Marion Lignana Rosenberg, 1961-2013

Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 1:27 pm
Marion Lignana Rosenberg

Marion Lignana Rosenberg

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.

14 Responses to “Marion Lignana Rosenberg, 1961-2013”

  1. Posted Dec 03, 2013 at 2:38 pm by Jennifer Wada

    Thank you, Larry, for this beautiful remembrance. I too remember Marion for her savvy, erudition, humor, humanity, beautiful prose…and most of all, as you too conclude, for her passion for communicating her love of great music and performance – she literally shone with it. She will be greatly, greatly missed.

  2. Posted Dec 03, 2013 at 5:13 pm by David Shengold

    “Ah, non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore…”

    How terribly sad a loss. I always enjoyed Marion’s erudition and commitment, though ours was mainly an e-mail relationship. I didn’t even know we had studied in the same graduate department. Two sides of the ocean will miss her and her richly textured work.

  3. Posted Dec 04, 2013 at 9:58 am by Martin Bernheimer

    Profoundly saddened by this awful news. She wasn’t just brilliant. She was fun.

  4. Posted Dec 04, 2013 at 11:41 am by Steve Smith

    Thanks for posting this, Larry. As another of Marion’s editors, I completely endorse your observations. As a friend of Marion’s when we worked together and when we didn’t, I am still at a loss for words, and appreciate yours all the more.

  5. Posted Dec 04, 2013 at 11:51 am by Rachelle Schlosser

    I’m so shocked and saddened by this news.

  6. Posted Dec 04, 2013 at 1:09 pm by Rebecca Paller

    I knew Marion both professionally and personally for more than a decade, and am quite shattered by the news of her death. She was a marvelous writer and a good friend.

  7. Posted Dec 04, 2013 at 4:53 pm by VS

    I only ever spoke to her by email and on her “Re-Visioning Callas” blog, but I admired her enormously. She wrote with such authority, intelligence, verve — I’m going to miss her very much.

  8. Posted Dec 06, 2013 at 8:37 am by Lawrence A. Johnson

    A fine tribute to Marion by my colleague Charles Downey.

  9. Posted Dec 09, 2013 at 9:40 pm by Rob Landry

    This announcement of Marion’s passing was made on the radio by WHRB’s David Elliott on Saturday:

  10. Posted Dec 10, 2013 at 6:25 pm by Alison Ames

    Some years ago I wrote to Marion on her blog and invited her to lunch — she accepted graciously, and we became friends through music and other subjects. Martin Bernheimer is so right in pointing out that “she wasn’t just brilliant, she was FUN”. I will greatly miss our conversations by email, as well as dinners and occasional trips to the opera. RIP MLR.

  11. Posted Dec 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm by Patrick Rogers

    Her words will live on like the art of her illustrious muse! She will be missed!

  12. Posted Dec 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm by norman goldberg

    I knew Marion as friend and colleague while working at a NY University. She was a wonderful giving and gracious woman. I was devastated by the news of her passing. I only found out today. She will be sorely missed by all of her friends.

  13. Posted Sep 20, 2017 at 11:34 am by Jennifer (Sang Ae) Lee

    Marion was my dear friend from Fort Lee High School. I was introduced to the world of opera by her back then. We used to sneak out to Manhattan to see various performances at The Met. After her divorce from Michael, we lost contact. I honored her wish to put the past behind her, which sadly included me (I’m assuming).

    This summer, I learned of her sudden death which was shocking and saddens me immensely. I remember her grandmother whom she loved so dearly. One afternoon after school, Marion made me a cheese pizza from scratch using her grandmother’s recipe. I remember her old apartment in Cambridge, MA when she was living there with Michael after they graduated from Harvard undergrad. I also remember her house she rented in Berkeley from a landlord with a big scary dog which Michael and she had to take care of as a condition of the rental. I unfortunately couldn’t attend their wedding (I was barely making a living working at an art gallery in SoHo and simply couldn’t afford the plane tickets), but was so happy that they got married. I am sorry that her marriage ended (I know she loved Michael very much).

    Looking back, I am sorry that I didn’t try harder to be in contact after her divorce, but as mentioned, I wanted her to have some privacy after learning of the divorce when Michael returned my annual holiday greeting card sent to them with a terse note that they were no longer together. We did have a brief encounter on the steps of the Citicorp Center (called something different now) as I was leaving from work many years ago. When I finally decided to leave her a phone message to invite her to my wedding more than a decade ago, she didn’t return my call….

    Goodbye, my beloved friend Marion! Rest in peace! I miss you so very much!

  14. Posted Dec 08, 2018 at 5:08 am by Clint Cummins

    Thanks for posting up your memories of Marion.
    In 1981 I met Marion when she was working in the Harvard computer lab for American Repertory Theater. We were bf + gf that summer and fall. She made me pizza from scratch, too! I met her (divorced) parents and her wonderful grandma that Thanksgiving. We broke up (amicably) during that trip, and Marion accurately pronounced “opposites attract.” (I had done a mountaineering trip that summer and realized the same thing). We corresponded briefly when I found out she was at Berkeley, and much later I found her blogs. So much a shock to find out she died so young. I think of her often, especially around Thanksgiving.

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