In My Own Words

As a professional singer for over thirty years, I’ve been granted the opportunity to sing some of the most sublime music ever composed in some of the most sublime places on earth (e.g., Paris, New York, Buenos Aires) as well as in some of the most staggeringly ugly ([wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Novosibirsk” description=”Novosibirsk Opera House”], Siberia, and worse).

Early on, my first voice teacher predicted—rather ominously, I now realize—“Your voice will give you the whole world.” He turned out to be right, even if I have sometimes wanted to substitute the term “third” for “whole.” I have loved almost every minute and am happy to share with you the music that I have loved for so long, along with some of my experiences in performing it.

In preparation for creating this website, I pored over sites of a panoply of singers—from superstars to give-’em-the hook warblers—in quest of models. Despite the diversity of singers, I found an alarming uniformity of overblown encomia (“one of the most sought-after singers of her generation”; “one of the most versatile artists of our time”; “ the favorite of conductors and stage directors alike”), followed by a snippet of a rave review, and then the usual list of credits.

So how to revise my own self-congratulatory bio? Most singers’ bios are in third person, full of the obligatory superlatives written by their managers. I, too, have a bio like that. But in the spirit of my profession, which comprises some of the most dazzlingly self-involved people on the planet (okay, I’m one, too, but maybe not to the degree of most tenors), I am going to speak in my own voice.


My Glamorous Life, by Janice Meyerson.

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Yes, Matilde, there are Jews there. Yes, I am still performing. Now that those two questions are cleared up, I can go on to the other facts.

[wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”My mother played the piano” description=”My ma, Eva Meyerson Handleman”]completely by ear, in a lushly orchestral fashion. Many of our relatives would gather round the piano on Sunday to sing Broadway tunes and Yiddish songs. This is where I found my love of singing. My father owned a grocery store in a tough neighborhood (i.e., fortnightly robberies at gunpoint). I worked in the store from the ages of eight to eighteen. Thus, I am an expert grocery bagger and, presumably, you are not. I am also a better parallel parker than you are. And those two abilities are the sum total of my practical talents.


At Washington University in St. Louis, where I received a B.A. (and where music was seen and not heard, as the music department was populated mostly by musicologists), I studied voice with Donald Paterson. My first love was Mahler.
[popout text=”Click to listen: Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.” autoplay=”y” tracks=”MeyersonMahlerDasLied.mp3″ images=”true”]


Early photo of Lenny and meShortly after receiving a master’s at the New England Conservatory of Music, I auditioned for Leonard Bernstein, with whom I was fortunate to collaborate many times, until his death. ([wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_video link=”” width=”640″ height=”480″ text=”Click to watch: Bernstein’s Songfest” description=”Bernstein’s Songfest”] )
I sang Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde with him. I got to sing it with others, much later, but it never held the same magic. Another standout moment was singing his Jeremiah Symphony.


[popout text=”Click to listen: Brangäne” autoplay=”y” tracks=”MeyersonWagnerBrangaene.mp3″ images=”true”] [popout text=”Click to listen: Jeremiah Symphony” autoplay=”y” tracks=”MeyersonBernsteinJeremiah.mp3″ images=”true”]


For many years, I performed the mezzo glam roles: [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Amneris” description=”Amneris in Aïda at Cincinnati Opera”] in many theaters, including Frankfurt, Germany, and Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires; Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana at the New York City Opera; [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Eboli in Don Carlo” description=”Eboli in Don Carlo”]; Adriano in Wagner’s Rienzi; Laura in Gioconda at Deutsche Oper Berlin. As expected, many of these productions were of the Eurotrash variety, such as [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Preziosilla” description=”Preziosilla in La Forza del Destino”], most of which I sang atop a purple fighter tank.


[popout text=”Click to listen: Aïda” autoplay=”y” tracks=”MeyersonAmnerisAct4b.mp3″ images=”true”] [popout text=”Click to listen: Rienzi” autoplay=”y” tracks=”MeyersonWagnerRienzi.mp3″ images=”true”]


I sang Carmen over a thirty-year period. [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Here is a photo” description=”My first and last Carmens”] of my first, at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels; and my last—lying dead, end of Act 4, in Montevideo. People sometimes ask if I still sing Carmen… Oh c’mon. It would be unseemly. Yes, I still sing the Habanera or Seguedille at banquets, etc., but, well, Carmen is supposed to be eighteen (besides, I never could play the castanets very well).


Ditto Santuzza: that role has now devolved into the ancient [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Mamma Lucia” description=”Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana”] (whose son is 20; figure that one out); and [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Olga, the debutante” description=”Olga in Eugene Onegin”] of Eugene Onegin, has devolved into Filipyevna [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_video link=”” width=”640″ height=”480″ text=”(click to watch)” description=”Filipyevna in Eugene Onegin”] the nanny. And I’ve added some hard-core character roles, like the nasty Mrs. Sedley [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_video link=”” width=”640″ height=”480″ text=”(click to watch)” description=”Mrs. Sedley in Peter Grimes”] in Peter Grimes; [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Frugola” description=”Frugola the Cat Lady in Il Tabarro”] the Cat Lady in Il Tabarro; Janáček’s [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Kostelnička” description=”Kostelnička (center) in Jenůfa”] in Jenůfa as well as [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Kabanicha” description=”Kabanicha in Kát’a Kabanová (publicity photo)”] in Kát’a Kabanová; and Klytämnestra in Elektra.


Like many young singers with a predilection for more dramatic roles, I was often told, “You’re too young to sing that!”—despite the fact that such great and enduring singers as Fiorenza Cossotto performed Santuzza at eighteen. Then, with no warning, we hear: “You’re too old. We want a younger singer.” So there is a window of five minutes when a singer is the right age, and I must have been doing the laundry that day because apparently, I missed it. But now: I am finally old enough to sing the [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_image link=”” text=”Old Prioress” description=”Old Prioress in Dialogues of the Carmelites”] in Dialogues of the Carmelites!


Ducks-smI’ve lived in New York City for almost all my adult life and have never stopped loving it. But recently, I’ve also had the good fortune to be able to spend time with my husband in upstate New York at our converted barn, learning how to grow root vegetables and tend various ruminants and ducks. And at last, I have a place to display my barf-bag collection, lovingly acquired on the airlines of the many countries I have sung in. Maybe you’ll come visit.