Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the remarkable mezzo-soprano, Dame Janet Baker. Several excellent tributes have been written (here and here, among many others) to recognize her extraordinary career as an artist—in opera, concert, and on recording.


Janet Baker recording Verdi’s Requiem with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Medinah Temple in June 1977

Dame Janet appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on four occasions, all at Orchestra Hall:

January 15, 16, and 18, 1976
BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été
Sir Georg Solti, conductor (January 15 and 16)
Henry Mazer, conductor (January 18)

May 31, 1977
VERDI Requiem
Leontyne Price, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

April 20, 21, and 22, 1978
RAVEL Shéhérazade
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

May 3, 4, and 6, 1984
ELGAR Sea Pictures, Op. 37
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Of course, the 1977 interpretation of Verdi’s Requiem was recorded by RCA in Medinah Temple on June 1 and 2. Thomas Z. Shepard produced the recording, and Paul Goodman was the engineer (this was one of the few records Solti made independent of London/Decca). The recording won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

One of Dame Janet’s signature works—and the vehicle for her CSO debut—was Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été. Here’s the second song from the cycle (“Le spectre de la rose”) from a March 1972 concert conducted by Herbert Blomstedt.