Judith Telep-Ehrlich, the versatile American soprano appearing in the Baltimore Opera Company's Richard Wagner concert opening Friday, feels like someone gave her "a wonderful birthday present" in the three masterpieces she's singing here.
"I'm closing the first half with a piece of chocolate creme pie, Brunnhilde's "Immolation Scene" from "Gotterdammerung" (Twilight of the Gods). Then they gave me the Isolde part in the "Liebesnacht" (Love Night) scene and the "Liebestod" (Love Death). It's like they kept score and, at the end, I got all the home runs."
The all-American metaphors were fitting for an opera singer who has specialized in Italian and German operas with a repertoire of 33 roles. Virtually all were gained in American regional companies, not in Europe, once the practice for young Americans. "Americans can feel a lot more comfortable about how their singers come up now," said the opera professional since 1975.
Telep-Ehrlich, "a Jersey girl who lives in New York," has sung with the New York City Opera and companies in San Francisco, Miami, Washington, Los Angeles, Fort Worth as well as in Frankfurt, Bonn and elsewhere. She also teaches voice students.
Telep-Ehrlich has a couple of regrets about her Baltimore debut. "I wish Madame Ponselle were here." Rosa Ponselle, the legendary soprano who guided the Baltimore Opera Company into incorporation in April 1950, is one of her two heroines. Kirsten Flagstad is the other.
"Ponselle was chocolate and gold," the soprano said of Ponselle's beautiful voice. "I didn't meet her but my first voice teacher, Mildred Ippolito, did comprimaria parts with her at The Met (secondary in rank to the prima donna's). What fabulous stories she told of breath control."
The other regret is that Baltimore didn't get a chance to hear the "Tristan und Isolde" production originally planned for this fall but cut by budget problems, though the singers are the same. "We did the production in Columbus three years ago. Alexander Sander was also the conductor and George Gray, Tristan . . . talk about the ethereal, the beauty." Speaking of Baltimore, she said, "I wish this opera company tremendous success. It's such an important professional company."
The singer enjoys talking as much as hitting the high B flats and High C's "even though too many high notes have caught in my brain." Her observations come easily. Hobbies when not singing opera? "I like jazz clubs and I stay away from politicians and doctors . . . they say singers are boring?" What kind of soprano is she? "People say a 'dramatic soprano' or a 'lyric soprano'. Whatever people hear. I hope, 'complete'." In this regard, she emphasized that for Telep-Ehrlich, the basic raw material is always Italian. "Verdi was the greatest writer for voice. He wrote pianissimo (very soft) and those beautiful long melodies. Ponselle gave us the greatest heritage she could, the Italian. If you learn the Italian, you can go full throttle with the Wagner and your technique is complete."
Also singing in the Wagner concert conducted by Sander are tenor Gray; Jerome Hines, bass; Edward Crafts, bass-baritone; Sondra Kelly and Susan Shafer, mezzo sopranos. The Wagner (( concert is scheduled four times: 8:15 p.m. Nov. 30; 3 p.m. Dec. 2; 8:15 p.m. Dec. 5 and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 8. For information and tickets, call 727-0592.