Transcript: Maureen Forrester | Jan 15, 1998

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a ballet performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of Richard Ouzounian and a guest talking, as a production assistant fixes some cables: “Maureen Forrester. Singer.”

Then, Richard appears facing the screen. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a dark gray suit, white shirt, and colourful patterned tie.

He says I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
IN SPEAKING OF MY NEXT GUEST,
ONE CRITIC ONCE SAID,
IF ALL THE ANGELS
WERE CONTRALTOS,
THEY'D PROBABLY
SOUND LIKE HER.
SHE'S HAD AN
ASTONISHING CAREER.
SHE'S BEEN THE HEAD OF THE
CANADA COUNCIL, CHANCELLOR OF
A UNIVERSITY, AND MADE MORE
RECORDINGS THAN YOU
AND I COULD EVEN DREAM OF.
THIS
DIALOGUE
IS
MAUREEN FORRESTER.

Maureen is in her late sixties, with short wavy blond hair. She’s wearing a pied-de-poule blazer over a black shirt, silver earrings and a silver sun brooch.

Richard continues SO MAUREEN, THE FIRST THING
I HAVE TO ASK AFTER THIS
INCREDIBLE CAREER THAT'S
SPANNED ALL THESE DECADES,
DO YOU STILL LIKE TO SING?

Maureen says YES, I DO.

Richard says WHAT IS IT ABOUT IT?

Maureen says I DON'T KNOW.
I'M JUST ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE,
MY CHILDREN USED TO SAY TO ME,
YOU KNOW, MAKING UP BEDS
OR COOKING OR SOMETHING,
I WAS ALWAYS HUMMING.
THEY'D SAY, MUM, KNOCK IT OFF.
[laughing]
I SING ALL THE TIME, WHETHER
I'M PRACTISING OR SOMETHING,
I JUST WALK AROUND.
EVEN ON THE STREET.
[humming]
THAT SILLY WOMAN WHO SINGS
TO HERSELF ALL DAY LONG.
I SAID, IT BEATS CRYING.

Richard says YOU LIKE THE PHYSICAL
SENSATION OF SINGING.
IT FEELS GOOD.

Maureen says YEAH.

Richard says IN ALL THE STUFF I'VE READ
ABOUT YOU, THEY ALSO SAY, AND
SHE HAD DONE A LOT OF AMATEUR
SINGING, THEN SHE LAUNCHED
HER CAREER AT THE
TORONTO SYMPHONY.
WAS THERE A MOMENT WHEN YOU
FIRST REALIZED THAT THIS
SINGING OF YOURS WAS MORE
THAN JUST SOMETHING NICE
AROUND THE HOUSE?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Maureen Forrester. Singer."

Maureen says WELL, YES.
BECAUSE I STUDIED.
AND THEN I REALIZED, I
HAD A VERY NICE TEACHER.
HE WAS A VERY OLD MAN.
AND I FELT I HAD A LITTLE
FURTHER TO GO IN STUDY.
AND SO I WENT TO
BERLIN TO STUDY.
MET A WONDERFUL TEACHER THERE.
AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE
TEACHER OF FISCHER-DIESKAU,
A WONDERFUL MAN.
THEN, MY WHOLE WORLD OPENED
UP BECAUSE HE TAUGHT ME SONGS
THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE SANG.
AND MICHAEL RAUCHEISEN,
WHO WAS A FAMOUS
ACCOMPANIST, KNEW THAT
I DIDN'T HAVE MUCH MONEY,
AND I WAS STUDYING THERE.
SO HE'D SAY, LEARN THESE FOUR
SONGS, AND BRING THEM TO ME
NEXT THURSDAY.
AND I'D WORK VERY HARD TO
LEARN THEM, AND BRING THEM.
AND HE'D SAY, NOT BAD.
A LITTLE BIT, A
LITTLE BIT THERE.
AND, NOW, WE'RE GOING TO
RECORD THEM ON MONDAY FOR RIAS.
BECAUSE HE KNEW I
DIDN'T HAVE ANY MONEY.
SO HE WANTED ME TO
HAVE POCKET MONEY.
AND THEY PAID ME VERY WELL.
AND AS A MATTER OF FACT,
THE GERMANS ARE VERY
ORGANIZED PEOPLE.
TO THIS DAY, TWICE A YEAR I GET
A CHEQUE FROM THOSE RECORDINGS.
ISN'T THAT FUNNY?

Richard says AND THAT'S OVER 40 YEARS AGO.

Maureen says OVER 40 YEARS AGO.

Richard says SO BEFORE YOU KNEW IT, YOU
WERE FULLY ENTRENCHED ONTO
A PROFESSIONAL CAREER.

Maureen says MM-HMM.

Richard says AND IN TORONTO, I THINK THE
DATE THEY GIVE IS THAT YOU
SANG WITH THE TORONTO SYMPHONY
IN '54, I BELIEVE IT WAS.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST
EXPERIENCE LIKE?
WHO WAS CONDUCTING THAT?

Maureen says GOSH, I'M TRYING TO REMEMBER.
IT WAS SO LONG AGO.
IT WAS PROBABLY SIR ERNEST.

Richard says SIR ERNEST.
HE WAS STILL IN
CHARGE THEN, YES.

Maureen says I THINK IT WAS SIR ERNEST.
HE WAS A WONDERFUL,
FATHERLY SORT OF PERSON.
MADE YOU FEEL
VERY COMFORTABLE.
HE NEVER MADE ARTISTS NERVOUS.
YOU KNOW, SOME CONDUCTORS ARE
VERY UPTIGHT, AND YOU FEEL,
GOSH, AM I DOING THE
RIGHT THING, WHATEVER.
BUT I'VE WORKED WITH SOME
WONDERFUL CONDUCTORS.

Richard says I WANT TO COME BACK TO YOUR
RELATIONSHIP WITH CONDUCTORS
LATER, BUT WHEN YOU WERE
WITH THE TORONTO SYMPHONY,
THAT MUST HAVE BEEN A BIG
MOMENT THEN IN THE EARLY '50s.

Maureen says IT WAS BECAUSE I HAD TO COME
FROM MONTREAL TO TORONTO.
AND IT WAS ALWAYS VERY
EXPENSIVE, YOU KNOW?
HOW DO I SCRAPE ENOUGH MONEY
TO GET TO TORONTO AND LIVE IN
A HOTEL OR SOMETHING.
THEN I MET IRENE
BYRD, AND BAILEY.
DO YOU REMEMBER BAILEY BYRD?
HE WAS A PUBLISHER OF MUSIC.
AND IRENE BECAME ONE OF MY
DEAR FRIENDS FOR THE REST OF
MY LIFE.
BUT THEY SAID, NO, NO,
YOU'RE COMING TO TORONTO,
COME AND STAY WITH US.
THEY DID IT FOR A LOT OF YOUNG
SINGERS, KNOWING THAT YOU
DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY
TO STAY AT A DECENT HOTEL.
SO THEY WANTED TO MAKE SURE
YOU WERE WELL LOOKED AFTER.
SO WE'VE BEEN FRIENDS
FOR MANY, MANY YEARS.

Richard says NOW, AFTER THAT, IT WAS
ONLY TWO YEARS BEFORE
YOUR NEW YORK DEBUT.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT
INTERVENING PERIOD TO GET YOU
THAT FAR THAT FAST?

Maureen says WELL, THE GREAT KATHLEEN
FERRIER HAD DIED.
AND BRUNO WALTER, WHO DID SO
MUCH MAHLER NEEDED A NEW ALTO.
AND HE HAD AUDITIONED
QUITE A FEW YOUNG PEOPLE.
AND SOMEBODY SAID, OH, I WAS
IN MONTREAL, AND I HEARD A
YOUNG LADY.
MAYBE YOU'D BE
INTERESTED IN HER.
SO IMAGINE SOMEONE CALLING
ME AND SAY, WE'D LIKE YOU TO
COME TO NEW YORK TO
AUDITION FOR Dr. WALTER.
WELL, I FIRST OF ALL DIDN'T
HAVE ENOUGH MONEY, BUT I WAS
ALWAYS BEG, BORROWING STEALING
MONEY FROM MY PARENTS
OR FRIENDS, YOU KNOW,
TO GET THERE.
BUT EVERYBODY
SAID, YOU
MUST
GO.
AND WHEN HE ASKED ME TO SING,
AND HE ASKED ME TO TRY OUT
MAHLER'S
RESURRECTION.
AND I SANG IT FOR HIM, AND HE
SAID, YEAH, YOU MUST DO IT
THIS WAY, AND THIS
WAY, AND THIS WAY.
NOW, THAT'S FINE.
YOU TAKE IT HOME,
AND YOU WORK ON IT.
AND THEN, I THINK IT WAS IN
FEBRUARY, I WANT YOU TO COME
AND SING IT WITH THE
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC.
WELL, THE MOMENT I CAME HOME
AND ANNOUNCED THIS, OF COURSE,
IN MONTREAL, THE PRESS GOT
TO HEAR ABOUT IT RIGHT AWAY.
AND IT WAS REALLY, HE WAS
THE REASON I HAVE A CAREER.

Richard says BUT DURING THAT PERIOD
IN BETWEEN, WHAT WENT ON
IN YOUR HEAD?
WERE YOU SO NERVOUS ABOUT
GOING TO NEW YORK, OR WERE YOU
JUST WORRYING ABOUT HOW YOU
ARE GOING TO SING THIS PIECE
OF MAHLER?

Maureen says NO, I'M NEVER NERVOUS.
I CAN'T TEACH YOUNG
PEOPLE NOT TO BE NERVOUS.
THEY SAY, YOU'RE
ALWAYS SO RELAXED.
I SAY, WELL, I'M DOING
WHAT I LIKE TO DO.
I MAY BE BETTER ONE DAY
THAN ANOTHER, OR HAVE A COLD,
BUT YOU CAN ALWAYS
SING OVER A COLD.
IF YOU'RE REALLY
SICK, YOU CAN'T SING.
BUT YOU DON'T EVER COMPLAIN
BECAUSE THERE ARE LOTS OF
PEOPLE WAITING IN THE WING.

Richard says SO THAT BIG EVENT IN NEW
YORK DID NOT UNNERVE YOU.

Maureen says NO, IT DIDN'T.
AND IT ACTUALLY TURNED OUT
VERY WELL BECAUSE AS I SAID,
KATHLEEN FERRIER HAD DIED, AND
EVERYBODY KNEW HE WAS LOOKING
FOR ANOTHER ALTO.
SO FROM THEN ON, WE DID
MOST OF THE MAHLER WORKS,
AND THE GREAT LIED VON
DER ERDE MANY TIMES.
AND WITH OTHER PEOPLE, TOO.
IT WAS MY KICKOFF IN THE UNITED
STATES BECAUSE LOS ANGELES
WOULD BOOK ME BECAUSE BRUNO
WALTER HAD BOOKED ME.
AND IT'S A WONDERFUL THING FOR
A CONDUCTOR TO DO TO A YOUNG
PERSON.

Richard says WHAT'S INTERESTING IS IT KIND
OF ALSO BOUND YOUR CAREER
WITH MAHLER.
AND IT'S FUNNY, IF YOU LOOK
YOUR ENTRY UP IN THE CANADIAN
ENCYCLOPEDIA, I ALWAYS LOOK
TO SEE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT
PEOPLE, AND IT HAS MAUREEN
FORRESTER, ETC., ETC.,
SEPARATE BEST KNOWN FOR HER
INTERPRETATIONS OF THE WORKS
OF MAHLER.
NOW, WHAT I'M CURIOUS ABOUT, I
MEAN, OBVIOUSLY, CIRCUMSTANCE
THRUST YOU INTO IT, BUT DO
YOU HAVE A REAL AFFINITY
FOR HIS WORK?

Maureen says YES, I DO.

Richard says IT MUST TOUCH YOU SOMEHOW.

Maureen says IT DOES.
THERE'S A CERTAIN LONGING
IN MOST OF HIS WORKS.
AND IT'S NOT THAT I'M A SAD OR
UNHAPPY PERSON, IT'S JUST THAT
IT LENDS ITSELF WELL
TO THE ALTO VOICE.
WE CAN SING AS THOUGH WE ARE
SAD OR LONGING OR WHATEVER.
IT'S A DIFFERENT COLOUR VOICE,
EVEN THAN A MEZZO SOPRANO
WHO HAS MORE BRILLIANT
AND UPPER SOPRANOS.

Richard says DO YOU EVER FIND
YOU'RE BEEN BOXED IN?
HAVE YOU EVER SAID, DON'T
CALL ME THE MAHLER PERSON,
THE MAHLER LADY ANYMORE?

Maureen says OH, SURE.
BUT THEN I LEARNED AN
AWFUL LOT OF OTHER WORKS,
SO IT WAS ALL RIGHT.
IF YOU WANT TO ENLARGE YOUR
REPERTOIRE, I'VE DONE A LOT OF
BERLIOZ.
I SING FRENCH, I WAS BORN
IN MONTREAL, I'M BILINGUAL.
SO I LIKE TO SING IN FRENCH.
I LIKE TO SING IN ITALIAN.
EVEN IN CHINESE WE WENT,
YOU KNOW, WITH THE TORONTO
SYMPHONY TO CHINA.

Richard says NOW, I WANTED TO ASK YOU,
YOU'VE DONE A LOT OF CONCERT
PERFORMING, WE
KNOW YOU AS THAT.
BUT YOU HAVE DONE YOUR
SHARE OF OPERA, AS WELL.
DO YOU ENJOY THAT?
IS IT TOTALLY DIFFERENT WHEN
YOU SUDDENLY HAVE COSTUME AND
MAKE-UP AND STAGING
AND SCENERY ADDED?

Maureen says YES.
THE FIRST THING THAT TURNS ME
ON TO A ROLE, IS IT A GOOD
ACTING ROLE?
CAN I BE THAT PERSON?
AND I'M GOOD AT MOTHER'S
MAIDS, WITCHES AND BITCHES.
YOU KNOW?
I PLAY OLD LADIES VERY
WELL, AND I DIE WELL.
BUT I DON'T SEE
MYSELF AS A HEROINE.
I DON'T SEE MYSELF AS DELILAH.
I LOVE THE ARIAS, AND I SING
THEM, BUT I DON'T THINK I'M
THAT TYPE.

Richard says NOW, THERE WAS A RUMOUR GOING
AROUND, BACK IN THE LATE '70s
AND '80s, SPEAKING OF
HEROINES, THAT YOU WERE GOING
TO DO A GIANT MUSICAL
COMEDY TOUR AS MAME.

Maureen says SOMEBODY ELSE TOLD ME
THAT, BUT I DIDN'T KNOW.
I DON'T THINK ANYBODY EVER CAME
AND APPROACHED ME TO DO MAME.

Richard says SUPPOSEDLY IT WAS BRIAN
MCDONALD WANTED YOU
TO BE AUNTIE MAME.
AND SOMEBODY ONCE SAID, ISN'T
THAT PERFECT CASTING, MAUREEN
AS AUNTIE MAME, THE LIFE FORCE
WHO BUSTLES AROUND AND TELLS
EVERYBODY TO HAVE A GOOD TIME.
DID THAT EVER APPEAL TO YOU?
HAVE YOU WANTED TO BE A
MUSICAL COMEDY HEROINE EVER?

Maureen says SURE.
I LOVE DOING IT.
AND THAT'S WHY THE CONCERTS
I'M DOING NOW, THE DAVID
ROURKE SONGS, ARE SO MUCH FUN.

Richard says LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT.
IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE HE'S
WRITTEN A WHOLE PROGRAM JUST
FOR YOU.

Maureen says JUST FOR ME.

Richard says IS IT
INTERPRETATIONS
OF A LIFE?

Maureen says YES.

Richard says IT'S -- TELL ME
HOW IT CAME ABOUT?

Maureen says WELL, HE SORT OF SAW MY NUTTY
SIDE, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
AND I GUESS HE WENT HOME AND
SCRIBBLED A FEW SONGS DOWN.
AND HE'D BRING TWO
OR THREE SONGS.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?
OH, THAT SOUNDS GREAT.
SO WE BUILT UP THIS PROGRAM.
AND THEN WE STARTED TO
DO IT IN VARIOUS PLACES.
AND IT'S VERY SUCCESSFUL
BECAUSE, AS A MIDDLE-AGED
WOMAN, YOU KNOW, UP ON THE
STAGE, THE PEOPLE THAT COME
TO SEE ME ARE MY AGE.

Richard says RIGHT.

Maureen says AND THEY ABSOLUTELY GLOW WITH
GLEE AT ALL THE FOIBLES OF ME.

Richard says BECAUSE ALL THE SONGS,
ALTHOUGH THEY FIT YOUR
PERSONALITY, THEY'RE
NOT NECESSARILY ABOUT
A CLASSICAL SINGER.

Maureen says NO, NO, NO.
THERE'S A WONDERFUL SONG, “THE
CHILD IN ME, STILL SWINGS ON
SWINGS, AND WISHING ON STARS.
STILL DANCING THE GYPSY
TO IMAGINED GUITARS.
STILL WIDE-EYED AT MIRACLES,
WHEN MIRACLES APPEAR.
STILL LOOKING UP THERE, WHEN
THE ANSWER'S DOWN HERE.
CAN'T YOU SEE THE CHILD IN ME?”
I MEAN, IT'S A BEAUTIFUL SONG.
YOU GET A LOT OF PERSONALITIES
IN HIS SONGS BECAUSE HE GOES
THROUGH THE VERY MANY
PHASES OF YOUR LIFE.

Richard says THERE'S ANOTHER ONE, I
WONDERED IF IT WAS YOU.
HE HAS A VERY FUNNY NUMBER
CALLED THE SHOP-AHOLIC SAMBA.
IS THAT YOU, MAUREEN?

Maureen says ABSOLUTELY.
ABSOLUTELY.

[laughing]

Richard says IT'S ONE THAT SAID, I'D
LIKE TO BUY, BUY, BUY.

Maureen says NO, “SHOP-AHOLIC SAMBA IS
MORE THAN JUST A DANCE.
I'M SO IN LOVE WITH SHOPPING,
I CALL IT A ROMANCE.
I GO, I SEE, I BUY
MORE THAN I EARN.
OH, THE SHOP-A-HOLICS
SAMBA IS SO EASY TO LEARN.”

[laughing]

Richard says WHAT'S YOUR
SHOPPING WEAKNESS?

Maureen says PROBABLY SHOES
IS ONE OF THEM.

Richard says SO THIS PROGRAM OF DAVID'S,
IT EXISTS KIND OF IN
CONJUNCTION WITH A STANDARD
CLASSICAL CONCERT FOR YOU.

Maureen says THE FIRST HALF OF THE
CONCERT IS ALL CLASSICAL.
THEN THE SECOND HALF, HE
SITS AT THE PIANO, AND TURNS
AROUND AND TALKS ABOUT EACH
SONG TO THE AUDIENCE,
AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT.
SO HE SETS IT UP,
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

Richard says WHEN YOU PICK A CLASSICAL
REPERTOIRE, NOWADAYS, FOR THE
FIRST PART OF IT, WHAT DO
YOU LOOK FOR FOR YOURSELF?

Maureen says WELL, THERE IS SO MUCH MUSIC.
I MEAN, I HAVE A LIBRARY I
CAN'T BELIEVE, STUFF I HAVE I
CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER, I
BOUGHT AND IT'S STILL THERE.
I LIKE TO CHANGE MY PROGRAM
QUITE OFTEN, AND PUT IN NEW
THINGS BECAUSE IF PEOPLE ARE
USED TO GOING TO SEE YOU,
THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR THE
SAME PROGRAM ALL THE TIME.
IT GETS TO BE BORING.
SO SOMETIMES IT'S, YOU KNOW,
SONGS, AS I SAY, THE SONGS
OF LUVA.
HE WROTE THE MOST WONDERFUL
BALLADS THAT NOBODY ON THIS
CONTINENT SINGS.
AND THEY'RE JUST GREAT.
PEOPLE COME BACKSTAGE,
ESPECIALLY STUDENTS, AND SAY,
HOW CAN I GET A HOLD OF THAT
SONG, IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL.
I SAY, GIVE ME YOUR ADDRESS,
AND I'LL MAKE A PHOTOCOPY AND
SEND IT TO YOU BECAUSE
UNFORTUNATELY, I GOT IT IN
BERLIN, AND I DON'T
HAVE IT IN A VOLUME.

Richard says DO THE GERMANS STILL HAVE
KIND OF PRIDE OF PLACE IN YOUR
SINGING HEART?

Maureen says WELL, YES BECAUSE I
STUDIED IN BERLIN WITH
MICHAEL RAUCHEISEN WHO WAS
THE GERALD MOORE OF GERMANY.
AND HE WAS A GREAT PIANIST.
AND HE WAS SO GOOD TO
ME WHEN I WAS THERE.
AND HE WAS REALLY RESPONSIBLE
FOR MY LEARNING AND LOVING
GERMAN SONGS.

Richard says YOUR VOICE, AGAIN, YOU SEEM
SO COMFORTABLE WITH IT.
THE OTHER WORD I'VE HEARD
IS SOMEONE SAID THAT THE
WONDERFUL THING ABOUT THE WAY
YOU SING IS WHEN YOU ARE WITH
A SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA YOU CAN
BE THE OBOE, BUT THEN WHEN YOU
ARE ON YOUR OWN WITH A
MICROPHONE, THEY SAID, YOU
KNOW, YOU SHOULD SEE MAUREEN
WORK A CROWD WHEN SHE IS
SINGING THE SONGS.
BUT HAVE YOU EVER SAT THERE
AND LISTENED TO THE GREAT
SOPRANOS AND KIND OF SECRETLY
WISHED YOU WERE ONE OF THOSE?

Maureen says MAYBE A MEZZO SOPRANO.
IT'S TOO HARD TO BE A SOPRANO.
YOU'VE GOT TO BE IN
GOOD SHAPE ALL THE TIME.
YOU KNOW, IT'S SO MUCH
HIGHER THAN ONE SPEAKS.

Richard says WHAT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE
YOU'VE HAD A GREAT LONGEVITY
IN YOUR CAREER, AND I WAS JUST
THINKING TODAY ABOUT IT,
I'M WONDERING IF THE FACT YOU
ARE A CONTRALTO, AN ALTO,
HAS HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE
FACT YOUR VOICE CONTINUES TO
DEEPEN AND GROW RICHER, AND
DURABLE, AS THE YEARS GO ON.

Maureen says BECAUSE IT'S IN THE NATURAL
PLACEMENT OF MY HEAD.
I'M NOT ALWAYS HAVING TO LET
UP WAY UP THERE AND SUPPORT IT.

She mimics the act of singing in increasingly higher pitched notes.

She continues
IT'S HARD.
IT HAS TO BE NATURAL
TO YOU TO DO THAT.

Maureen says WHAT YOU JUST STARTED TALKING
ABOUT, YOUR WONDERFUL,
WONDERFUL TEACHER, PEOPLE LOVE
GOING TO MASTER CLASSES WITH
YOU, AND GETTING
INFORMATION FROM YOU.
AND JUST NOW, YOU WERE
SPEAKING ABOUT A NATURAL WAY
OF PLACING THE VOICE.
ARE ALL OF THESE THINGS, ARE
THEY THINGS YOU HAVE COME TO
YOURSELF OVER THE YEARS?
IF I WENT TO YOU AND SAID,
MAUREEN, I WANT TO SING.
WHERE DO YOU START?

Maureen says WELL, FIRST OF ALL I SAY,
SING SOMETHING FOR ME, THEN
I'M GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT'S
WRONG WITH YOUR VOICE.
WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW, AND WHAT
YOU ARE GOING TO IMPROVE,
AND THIS IS HOW TO DO IT.
AND IT'S NOT
DIFFICULT TO SING.
THE MAIN THING YOU HAVE
TO WORK ON IS TO KEEP THE
RESONATORS OPEN

She gently touches her cheekbones and continues
BECAUSE THOSE
ARE THE SPEAKERS OF THE VOICE.
AND YOU FORGET ABOUT WHAT'S
BETWEEN HERE AND HERE

She touches her nose and chin and continues
BECAUSE IT'S THE DIAPHRAGM, THE LITTLE
MUSCLE BETWEEN THE RIBS THAT
SUPPORTS THE SOUND THAT MAKES
YOU LOOK ALWAYS COMFORTABLE
WITH YOUR SINGING.
AND BECAUSE IF SOMEBODY IS
SINGING AND SQUEEZING,
YOU KNOW, YOU CAN'T DO THAT.
YOU'RE TIGHTENING UP THE
LOWER PART OF YOUR VOICE,
AND THAT'S HOW YOU SOUND.
SO YOU HAVE TO KNOW
ABOUT YOUR DIAPHRAGM.
AND USE IT, BUT JUST LIKE NOT
ALL -- A LOT OF PEOPLE TAKE
TOO MUCH BREATH, THEN THEY RUN
OUT OF STEAM BECAUSE THEY ARE
WASTING TOO MUCH ENERGY
TRYING TO KEEP THE BREATH IN.
SO YOU JUST HAVE TO BE
COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR BODY,
AND TRUST YOUR DIAPHRAGM TO
LIFT IT UP, AND KEEP THAT
OPEN, AN THEN THE
SOUND COMES OUT.
THOSE ARE THE
SPEAKERS, YOU KNOW?

Richard says JUST LIKE YOU HAVE THE SOUND,
WHEN YOU LISTEN TO SOUND
IN YOUR HEAD PHONES AND THINGS,
YOU CAN FEEL THE SPEAKERS GOING.
THESE ARE YOUR SPEAKERS.
YOU FEEL IT RESONATING THERE?

Maureen says YEAH, SURE, OF COURSE.

Richard says AND YOU CAN TELL THE WAY IT
FEELS IF YOU'RE ON OR NOT?

Maureen says YEAH.
IF I'M NOT ON, I KNOW HOW
TO WARM UP SO I CAN GET ON,
IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
IF I SOUND A LITTLE TIRED, I
KNOW HOW TO GET OUT OF IT.
AND THAT'S JUST BECAUSE AS I
TOLD YOU, I STUDIED WITH A
WONDERFUL MAN.
AND HE GAVE ME
GREAT EXERCISES.
NOT MANY.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO
HAVE MANY, BUT --

Richard says I WAS GOING TO SAY, DO YOU
STILL TRAIN TO THIS DAY?

Maureen says NOT REALLY, NO.

Richard says NO?

Maureen says NO.

Richard says LITTLE WARM UP BEFORE
YOU GO ON AND THAT'S IT.

Maureen says YEAH, YEAH.

Richard says WHEN IT COMES TO LEARNING
SONGS, WE TALKED ABOUT THE
MUSIC.
YOU TALKED ABOUT GETTING
INTO A CHARACTER.
WOULD YOU ADVISE SOMEONE AGAIN
TO LOOK AT THE TEXT VERY
CLOSELY?

Maureen says FIRST.

Richard says FIRST.

Maureen says FIRST.
THE TEXT IS THE SECRET OF
WHAT SOUND YOU ARE GOING
TO MAKE PER WORD.
YOU KNOW?
YOU'VE GOT TO COLOUR
YOUR VOICE A LOT.
IT'S LIKE PAINTING.

Richard says GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE.
IF YOU TAKE ONE OF THE SONGS
YOU'RE DOING NOW, THE
CLASSICAL SONGS, IN THE
FIRST PART OF YOUR REP,
HOW WOULD YOU APPROACH IT?

Maureen says WELL, THERE'S A
WONDERFUL SONG CALLED

[speaking German]

Richard says WHICH MEANS?

Maureen says OH, DEAR... WHAT TEARS CAN
DO TO YOU, OR TROUBLES
OR WHATEVER.
AND IT'S VERY LONG PHRASES.
SO YOU CAN'T GO...

[singing in German]

She continues
YOU'RE GOING TO
RUN OUT OF STEAM.
SO WHAT I TELL YOUNG PEOPLE,
AND SOMETIMES THEY DON'T
UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M SAYING.
DON'T SING THIS WAY.
START AT THE BACK WALL, AND
BRING THE SOUND TOWARDS YOU.
SO WHEN YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF
BREATH, YOU ARE GOING TO BE
ABLE TO PUT THE LAST T ON
BECAUSE T IS EASY TO DO,
LIKE SPITTING A BIT OFF THE
END OF YOUR TONGUE, YOU KNOW?

Richard says RIGHT.

Maureen says BUT SO MANY YOUNG
PEOPLE DO THIS.
AND HALFWAY THROUGH EACH
PHRASE, THEY RUN OUT OF STEAM
BECAUSE THEY ARE PUSHING
TOO MUCH WITH THEIR BREATH.
AND A VOICE THAT SOUNDS TOO
MUCH BREATH IN IT, IS NOT
REALLY PLEASANT.

Richard says AND ALSO THIS LYRIC YOU'RE
DESCRIBING, THIS LYRIC WOULD
BE BECAUSE IT'S ABOUT PAIN AND
TEARS, YOU WOULDN'T WANT IT
TO BE ALL OUT THERE, RIGHT?

Maureen says NO, NO.
IT'S A MORE INNER LIFTING.
THEN YOU ROLL IT AROUND, AND
THEN IT COMES OUT THAT WAY,
YOU KNOW?
IT'S ONE OF THE MOST
BEAUTIFUL LUVA SONGS.

Richard says DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO
GO FROM -- I MEAN, 'COS YOU'VE
DONE CROSSOVER ALBUMS.
YOU WERE A CROSSOVER ARTIST
BEFORE PEOPLE KNEW
WHAT THEY WERE.
I MEAN, I HAVE ALBUMS OF
YOURS WHERE YOU ARE SINGING
SONDHEIM AND KERN
AND EVERYTHING.
DO YOU APPROACH THESE
WORKS DIFFERENTLY AT ALL?

Maureen says NO.

Richard says NO.

Maureen says IT'S EXACTLY THE SAME.
EXCEPT WHEN YOU ARE DOING POP
MUSIC, YOU NEED A MICROPHONE.

Richard says HOW COME?

Maureen says BECAUSE IT DOESN'T REALLY
SOUND GOOD IF YOU SING WITH A
LOT OF BREATH UNDERNEATH IT,
IT SOUNDS SORT OF PHONY,
YOU KNOW?
AND IF YOU ARE DOING A
NIGHT CLUB ACT OR WHATEVER,
YOU NEED A MICROPHONE.
BECAUSE THEN YOU CAN SING
VERY, VERY SOFTLY, AND PLAY
AROUND WITH THE
WORDS SO MUCH NICER.

Richard says IN THE PERIOD THAT YOU'VE HAD
A CAREER, MUSIC HAS GONE FROM
R and B AND BOOGIE-WOOGIE AND ROCK
AND ROLL THROUGH THE BEATLES
AND FOLK ROCK AND ACID ROCK,
AND OUT THE OTHER END.
DO YOU EVER FOLLOW IT?
DO YOU LISTEN TO MUCH MUSIC
OTHER THAN MUSIC THEATRE AND
YOUR OWN REPERTOIRE?

Maureen says OH, SURE.
I HAVE THE RADIO
ON ALL THE TIME.
AND I FLOAT AROUND,
NICE MUSIC ON.
ALWAYS WANT TO HEAR WHO THE
NEW YOUNGER ARTISTS ARE.
EVEN IN POP MUSIC.
I DON'T LIKE, WHAT'S IT
CALLED, SOME OF THE MODERN
VERY NOISY JAZZ PIECES
BECAUSE THEY TIRE ME OUT,
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
AND BESIDES, I'M ALWAYS TURNED
ON, AS I SAY, BY THE TEXT FIRST.
SO I WANT TO HEAR THE WORDS
AND 'DOO AH, DOO AH' DOESN'T
DO IT FOR ME.

Richard says RIGHT.

Maureen says SO YOU HAVE TO HAVE A REALLY
BEAUTIFUL LYRIC BECAUSE
THAT'S WHY THE COMPOSER
PUT A LOVELY MELODY TO IT.

Richard says WHEN YOUR CHILDREN WERE
GROWING UP, DID THEY EVER SAY,
MOM, YOU OUGHT TO SING THIS, OR
MOM YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THIS?

Maureen says NO.

Richard says THEY KNEW BETTER?
WHAT DID THEY THINK
OF YOU GROWING UP?

Maureen says I HOPE THEY LOVED ME.

[laughing]

Richard says MUSICALLY.

Maureen says MUSICALLY?
WELL, YEAH, MY MOTHER SINGS.
YEAH, MY MOTHER SINGS.
BUT THEY TOOK IT IN STRIDE.
BUT THEN, DON'T FORGET, I HAVE
NOW TWO ACTORS, SO THEY ARE
IN THEATRE, AS WELL.
IT MIGHT HAVE INFLUENCED THEM.

Richard says RIGHT.
YOU WENT BACK.
YOU TALK ABOUT TEACHING A LOT,
WHICH IS INTERESTING, THE
DYNAMIC OF THE TEACHER AND
WHO FIRST TAUGHT YOU, AND THE
GREAT CONDUCTORS YOU
HAVE WORKED WITH.
YOU MENTIONED BRUNO WALTER,
AND I SAID I WOULD COME BACK
TO HIM.
IT SOUNDS LIKE, INITIALLY,
HIS APPROACH TO YOU IS
VERY SIMPLE.
I'D LIKE YOU TO DO
THIS, AND DO THAT.
BUT AS YOU CONTINUE TO WORK
TOGETHER, WHAT WAS THE
RELATIONSHIP LIKE?

Maureen says VERY WARM.
VERY WARM, AND VERY, IT
WAS A LOVING, HE WAS LIKE
A GRANDFATHER TO ME.
HE WAS SO HELPFUL.
WHEN I WENT TO NEW YORK, OR
TO LOS ANGELES, OR WHEREVER I
WAS DOING A CONCERT WITH HIM,
I THINK I SAID TO YOU BEFORE,
THE FIRST THING HE WOULD
ASK ME IS HOW ARE THE CHILDREN?
DO YOU HAVE GOOD HELP FOR THE
CHILDREN, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
THAT'S THE KIND
OF PERSON HE WAS.
WARM, AND I THINK BECAUSE HE'D
HAD A LOT OF TRAGEDY IN HIS
LIFE, WITH HIS FAMILY, THAT
HE WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT
EVERYBODY WHO WAS GOING TO
HAVE A CAREER WOULD MAKE SURE
THAT THAT UNIT, THE FAMILY
UNIT, WAS VERY IMPORTANT.

Richard says HOW WOULD HE WORK
WITH YOU ON THE MUSIC?

Maureen says HE'D SIT AT THE PIANO AND
ACCOMPANY ME, AND THEN HE'D
SAY, NO, THAT'S VERY
GOOD,
BUT
TRY THIS.
WHEN YOU GET TO THAT NOTE,
MAKE A CRESCENDO, SUDDENLY
MAKE IT DIMINUENDO, YOU KNOW?

Richard says WOULD HE EVER TELL YOU WHY?

Maureen says WELL, FIRST OF
ALL, I'D TRY IT.
HE'D SAY, THAT'S BETTER.
LET'S DO IT AGAIN,
A COUPLE OF TIMES.
WELL, I THINK I WAS ON HIS
WAVE LENGTH, I SORT OF KNEW
WHAT HE MEANT.
I DON'T FIGHT SOMEBODY WHO
WANTS TO IMPROVE SOMETHING
I'M DOING.

Richard says YOU KNOW, ANDRE PREVIN
ONCE SAID, HE TALKED ABOUT
CONDUCTORS AND HE SAID, THERE
ARE SOME WHO WAVE THEIR ARMS
AROUND, AND DO ALL OF THIS,
HE SAID, AND THEN I WATCHED
DUKE ELLINGTON.
AND HE LIFTS ONE FINGER, AND
THE HORNS MAKE A SOUND LIKE
NOTHING I'VE EVER HEARD.

Maureen says HE'S GOT IT
ORGANIZED THAT WAY.

Richard says YEAH.
IS THAT WHAT YOU
FELT WITH BRUNO?

Maureen says YES, YES.
I FELT BY OSMOSIS.
HE DIDN'T GESTURE
AT ME TO COME IN.
HE WOULD JUST SORT OF
LOOK AT ME, AND GO...

She mimics an increasing rhythm and says
COME IN NOW, YOU KNOW?

Richard says WHAT ABOUT OTHER CONDUCTORS?
DIFFERENT STYLES AND
DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

Maureen says OH, THERE'S JUST SO MANY,
I CAN'T REMEMBER THEM ALL.
ZUBIN, ALL THE YOUNGER
GENERATION, SO MANY WONDERFUL
CONDUCTORS HAVE COME ALONG.
NOW, ZUBIN IS A MIDDLE-AGED
MAN, BUT I REMEMBER HIM WHEN
HE STARTED OUT.
AND SEIJI OZAWA.

Richard says IS IT A DIFFERENT ENERGY?
I MEAN, YOU OFTEN WONDER,
BRUNO WALTER GROWING UP IN THE
SAME CULTURAL MILIEU AS THE
MUSIC HE IS CONDUCTING,
AND THEN ALONG COMES
OZAWA AND OKAYAMA
AND ALL THESE OTHER PEOPLE,
DO YOU FIND THEY OPEN A
DIFFERENT DOOR TO THE
WESTERN MUSIC FOR YOU?

Maureen says TO WESTERN MUSIC?

Richard says TO OUR MUSIC.

Maureen says TO OUR MUSIC.
WELL, THEY HAVE AN IDEA
HOW THEY WANT IT TO GO.
ESPECIALLY IF IT IS
PART OF A BIG WORK.
BUT WE ALWAYS HAVE
A MEETING BEFORE.
AND HE'D SAY, I FEEL IT THIS
WAY, SO AND SO AND SO AND SO,
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
AND I WOULD SAY, WELL, I HAVE
A SORT OF MORE, WHAT THEY CALL
INNERLICH.
AND THAT'S SORT OF INSIDE.
IT MOVES ME EMOTIONALLY.
AND WHEN I AM MOVED
EMOTIONALLY BY THE TEXT,
THEN I LOVE THE MUSIC.
I DON'T START WITH THE MUSIC.
MOST PEOPLE, AND YOUNG
SINGERS ALWAYS START,
OH, I LOVE THAT MELODY.
BUT WHEN YOU LISTEN TO THEM,
YOU REALIZE THEY DON'T KNOW
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING.
THEY DON'T REALLY KNOW EVERY
WORD WHAT THEY ARE SAYING,
AND TO ME IT SHOWS.
SO YOU START WITH THE TEXT.

Richard says WHEN YOU GO TO HEAR MUSIC
NOWADAYS, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?
IF YOU'RE SITTING IN THE
AUDIENCE AT A CONCERT,
WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
AS AN AUDIENCE MEMBER?

Maureen says WHEN THE ARTIST WALKS ON
STAGE AND SMILES, AND SORT
OF GOES...
THEY'RE HAPPY TO
BE HERE, YOU KNOW?
THEN THE WHOLE
AUDIENCE RELAXES.

Richard says WHAT ABOUT THE
WHOLE DIVA MENTALITY?
WHICH YOU'VE NEVER
BEEN ACCUSED OF.
EVERYONE HAS ALWAYS SAID THAT,
YOU KNOW, YOU SHOW UP, YOU'RE
RELIABLE, YOU DO YOUR WORK
WONDERFULLY, YOU'RE FUN TO
PERFORM WITH.
BUT YOU'VE GOT, FOR EXAMPLE,
KATHLEEN BATTLE HAS HAD ALL
THESE BATTLES LATELY.
WHY DO YOU THINK -- AND IT'S
USUALLY THE SOPRANOS, I DON'T
MEAN TO MALIGN YOUR VOCAL
GROUP, BUT THE SOPRANOS DO IT.
AND THERE ARE SO MANY DIVAS.
WHAT CAUSES DIVA MENTALITY?

Maureen says I DON'T KNOW.
BUT WITH KATHLEEN -- FIRST OF
ALL, SHE'S GOT A WONDERFUL
VOICE, SHE'S VERY PRETTY, AND
SHE'S BEEN I THINK SPOILED
ALL HER LIFE AND TREATED
LIKE A PRIMA DONNA SINCE
SHE WAS A CHILD.
WELL, SHE IS GOING TO REMAIN
LIKE THAT UNTIL THE NEXT,
EVEN MORE TALENTED COLORATURA
SOPRANO COMES ALONG.
AND THEN SHE'LL GET
HER COMEUPPANCE.
BECAUSE A LOT OF CONDUCTORS
DON'T HAVE THE TIME FOR THAT
KIND OF STUPIDITY, YOU KNOW?

Richard says WELL, SHE GOT FIRED FROM THE
METROPOLITAN BECAUSE OF IT.
BUT AS I SAID, IT
SEEMS TO HAPPEN.
THERE IS ALWAYS, THERE WAS
CALLAS AND SO AND SO AND SO
AND SO, AND ON AND ON.
AND THERE ALWAYS SEEMS TO
BE ONE DIVA FULL FRONT.

Maureen says YEAH.
MIND YOU, I THINK THAT
CALLAS HAD A GREAT BRAIN.
I MEAN, SHE HAD PLOTTED
EVERYTHING SHE WAS GOING TO DO
BEFORE SHE DID IT.
AND SHE WAS A VERY
SPECIAL KIND OF PERSON.

Richard says THERE'S, OF COURSE, AN
INTERESTING PLAY OUT IN
NEW YORK AND LONDON CALLED
MASTER CLASS, WHICH IS A
BIOGRAPHY OF CALLAS,
WHICH IS TOLD THROUGH THREE
MASTER CLASSES THAT SHE GIVES.
DID YOU EVER THINK THERE'S
A MAUREEN FORRESTER STORY
IN THERE?
I MEAN, WHEN YOU TEACH A
CLASS, A MASTER CLASS, ARE YOU
REVEALING STUFF ABOUT YOU AND
YOUR LIFE AT THE SAME TIME?

Maureen says MAYBE I AM.
I'LL SAY, THIS SONG I USED
TO SING A LOT OF TIMES.
THERE ARE VERY DIFFICULT SPOTS
IN HERE, BUT I'M GOING TO
GIVE YOU THE SECRET OF
HOW TO GET THROUGH IT.

Richard says THE OTHER SIDE OF MAUREEN
FORRESTER, THE LADY WHO WAS
CHAIR OF THE CANADA
COUNCIL FOR SO LONG.
WHAT DID YOU FIND THAT LIKE?
WHAT DO YOU FIND ARTS'
POLITICS LIKE IN THE COUNTRY?

Maureen says TOUGH.
VERY TOUGH.
AND, YOU KNOW, THERE HAVE
BEEN SO MANY CUTBACKS AND
EVERYTHING IN THE CANADA
COUNCIL AND EVERYWHERE,
AND PEOPLE COMPLAIN.
I LOVED THE WORK.
IT REALLY COST ME MY
RETIREMENT PLAN BECAUSE IT
TOOK SO MUCH OF MY TIME UP,
AND I DID A LOT OF TRAVELLING
FOR THEM, AS WELL.
BUT IT WAS A GREAT LESSON ON
HOW DOES ONE REALLY HELP YOUNG
TALENT GET TO A PLACE WHERE
THEY CAN BE SELF-SUPPORTING?

Richard says WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
HOW DO YOU HELP THEM?

Maureen says THEY HAVE TO HAVE
PROPER TRAINING.
AND THEY HAVE TO HAVE TEACHERS
THAT CAN REALLY DO IT FOR THEM.
THE PROBLEM IS A LOT OF PEOPLE
WHO TEACH WERE FRUSTRATED
SINGERS.
AND THERE ARE FRUSTRATED
SINGERS, IN SINGING ANYWAY,
AND FRUSTRATED SINGERS THAT
NEVER REALLY HAD THAT EXTRA
SOMETHING THAT MAKES
YOU PROFESSIONAL.
SO WHAT THEY ARE PASSING ON
IS WHAT THEY DIDN'T KNOW.
I MEAN, THEY ARE PASSING ON
THEIR TECHNIQUE OF DOING IT,
BUT IT'S NOT VERY GOOD.
YOU'D BE AMAZED HOW MANY YOUNG
PEOPLE WILL CALL ME UP AND
SAY, CAN I COME AND SING FOR
YOU, AND IN JUST TWO OR THREE
PHRASES, I CAN CLEAR
UP THEIR PROBLEMS.
AND THEY GO, GOSH,
THAT'S ASTOUNDING.
IT'S JUST THROUGH AN EXERCISE.
BUT THESE TEACHERS
DON'T TEACH EXERCISES.
IT'S LIKE, IF YOU'RE GOING TO
BE A GYMNAST, YOU'VE GOT TO
DO YOUR WORKOUT TO BE ABLE TO
TUMBLE AND JUMP AND WHATEVER.

Richard says BUT AS WE ARE GETTING ALL
THESE CUTBACKS, THINGS LIKE
THIS FALL BY THE
WAYSIDE, RIGHT?

Maureen says THEY DO.
YES, THEY DO.

Richard says AND I DON'T MEAN TO BE
GLOOMY, BUT WHAT DO YOU SEE
THE FUTURE OF, WELL, FOR
EXAMPLE, SERIOUS VOCALIZATION
BEING IN CANADA?

Maureen says WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE
WONDERFUL VOICES.
WHEN I CROSS THE COUNTRY, A
LOT OF PEOPLE ASK TO COME AND
SING FOR ME, AND I'M ALWAYS
ASTOUNDED HOW MANY WONDERFUL
TALENTS ARE OUT THERE.
THEIR PROBLEM IS
GETTING FINANCING.
BUT I WAS VERY LUCKY.
WHEN I LIVED IN MONTREAL, I
WAS ALWAYS A CHURCH SOLOIST AT
A DOWNTOWN CHURCH IN MONTREAL.
AND THERE WAS A MAN
IN THE AUDIENCE, WHO WAS
J.W. MCCONNELL, WHO OWNED
THE MONTREAL STAR.
AND SOMEBODY TOLD HIM THAT
ISN'T IT A SAD THING THAT THIS
GIRL NOW SHOULD GO ON TO THE
NEXT STEP TO ANOTHER TEACHER,
BUT SHE CAN'T AFFORD IT.
SO HE CALLED ME INTO HIS
OFFICE ONE DAY AND SAT ME DOWN.
THIS HUGE
MONTREAL
STAR
OFFICE.
AND HE SAID, I HEAR YOU
WALKING UP -- BECAUSE HE WENT TO
THE CHURCH I WAS A SOLOIST IN,
ERSKINE AMERICAN, AND HE SAID
I SEE YOU WALKING UP, AND
I HEAR YOU AS YOU GO BY.
AND SOMEBODY TOLD ME YOU
REALLY NEED NOW TO MOVE ON TO
A NEW TEACHER OR SOMETHING.
SO I SAID, WELL, YES
I DO BUT, YOU KNOW --
I DIDN'T REALIZE WHAT
HE WAS GOING TO SAY.
SO HE SAID, ALL RIGHT, I
WILL GIVE YOU AS MUCH MONEY
AS YOU NEED TO GET TO WHERE
YOU ARE SELF-SUFFICIENT.
WASN'T THAT AN
INCREDIBLE THING TO DO?
HE WAS A WONDERFUL
FATHERLY MAN.
AND IT DIDN'T TAKE VERY LONG.
IT DIDN'T EVEN TAKE TWO YEARS.
I JUST HAD A GOOD TEACHER.
I NEEDED TO HAVE MORE LESSONS.

Richard says SO FROM THAT BEGINNING
CAME THE CAREER THAT WE ALL
APPRECIATE AND CHERISH TODAY.
AND THAT'S THE LESSON
I'D LIKE TO REMEMBER.
MAUREEN FORRESTER, THANK YOU
FOR BEING WITH US TODAY.

Maureen says MY PLEASURE.

Richard faces the screen and says
FOR DIALOGUE, I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOOD-BYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1997, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Maureen Forrester