Marion Lignana Rosenberg, 1961-2013
It’s ironic that most of her friends and colleagues heard about Marion Lignana Rosenberg’s death on Monday, the 90th birthday of Maria Callas. Author of the essay, Re-visioning Callas, she was an ardent, perhaps, at times, obsessive admirer of the great soprano. If you Google Marion’s name you will find countless Callas photos and very few of her.
Marion died suddenly Thursday night of a pulmonary embolism following Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. She was 51 years old.
Marion was a writer, critic and translator based in New York. At Harvard, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with highest honors in Romance Languages and Literatures. She also studied theatre and opera history at the Università degli studi in Florence and comparative literature at U.C. Berkeley. Re-visioning Callas won a Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Award. She wrote the entry on Maria Callas for Notable American Women: Completing the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press).
As her editor, I knew Marion on a professional basis more than a personal one. (I encourage those who knew Marion as a friend to post their reminiscences of her here as well.)
Marion was a regular contributor to The Classical Review and helped get New York Classical Review launched this fall with some initial reviews and a characteristically in-depth and idiosyncratically selected Season Preview.
Marion was a remarkable writer, and I felt privileged to have her as a regular reviewer in recent seasons. She combined a scholar’s knowledge and translator’s desire to find the exact word and precise degree of nuance with an aficionado’s enthusiasm and abiding love for music in general and opera in particular.
Many music critics can write with intelligence and some personal literary style but I don’t know any other critic who combined the degree of daunting historical sweep with a diehard fan’s relentless passion, subversive wit, and a sheer joy of reveling in language the way Marion did.
That unique blend of qualities is wonderfully manifest in her poetic and inventive use of descriptive language, especially in her role as an advocate for a favorite composer or work, as with her reviews of Saariaho’s Emilie and Berlioz’s Les Troyens.
Marion could also be withering–and very funny–about performances and productions that didn’t live up to standards, as with a hapless Le nozze di Figaro revival at the Met. Yet, always a fair critic, she was happy to turn around and be laudatory when the Met bounced back a few weeks later with a fine Don Giovanni.
For all her erudition and literary and musical knowledge, Marion was wonderfully unstuffy about edgy contemporary works, as with her hilarious and appreciative review of New York City Opera’s swansong, Anna Nicole. We also had great fun batting around various unprintable headlines–even on the internet–for her wry and insightful review of Thomas Ades’ Powder Her Face.
She wrote with an unselfconscious joy and larger-than-life panache when she was discovered a performance that deeply moved her. Particularly memorable to me was her review of the Met’s new staging of Parsifal and, later that season, a Wagner program with the Boston Symphony Orchestra led by that production’s conductor, Daniele Gatti, at Carnegie Hall.
Most of all, Marion wrote with a deep love and open-hearted passion for music. She will be greatly missed by her friends, colleagues, and countless appreciative readers.
Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore.
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