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Behind the Scenes: Liner Notes

by Louise T. Guinther

In Review Liner Notes Daly 617
Daly as Maria Callas in Master Class on Broadway, 2011
© Joan Marcus
The Basics  

TYNE DALY, a 2011 inductee into the American Theatre Hall of Fame, has a Tony Award and six Emmys to her credit in a stage and screen career that has ranged from long television runs in Cagney & Lacy and Judging Amy to Broadway appearances in Gypsy, The Seagull and It Shoulda Been You. Daly starred as Maria Callas in revivals of Terrence McNally’s Master Class at the Kennedy Center (2010), on Broadway (2011) and London’s West End (2012).

OPERA NEWS: What is your musical background?

TYNE DALY: My mother’s mother, Hope, dreamed of being an opera singer, but she was a Methodist minister’s daughter, and that was way outside of what was permissible. My older sister Peggy was halfway raised by Grandma Hope, and she trained to be a singer in New York, and I followed in her footsteps. I used to come into the city by bus for a lesson every week—attempting to sing the bell song from Lakmé. They all thought I was going to be Deanna Durbin—but I didn’t have the breath for it. (Laughs)

ON: What kind of opera do you enjoy most?

TD:  I’m a deep fool about Italian opera. I keep trying to figure out how these composers knew how to put a line of music together so that every time you heard it you burst into hysterical tears. You’re not allowed to get used to it.  

ON: What was your all-time best opera experience?

TD: We were at the ancient Roman arena in Verona. In the nighttime, they give little candles to everybody, and it’s ceremonial, and it’s beautiful, and it’s got all those wonderful vibes. We saw a Zeffirelli spectacular—great big, colorful grand opera. Then the next night, we went back, and it was completely spare. We climbed to the very top—through the chain links, where you’re not supposed to go. The sound up there was so amazing, and I realized that this music was written for the people in the cheap seats upstairs, where it’s sublime, not for the fancy folks sitting down below, studying each other’s outfits.

ON: What was it like playing Maria Callas in Master Class?

TD: I had never played a legend—not only a legendary singer but a legendary star and a legendary beauty and a scandalous [figure]—you know, that’s pretty intimidating. I felt ill-equipped and tried to beg off, but Terrence said, “This is not Maria Callas. This is something I am making up about Maria Callas, and I’m using her to talk about a whole bunch of other things.”

ON: If you could sing any role, which character would you like to play?

TD: Turandot—and then I would hope for Plácido. I think he’s a really generous artist, and I love to hear him sing, so if Plácido in his prime would come sing Turandot with me, that would suit me. 

Coda: What Else to Consider  

When Daly isn’t at the opera, her musical interests vary widely. “I’ve got this new thing going on in my life,” she says. “It’s called Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. They play in a bar on Fifty-fourth Street, and it’s just so much fun—the frantic ’20s and ’30s jazz. We’re in such a frantic period of time that that music is very comforting.” spacer 

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