Last Thursday the New York Times featured a review of a cabaret performance given in New York by Kitty Carlisle Hart, one of the “grand dames” of the New York cultural scene. What is remarkable about this performance is that Mrs. Hart was giving it in celebration of her 95th birthday! How many of us hope that we can still dress ourselves at that age, let alone give a solo performance at one of New York’s premier cabaret venues? (Here’s the wikipedia article about her.)
Old movie addicts know Kitty Carlisle as the opera singer in the Marx Brothers feature “A Night at the Opera.” For those of us of a certain age, we’ll remember Kitty Carlisle from her days in the ’50s and ’60s as a panelist on such TV shows as “To Tell the Truth,” where she was always immaculately dressed in gowns, and with a kind of high class that made the rest of the panelists look like slobs. In the 1970s and ’80s she served as the Chairman of the New York Arts Council, where she ruled with an iron fist.
She is, of course, the widow of Moss Hart, author and stage director of such Broadway shows as “My Fair Lady”, and it was her reminiscences of the great Broadway era of the ’30s through the ’50s that formed the basis of her cabaret show. She knew the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Lerner and Loewe–everyone who was anyone in the musical theater. But not so well known is that Mrs. Hart was also a serious opera singer who gave the first American performances in the title role of Benjamin Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia.” She also appeared briefly at the Metropolitan Opera late in her career.
So congratulations Kitty Carlisle Hart! You deserve to remember it well.