Marion Lignana Rosenberg, 1961-2013

December 03, 2013
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 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 performance 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.

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

  1. Posted Dec 10, 2013 at 9:36 am by Celia

    I worked for only a couple of years with Marion at her day job, and she impressed me always with her focus, intelligence, taste, perfect carriage, and beauty – and with her clear enjoyment of anything dealing with the pesky challenges of the written word. I wish we’d had more opportunity to discuss what truly interested her. What a loss – and how fitting that Marion is survived by her wonderful command of the written word.

  2. Posted Dec 11, 2013 at 11:55 am by Mike

    I was shocked and saddened to hear of Marion’s death. It’s so hard to believe. We studied Italian Renaissance literature at Berkeley back in the 90s, took classes on Machiavelli and Commedia dell’Arte, and car-pooled to seminars at Stanford with Sergio Zatti and Riccardo Bruscagli. We two comprised the “Berkeley contingent” at the Stanford seminars, and it was fun to be in that role with her. We both liked Ariosto and Tasso, and classical music.

    My first encounter with her writing was an essay where she compared the ending of Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata with the ending of Virgil’s Aeneid. It was wonderful, and I’ve never forgotten it. We lost touch a while back, but I kept reading her articles on music. I loved the way she wrote about opera, and I couldn’t think of the Met without imagining her in the audience. I regret not getting back in touch; I just never imagined I’d lose the chance. RIP, Marion. I’ll miss you a lot!!