Coretti Arle Titz

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Coretti Genrichovna Arle-Titz
Born Corette Elisabeth Hardy
(1883-12-05)5 December 1883
Churchville, New York, U.S.
Died 15 December 1951(1951-12-15) (aged 68)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Nationality American, Russian
Occupation Dancer, singer, actress
Years active 1902–51
Spouse(s)
  • ? Utin (m. 1908–1914)
  • Boris Borisovich Titz (m. 1917)
Musical career
Genres
Instruments Vocals
Labels Gramplasttrest Record Trust

Coretti Genrichovna Arle-Titz (December 5, 1883 – December 15, 1951), also known as Corette Alefred, was an American-born jazz, spiritual, and pop music singer (lyrical and dramatic soprano), dancer and actress who was well known in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.

Early life

Corette Elisabeth Hardy was born December 5, 1883 to Carrie Carter and Thomas J. Hardy in Churchville, New York where her mother was possibly employed as a chamber maid for a local hotel. Around 1888, the family relocated to Manhattan for Corette had enrolled in school on 99th & West End Avenue. The Hardy's produced a total of 13 children, four of which survived into adulthood. After finishing her education from the 85th Street High School in 1899, Corette began working as a copyist as well as singing for the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, which her family frequently attended.

In later life she often spun the story to Soviet reporters, that she was born somewhere in Mexico around 1894 to a family of circus performers.

Career

Early career (1902–1913)

During the spring of 1902, German Impresario, Paula Kohn-Wöllner, approached Corette (and Fannie Smith) to join her Negro revue "Louisiana Amazon Guards", as two of the girls had departed after the first year of touring. Corette (now using her father's name Alefred) arrived in Leipzig, Germany early May. She rehearsed in time to join the show in Switzerland the following month. The revue reorganized late-1902, after firing Mrs Kohn-Wollner and relocated to Berlin and continuing to perform until early 1904, when Corette and Emma Harris paired up as the Koretty Kreol duo and traveled to Russia.

Arriving in Saint Petersburg, February 1904, they appeared at the Aquarium Gardens. The following month, they were joined by Fannie Smith and traveled to Helsinki's Hotel Fennia. Afterwards, they appeared frequently in Moscow at the Aumont Theatre, run by the manipulative French director Charles Aumont. That winter, they returned to St. Petersburg to join Georgette Harvey & her Creole Belles Quartet. On January 22, the women witnessed the Bloody Sunday (1905) protest outside the Tsar's palace and riots across the city. Corette, Fannie and Emma packed up and returned to the Aumont Theater as the "Harris trio" in Moscow.[1] That summer, Corette and Fannie (now as a duo) performed successfully across Warsaw. Around 1908, while appearing in St. Petersburg, Corette met and fell in love with a Russian theatre director and member of the intelligentsia, she decided to stay, and the couple were married five months later.

In April 1910, she returned home to New York to visit family, before becoming in engaged in a tour of the Russian empire. Back in St. Petersburg, her marriage was often marred by jealousy and prejudice of her husband's numerous family who felt that he had married beneath him. He was accused of renouncing his family for a negro. Soon he began spending more and more time outside the house, and when he returned, she tortured him with questions. Quarrels began, and in the end, Corette divorced her husband sometime in 1914.

Musical Education and the Russian Revolution (1914–1923)

During the fall of 1914, as WWI raged across Europe, she enrolled into the Saint Petersburg Conservatory taking intense vocal lessons with Professor E.F. Zwanziger. Early 1916, she met discreet, well-mannered young pianist Boris Borisovich Titz. Their mutual sympathy grew into a deep feeling and the two began dating. At the same time, on the far edges of Petrograd near the factories, Bolshevik supporting pianist Nikolai Burenin organized vaudeville revues at the Ligovsky People’s House where Corette began performing as a front for anti-government meetings. During these performances she was eventually introduced (and became close friends with) to Maxim Gorky,[2] who admired the way she performed Blues and Spirituals.

In 1917, during the hectic period of the revolutions while Corette’s studies at the Conservatory came to a halt. As America withdrew its ambassador from Russia making her passport invalid, it became difficult to travel. Most of Russia's American community decided to flee, catching trains east to China and Japan. Corette pondered the idea of returning home and opening a vocal school for children in Harlem. Boris, who had accepted a teaching job in the Kharkiv Conservatory’s piano department. After a year and a half of courtship, he proposed to Corette. In this situation, she had no choice but to succumb to the insistent requests of his admirer and in September 1917 they were married; shortly afterwards the couple traveled south to the Ukraine. Boris’s family and friends quickly accepted his dark-skinned wife, but the relationship with her own parents after she told them about the marriage was less than pleasant.

During their four-year period (1917–1920) in Kharkiv, Corette began active concert activity:[3] continuing to develop her voice under the leadership of Philharmonic director, Mikhail Bichter. Accompanied with her new husband, Corette was also a part of the Political Department Concert Brigade of the South-Western Front, touring the Ukraine and performing for the Red Army in hospitals, clubs and so on. In 1921, the couple relocated to Moscow, where Corette continued her studies at the Opera Studio at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory under the direction of Mikhail Mikhailovich Ippolitov-Ivanov and his wife Varvara Mikhailovna Zarudna (as well as training from Nadezhda Ignatyevna Kalnin-Gandolfi). In late 1923, shortly after graduation, Coretti began appearing in Leningrad at Boris Pronin's Mansard Club.

Soviet Career and the Introduction of Jazz (1924–1940)

On April 3, 1924, her first (and only) performance as an opera singer took place at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater in a production of “Aida”, surprisingly role which echoed her reality - an Egyptian captive, a Negro slave, who threw off the shackles of slavery in the name of love. That winter, she became acquainted with W.E.B. Du Bois, whom mailed numerous American Jazz and Blues musical scores to Moscow. After that performance, she began an extensive concert tour across the USSR which lasted nearly eight years (1924-1931). She later returned the following year (April 3, 1925), with three concerts featuring Russian Romance songs and Negro Spirituals. Once again, she received major applause and complements from the Soviet government and the Russian populace. Despite the difficulties of the Soviet way of life, their life turned out well: Coretti and Boris became associated with common friends, common interests, and art. Among their many friends were Maxim Gorky and Ippolitov-Ivanov (talented and famous opera composer).[4]

In the spring of 1926, as Frank Withers & his Jazz Kings Band (featuring Sidney Bechet) arrived in Moscow, Corette was offered to appear with them, and reap the success jazz was creating in Russia. She opened with the band at the Cinema Malaya Dimitrova, also making engagements at the Hall of Writers and the Moscow Conservatory. Cine Dimitrova, the ‘Palace of the Silver Screen’ opened a new Hollywood film there each week to packed audiences. Whenever Corette appeared with Withers’s band, the theatre was packed before the first note sounded. Couples took to the aisles and danced the Charleston. That summer, she also joined them on a Ukrainian tour.

In June 1927, she performed the first noted jazz performance in Azerbaijan[5] before performing that winter, in the famous Grand Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic, accompanying the ‘First Concert Jazz Band’ led by Leopold Teplitsky and composed of about 15 people (2 violins, banjo, grand piano, tuba, trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, trombones and, of course, a great set of percussion instruments). Coretti, quite tall, lush, in an open green silk dress with a pelerine, perfectly in harmony with her golden brown skin, sang in English with a strong, rather low voice of a very beautiful timbre. The concert was unusual for that time. The hall was literally bursting with the public, as there weren't enough entrance tickets, many of the audience stood in the gallery or walking along the perimeter of the hall.

In 1928, after making several recordings, Corette began a four-year tour, appearing in Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia and frequent appearances deep in Siberia. Although she performed jazz, she usually reverted to singing in Russian or Negro Spirituals. In 1930, she participated in a Jazz-revue led by Simon Kagan.

In the summer of 1932, Coretti was among those who welcomed 21 African Americans (including Langston Hughes) who had come to organize and appear in the political anti-racism film *Black & White* with the Meschrabpom Film company.[6] In 1933, she was introduced to African-American expat, Robert Robinson in Leningrad, and often brought him to parties across town and introduced him to her many intellectual friends. That year she also recorded two spiritual records - "Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child" and "Little David Play on your Harp". On March 29, 1934, Coretti celebrated her 10th year on the Soviet stage by a Radio-Concert at the Moscow Radio-Theater[7] with many other Soviet entertainers. The radio broadcast reached as far as Paris where it was praised by the French press. After the assassination of Sergei Mironovich Kirov, Stalin's assumed successor, on December 1, 1934, life became much more oppressed within the Soviet Union.

Early 1935, after meeting Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson as they toured across Russia, Coretti was permitted to visit America to spend time with her sick mother before she died. However, she no longer found an interest in America and swiftly returned to the Soviet Union after the funeral. In May 1936, Coretti appeared in the film *Circus (1936 film)* in the small role of the little black son of the heroine of the film Marion Dixon (Lyubov Orlova), before returning to her usual touring.

Later Career (1941–1951)

On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the USSR. Corette fortunately survived the German invasion of Russia, with Hitler's army arrested only 44 miles (71 km) from Moscow. She organized an anti air raid squad on the roof of her apartment building and nursed ailing soldiers at Hospital No. 5012. Despite the war, she continued giving out sold out concerts at the Maly Theatre that December.

In 1942, as World War II raged, Coretti and her husband made concert tours to Ivanovo, Nizhny Novgorod (at the time called Gorky),Kazan and other cities, performing spirtituals on the front lines or singing before injured in field hospitals until Boris resumed work at the Conservatory despite the war conditions. For the majority of 1945, she spent time in Batumi on the Black sea coast, filming "The 15 Year Old Captain" (directed V.M. Zhuravlev), where she played the part of the old maid, Nan.

After twenty years of intense and continuous work, the forces of Arle-Titz were undermined, her voice became worn out and lost its former beauty and full-soundness. Which explains why after the war, she retired from the stage and lived quietly in Moscow until her death, December 14, 1951.

After the death and cremation of Coretti Henrichovna Arle-Titz on December 14, 1951, Boris Borisovich turned to Varvara Mikhailovna Zarudnaya's niece, Vera Nikolaevna, with a request for the temporary burial of the urn with the ashes of his wife next to her close friend, composer Ippolitov-Ivanov. Coretti Arle-Titz was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery on December 15, 1951, in the family grave of Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov and his wife, Varvara Mikhailovna Zarudnaya. In later years, Boris Borisovich did not have time to rebury the remains of Coretti, and after his death (in 1963) he was instead buried beside her.

References

  1. ^ Simon Géza Gábor. The Pre-History of Jazz In Hungary
  2. ^ William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. The Crisis
  3. ^ The Collected Works of Langston Hughes — University of Missouri Press, 2001. — P. 69.
  4. ^ The Collected Works of Langston Hughes — University of Missouri Press, 2001. — P. 69.
  5. ^ Baku Jazz History
  6. ^ The Collected Works of Langston Hughes — University of Missouri Press, 2001. — P. 69.
  7. ^ William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. The Crisis


External Sources

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