Festivals: Frightening the Fish

When she was growing up in New York, Cathy Berberian used to sing along with recordings of Lily Pons in The Bell Song and Basso Boris Chaliapin in The Song of the Flea—note for note, pitch for pitch. The vocal range she developed eventually settled into an astonishing reach of three octaves —minus one note—more than enough | to sing both Tristan and Isolde. But every sound she is capable of making is required by the freak music she now sings. At 35, Cathy Berberian is the first lady of far-out song.

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