vocal program at that summer conservatory: In the early 1950s, the now-celebrated mezzo-soprano was a student there of the late Lotte Lehmann, the legendary German soprano who founded the then-new program.

Horne's connection to the famous summer school continued in subsequent years through her association with pianist-vocal coach Gwendolyn Koldofsky, a longtime member of the academy faculty.

The singer's assumption of duties in Montecito will actually begin in 1995, with "a few master classes," Horne said on the phone from her home in New York recently. She will spend half of the summer there in 1996, then become full time with the academy's 50th anniversary, the following summer.

Talking about her return to Santa Barbara, Horne several times indicated some trepidation at inheriting the mantle of both Lehmann and the late Martial Singher, who between them, and for 40 years, inspired and launched virtually three generations of budding singers through their summer classes at Miraflores, the academy's home.

"We'll see," she replied self-deprecatingly upon being told she now belongs to a solid tradition. "I'm making no predictions," she said later. At the end of our conversation, she repeated, "I hope I am up to the challenge."

Far from being retired, the 60-year-old singer continues her association with the Metropolitan Opera (where she appears in two operas this season), and this month has been engaged in a two-segment European recital tour. But she acknowledges that "I really enjoy teaching. And that was a surprise to me, until I considered that, whenever--in all these years of singing on the stage--I gave advice to other singers, I was already teaching."

The day before this conversation, indeed, Horne had been giving a master class at Yale University. Among other places her "Vocal Workshops" have been situated has been the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Besides her continuing performances, the singer spends time and energy on her recently formed foundation, which aims to bolster the declining fortunes of the song recital through support of young artists dedicated to the form. She talks about a benefit for the foundation, scheduled in Alice Tully Hall on her next birthday, Jan. 16, which will raise money for foundation projects.

"Within five years, we expect to be funding 25 recitals a year."

The appointment at Santa Barbara was not something she sought, she says. "I never wanted to be part of a formal (academic faculty), but when David Kuehn (president of the academy) came to talk to me, it sounded like the perfect situation.

"It's the time of life. Transition is here. The thing is, I didn't realize it would be so easy."

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BRIEFLY: In 1995, the Carmel Bach Festival will again offer three weeks of performances, July 15-Aug. 6. Besides the Sunset Center in downtown Carmel, other venues for festival events include the Carmel Mission Basilica, the Chapel in the Forest at Pebble Beach and the sanctuary at All Saints Church. . . . The Paulist Boy Choristers (a choir of 23 men and boys, with chamber orchestra) will sing Handel's "Messiah" in a performance dedicated to the memory of Henry Mancini, Dec. 9 at Saint Paul the Apostle Church in West Los Angeles. Dana T. Marsh conducts.

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