Mastodon George London: Between Gods & Demons - The Wagnerian

George London: Between Gods & Demons

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 22 October 2011 | 1:59:00 am

As a special event in its 2011-2012 season, The George London Foundation for Singers will present the U.S. premiere screening of George London: Between Gods and Demons, a 2011 documentary film about the career of the legendary singer - the pre-eminent American bass-baritone of the postwar era who was a leader in the cultivation of young talent - on the exact 60th anniversary of his Metropolitan Opera debut: Sunday, November 13, 2011, at 3:00 PM. The screening, at The Morgan Library & Museum, will be hosted by Sherrill Milnes, perhaps the leading American baritone of the generation succeeding London's.

George London: Between Gods and Demons, produced by Arthaus Musik, the world's leading classical music DVD label, features previously unreleased performance footage and interviews with his widow, Nora London, as well as singers Neil Shicoff, Catherine Malfitano, and Deborah Polaski, among others. Arthaus Musik says of the hour-long documentary (which is in German with English subtitles): "George London...sang with Renata Tebaldi, Maria Callas and Nicolai Gedda, to name only a few, and captured the audience's hearts with his distinctive voice and his charismatic stage presence. The film portrays this exceptional artist in all his diversity, and shows [not only] rare archive footage of his great performances as an opera singer, but also as an interpreter of traditional spirituals and operetta." The documentary was directed by Marita Stocker. The DVD, which also features 90 minutes of previously unreleased performance footage, will be available November 15 from ArkivMusic. (View the trailer on YouTube.) 

Tickets are free to subscribers to the George London Foundation Recital Series, $20 to the general public. For tickets and information, call (212) 212-956-2809, or e-mail

George London? The sheer virility of his sound? The genius of his musical imagination? His brilliant acting? No. It was more than was as if you were in the presence of a great life force. There was always a feeling of danger.
-Teresa Stratas

One of America's most compelling vocal artists, George London (1920-1985) was born in Montreal. When he was 15, his family moved to Los Angeles, where he received his early musical education. After scattered appearances in opera and operetta on both coasts, in 1947 he joined the Bel Canto Trio with soprano Frances Yeend and tenor Mario Lanza. London went to Europe in 1949 to gain the needed stage experience, and after a highly successful audition with Karl Böhm, he was instantly engaged by the Vienna State Opera. His debut as Amonasro in Aida made London an overnight sensation, and his status was further enhanced by similar successes as Figaro at Edinburgh in 1950 and in Parsifal at Bayreuth in 1951, the same year he made his Metropolitan Opera debut (in Aida). In his two decades as one of the world's most acclaimed singers, he became particularly renowned for his performances, in the world's top opera houses, of the title roles of Don Giovanni and The Flying Dutchman, Scarpia in Tosca, and the four villains in Les Contes d'Hoffman. In 1960, he became the first American to sing the title role of Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi Theater, a characterization that lives on in a memorable recording. He was also the first American to sing Mozart in Salzburg and the Dutchman in Bayreuth.

George London's career was cut short by illness. He subsequently became Artistic Director of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (1968-1971) and Director of the National Opera Institute (1971-1980) as well as heading the Washington Opera (1975-1980) before succumbing to a heart ailment.

For 40 years, the George London Foundation has been granting awards to outstanding young professional opera singers during their early careers. Initially created under the auspices of the National Opera Institute, the awards program has been administered since 1990 directly by the Foundation as a living legacy to George London's own exceptional talent and generosity. George London, remembering his own struggle, wished to make the road to success a little easier for future generations of singers. The Foundation remains committed to his goal.

Upcoming events in 2011-2012
The George London Foundation for Singers season continues at the Morgan with the continuation of the recital series and the annual awards competition:
The 41st annual George London Foundation Awards Competition begins with three days of preliminary auditions and culminates with the final round and award ceremony open to the public. The 2012 competition takes place February 13-17, and the public is invited to attend the competition finals and awards announcement on Friday, February 17, 2012.
Marcello Giordani, tenor, and Meagan Miller, soprano, perform in recital with Craig Rutenberg, piano, on Sunday, March 4, 2012, at 5:00 PM. This is the only New York recital of the season for Ms. Miller, a 2008 George London Award winner.
Lisette Oropesa, soprano, and Brian Mulligan, baritone, perform in recital with Ken Noda, piano, on Sunday, April 1, 2012, at 5:00 PM. Ms. Oropesa, a 2008 George London Award winner; and Mr. Mulligan, who won the award in 2003, perform their only New York recitals.

Sunday, November 13, 2011, at 3:00 PM
Gilder Lehrman Hall at The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York City

U.S. Premiere Screening of a Documentary Film by Marita Stocker
George London: Between Gods & Demons
Hosted by Sherrill Milnes

Tickets: Free for series subscribers, $20 for general public
Call (212) 956-2809, e-mail