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Category: arts world

Mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett dies at 79

Shirley Verrett, an acclaimed American mezzo-soprano and soprano who was praised for her singing in Verdi repertory staples, has died. She was 79.


Manager Jack Mastroianni of IMG Artists says Verrett had been suffering from heart trouble and died Friday in Ann Arbor, Mich. Mastroianni was notified of Verrett's death by the Metropolitan Opera Guild.

Verrett was one of the top black opera singers of the 1970s and 1980s.

Born in New Orleans to parents who were devoted Seventh-Day Adventists, she moved with her family to Los Angeles as a child. She studied at the Juilliard School in New York and won a Marian Anderson Award and a scholarship from the John Hay Whitney Foundation. She was a 1961 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

-- The Associated Press


One year ago: Roy DeCarava

Decavera Roy DeCarava, an art photographer and photojournalist, was famous for his powerful, everyday-life shots of African Americans living in Harlem. He died one year ago at age 89.

DeCarava captured spontaneous moments using a small, 35-millimeter camera that allowed him freedom to roam. He was well-known for his candid shots of musicians -- many of them taken in smoky clubs using only available light. Shadow and darkness became hallmarks of DeCarava's style.

DeCarava's first major exhibit was at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego in 1986. Ten years later, he was the subject of a one-man exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

"Roy was one of the all-time great photographers," Arthur Ollman, founding director of the San Diego museum, said in 2005. "His photographs provided a vision of African American life that members of the white fine art photography establishment could not have accessed on their own."

While art photography was his passion, DeCarava often earned his living as a freelance photojournalist. He shot for media outlets such as Newsweek, Life and Sports Illustrated throughout his career. Also, in the 1960s, he began teaching, first at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, and at Hunter College starting in 1975.

For more on the photographer who shook up the mid-20th century art establishment, read Roy DeCarava's obituary by The Times, and see a photo gallery of his work.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Roy DeCarava in 1996. Credit: Mitsu Yasukawa / For The Times

One year ago: George Na'ope

Na'ope To George Na'ope, hula wasn't simply a native dance. It was the cultural centerpiece of Hawaiian life and history. Na'ope, who died one year ago at age 81, was a hula master and expert in traditional chants who co-founded the Merrie Monarch Festival held annually in Hilo, Hawaii. The festival, which Na'ope and Dorothy "Auntie Dottie" Thompson organized in the early 1960s, has become world renowned for its hula competition and celebration of Hawaiian culture.

"We must remember who we are and that our culture must survive in this modern world," Na'ope said in a 2006 interview. " . . . Teach it and share it and not hide it. I tell the young people to learn the culture and learn it well, preserve it so their children and their children's children can continue with our culture and that our culture will live forever."

Less than six months after Na'ope died, Auntie Dottie died at 88. But the Merrie Monarch Festival continues. You can read more about George Na'ope in the obituary that appeared in The Times on Nov. 7, 2009.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: George Na'ope in 2005. Credit: Honolulu Advertiser

One year ago: Michael Kabotie


Michael Kabotie was a Hopi artist and jeweler who was an innovator in the Native American fine arts movement. He died one year ago at age 67 from complications related to the H1N1 influenza.

A native Arizonan, Kabotie's work was often exhibited at Phoenix's Heard Museum. He also had connections in Southern California, teaching Hopi overlay techniques at the Idyllwild Arts summer program since 1983.

In a statement, Idyllwild President William Lowman called Kabotie "an extraordinary artist of the Hopi tradition, but also an extraordinary artist in any culture."

Kabotie studied engineering at the University of Arizona, but he left to pursue art and launched a career in 1966 with a one-man show at the Heard Museum.

Of his bold canvases, which often portrayed traditional Hopi life in contemporary media, the quiet artist once said: "My paintings speak a lot louder than me."

For more, read Michael Kabotie's obituary by The Times. Also, see his personal website, which contains samples of his work.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Michael Kabotie. Credit: Joel Muzzy / Heard Museum

One year ago: Cleo Trumbo

Cleo-trumboCleo Trumbo was the wife of Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted for more than a decade as a member of the Hollywood 10. She died one year ago at age 93.

In 1947, her husband was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee as part of its investigation into "communist infiltration of the motion picture industry."

Cleo Trumbo joined her husband at the hearings in Washington, where Dalton and nine other men refused to cooperate with the committee by challenging its right to ask questions about their political beliefs.

Dalton Trumbo continued writing after being convicted of contempt of Congress, but his income dropped dramatically. During the blacklist, Cleo Trumbo told People magazine in 1993, "We were broke and we weren't invited anywhere. People dropped away."

The Trumbos moved to Mexico City after Dalton's release from his 10-month prison sentence, but returned to Los Angeles four years later in 1954.

In 1993, Cleo Trumbo accepted an Oscar on behalf of her late husband for best motion picture story for the 1953 film "Roman Holiday," which he wrote under the name of a friend, screenwriter Ian McLellan Hunter.

For more about her life and her thoughts about the blacklist, read Cleo Trumbo's obituary by The Times. See also a photo gallery of her life from 1916-2009.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Cleo Trumbo. Credit: Trumbo Family

One year ago: Irving Penn


Irving Penn, who died one year ago at age 92, was one of the first commercial photographers to cross the chasm that separated commercial and art photography.

Penn, who began his work in the 1940s, had a "less is more" style that he applied to all his subjects -- models, cigarette butts, designer dresses. He isolated his subject against a plain backdrop, allowing for scarcely a prop and building a work of graphic perfection through his printing process.

Critics considered the results to be icons, not just images, each one greater than the person or object in the frame.

His most familiar photographs are the cosmetics ads he shot for Clinique that have appeared in magazines since 1968. Each image is a balancing act of face-cream jars, astringent bottles and bars of soap that threatens to collapse.

His work has appeared at New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he shot more than 150 covers for Vogue magazine.

"His approach was never obvious," Phyllis Posnick, who collaborated with Penn at Vogue, told The Times. "He would make us go further and dig deeper and look beyond the obvious solution to a photograph to find something that was unique. He had a great wit, and you see some of that in his pictures."

Penn's brother, the noted director Arthur Penn, whose films included "Bonnie and Clyde," died last month.

For more on the famous photographer, read Irving Penn's obituary by The Times. Also, see a photo gallery of his work.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Irving Penn in a 1943 self-portrait.

One year ago: Nancy M. Daly

DalyNancy M. Daly was a stay-at-home mom of three and wife of a prominent entertainment executive when she made a life-changing visit to MacLaren's Children's Center in El Monte in the late 1970s. The former probation center had been converted into a juvenile protection facility with little attention paid to making it less prison-like. "The kids looked sad," Daly recalled years later," and I found it almost unbearable."

Her determination to improve conditions at MacLaren's (which closed in 2003) turned her into a formidable children's advocate. In 1979, with allies such as actor Henry Winkler, she helped found United Friends of the Children to support youngsters in foster care. She successfully lobbied for the creation of what is now the county Department of Children and Family Services and served on its advisory commission. She later helped launch the Children's Action Network, which sought to raise awareness of children's issues in the entertainment industry and lobbied for legislation in Sacramento and Washington. She also served on the nonpartisan President's Commission on Children.

"She was the central, most important person on the commission for adolescence and foster care and the transition from foster care to adulthood," fellow commissioner Donald Cohen of the Yale Child Study Center said of Daly in 1994.

Daly, who was married to former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordanafter her first marriage to former Warner Bros. chief executive Bob Daly ended in divorce, was also a philanthropist and arts leader. She died one year ago at 68.

For more on Nancy Daly, read Times staff writer Jean Merl's obituary.

One year ago: Ruth Ford

Ruthford Ruth Ford was a Broadway actress who was once a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre and also appeared in numerous films and in television. She died one year ago.

Ford appeared in such plays as William Faulkner's "Requiem for a Nun" (1959), originally a book that she helped the author adapt for the stage. She also acted in "No Exit" (1946), "Miss Julie" and "The Stronger" (1956).

The Mississippi native moved in the 1930s to New York, where she interacted with a community of artists and writers on the Upper West Side. In 1938, she made her debut on Broadway in the Welles-directed revival of "Shoemaker's Holiday."

In 1941 she moved to Hollywood, filling her career with more than two dozen film appearances during the next five years, including playing President Wilson's daughter in "Wilson." Most her roles, however, were in B movies, and in 1946 she returned to New York.

For more on the actress, read Ruth Ford's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Ruth Ford. Credit: 20th Century Fox

One year ago: Carleen Hutchins


Carleen Hutchins, the world-renowned violin maker who died one year ago, committed what amounted to blasphemy for many music traditionalists. She claimed that, with the help of science, she could make a violin that rivaled ones made by the fabled Stradivarius family, whose instruments are among the most prized possessions in classical music.

As far as some musicians and instrument makers were concerned, she might as well have claimed that, with enough study, any painter could reproduce the masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci.

"The old-time violin makers hate my guts," Hutchins told a reporter in 1999. "I've been at it since 1947, and there's a camp that still won't accept it. I'm putting numbers on their mystique."

She insisted that science, particularly the study of acoustics, explained what made a Stradivarius a Stradivarius, and that it could make her creations just as good. She put this theory to the test on more than 400 string instruments in her career.

Hutchins also was the innovator behind the violin octet, a set of eight instruments ranging from the tiny treble violin, which is tuned an octave higher than a standard violin, to a deep-voiced 7-foot behemoth. The octet shook the classical music world, which until then was accustomed to quartets and their more limited range of notes.

For more about the master violin maker, read Carleen Hutchins' obituary that appeared in The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Violin maker Carleen Hutchins, center, is flanked by Joe McNalley and his mother, Sharon, after the inaugural performance by the Hutchins Consort on Jan. 18, 2000. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Merce Cunningham

Cunningham Pioneering choreographer Merce Cunningham "changed dance, and, in his continual need for innovative scores, he helped change music as well," wrote Mark Swed, The Times' music critic. "He always wanted to be one step ahead of everyone else so he could learn something new."

Cunningham, who died a year ago at age 90, joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1939 and formed his own company in 1953.

"Every piece is so different in its dynamics and space and variety of language," Mikhail Baryshnikov told Newsday in 1999. "No words can describe my admiration and fascination with this man."

His news obituary appeared in The Times on July 28, 2009.

--Keith Thursby

Photo: Merce Cunningham in 2009. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Elin Brekke Vanderlip

Elin Brekke Vanderlip, a member of the Norwegian family that once owned most of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, died one year ago.

Vanderlip founded Friends of French Art, a Los Angeles group that raised money to restore cultural treasures across France.

"What we really do is shame the French into helping preserve their own patrimony," Vanderlip told The Times in 1996. "When they see what we can do wiht a little money, they invariably pick up the ball."

She also help set aside land that became Nansen Field, a park in Rolling Hills Estates.

Read the complete obituary of Elin Brekke Vanderlip that appeared in The Times.

-- Claire Noland

One year ago: Otto Heino

The image of the poor, starving artist didn't apply to master potter Otto Heino, who died one year ago. His handmade vessels, which blended Scandinavian modernism and Japanese folk pottery, could go for more than $25,000 a piece and made him a multimillionaire.

Heino had an international reputation for robust yet beautiful wheel-thrown stoneware with artistically applied glazes that included glossy cobalt blues, silky reds and raspy earth tones.

In the mid-1990s, he brought to life a lost-to-the-ages buttery yellow Chinese glaze that made him especially famous in Asia. Although he said he was offered millions for the formula, he never sold it.

Jo Lauria, coauthor of the ceramics book "Color and Fire," wrote this about Heino's pottery:

"He had a macho relationship with clay, and it was a badge of honor to be able to throw huge pieces, but they were always functional, emphasizing the sensuality of the glaze, the way in which it catches the light and invites you to touch it."

Heino was the fifth of 12 children born to his Finnish parents. He was raised on a New Hampshire farm and for five years served in the Army Air Forces as a fighter plane crew chief and a B-17 gunner. He found his love for pottery at a studio in England while he was on furlough from the military.

For more about the master potter who was a symbol of the mid-century California studio crafts movement, read Heino's obituary in The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Otto Heino with the organic, modern pottery pieces he produced in his Ojai studio. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times


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