STAGE TUBE: Anita Darian Dies at Age 87
In 1970, Leonard Bernstein cast her as Leonora in "Fidelio" for his celebration of Beethoven's 150th birthday at Lincoln Center, which was also broadcast on CBS-TV as part of the New York Philharmonic's "Young People's Concert" series. Darian had previously appeared on the program humming a kazoo in the Philharmonic's performance of Mark Bucci's "Concerto For Singing Instrument," which emanated from the stage of Carnegie Hall, conducted by Bernstein
She recorded the Gershwins' musical "Lady Be Good" with Lehman Engel and the Belgium Radio Orchestra, which was broadcast nationally on NPR, and later participated in the recording of John Corigliano's eccentric electric-rock opera "The Naked Carmen," based on the original Bizet opera.
Her solo albums included two classics of "exotica"-"Hawaiian Paradise" for Fidelio Records in 1959 and "East of the Sun," released by Kapp Records in 1960, which was especially praised for her versions of "Miserlou" and "Gomen Nasai".
In 1961, millions of listeners heard her demonstrate her vast vocal range without knowing her name when she provided the swooping theramin-sounding counter-melody behind the tenor lead on the Tokens' No. 1 hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Two RCA producers, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, had engaged Juilliard-trained musician and lyricist George David Weiss to fashion a more modern English-language adaptation of the South African folk song "Wimoweh" by Solomon Linda, and he brought Darian in to vocalize before, during and after the saxophone solo, using her eerie descant voice as another instrument. Originally intended as the "B" side of the Tokens single "Tina," it became one of the biggest-selling records of all time.
Her unique soprano was also heard as background on numerous other pop and R&B recordings, including Mickey and Sylvia's No. 1 hit "Love is Strange" and for such diverse artists as Burt Bacharach, Dinah Washington, LaVern Baker, King Curtis, Jane Morgan, Patti Page, Eddie Calvert, and Maxene Andrews of the Andrews Sisters.
Later classical recordings under her own name include Glenn Gould's "So You Want to Write a Fugue" with the Juilliard String Quartet and Ned Rorem's "Four Dialogues For Two Voices and Two Pianos".
She toured the country singing with several major symphonies including The Cleveland Orchestra and The Los Angeles Symphony, and appeared at such venues as The Hollywood Bowl, New Jersey Arts Center and Blossom Festival in Ohio.
Survivors include longtime partner Lynda Wells and a cousin, Varham Fantazian
Check out some of her iconic performances below:
Photo by Lynda Wells (permission granted)