The Golden Treasury of Song

with your singing hostess



Introduction by Gregor Benko

There is solace for those of us afflicted with the peculiar taste for this sort of thing. Recently nine different half-hour television programs with the incomparable Mari Lyn have surfaced, and they are - well, I think when considered from certain standpoints, the single most incredible opera performances ever caught on film or video. No fooling.

Now I have to qualify this, lest anyone who doesn't know who Mari Lyn was think that she could outdo Tebaldi or Callas. No, the qualities that Madame Lyn (really Marilyn Sosman) embodied were of a different sort, for she was indeed the spiritual heiress of Florence Foster Jenkins, and everyone must know about Jenkins.

In the mid 1980s Madame Lyn paid for a series of half-hour programs on New York public access television. Snippets of a few selections from these programs, fourth and fifth generation copies in grainy and indistinct video, passed from hand to hand among the cognoscenti like samizdat in Soviet days. I used the audio portion of her humbling performance of "Una voce poco fa" on the "Muse Surmounted" CD, including a bit of her commentary about other sopranos "overcadenzorizing" the work. There were always rumors that someone somewhere had these programs in good sound and good video. I could never locate them, and knew no one who had them.

Suddenly out of nowhere they have appeared, and they are treasures! Three DVDs are now available, each with three half-hour programs. These are not tacky jobs, but professional productions with chapters and everything else one could want, very good sound and very good video. I feel like a drunkard who has been presented with a cask of the finest wine - I am drunk with amazement and gratitude! I am not connected with the outfit making these available, but feel it my duty as producer of the Muse Surmounted to alert the world.

Where to begin to describe the treasures contained on these three DVDs? First, just hearing Mari Lyn does not do her art justice, for it was her persona and her dramatic inability that was paramount. Despite the fact that she was about sixty inches tall and ninety inches around the hips (she had no waist), she delighted in getting up in various (homemade) costumes that did nothing but accentuate the peculiarities of her, er, body. Then her wig, always the same blonde mountain of hair, but each time styled in a different fanfare manner, now snowcone bouffant, now twisted like a challah bread. Of particular interest is Madame's figure when she turns sideways - like Schumann Heink in her famous comment to Weingartner, she had no sideways. Her face contained pounds and pounds of makeup, plied on with a liberal hand, and often looks like mounds of pork chops coated with butter.

But as I said it was her dramatic inability that trumped all - her reading of the letter in Traviata can only be compared to Muzio's recording - whatever anyone has ever written or said about that immortal performance, just turn it around 180 degrees. In the end it is Mari Lyn's iron self-assurance and total unconsciousness of her immense lack of any talent that is humbling, and somehow hypnotic.

There are highlights galore - especially the Southern program when she puts on a Southern accent and dedicates a coon song to "Li'l Georgie" Wallace. And the "Hosanna By Ebentide" program, where she is interrupted before performing "Casta diva" to be presented with a giant loving cup, awarded as the best new vocalist of the year by representatives of a "foundation" from Palermo! I laughed so hard I cried.


Volume I DVD (3 30-minute shows)
Volume II DVD (3 30-minute shows)
Volume III DVD (3 30-minute shows)

The Best Artistry of Mari Lyn (Audio CD)

Cantiamo Italia
Non ti scordar di me
Salce/Ave Maria

The South Anti-Bellum Era
Swanee River
My Old Kentucky Home
I Dream of Jeannie
Beautiful Dreamer
Sweet Kentucky Babe
My Curly Headed Baby

All-Puccini Program
Tosca: Non la sospiri
Tosca: Vissi d'arte
La boheme: Si, mi chiamano Mimi
La boheme: Donde lieta
Madama Butterfly: Un bel di

Volume II
Volume III

Hosanna By Ebentide
How Great Thou Art
Jesus Is Mine
Holy, Holy, Holy
Sweet Hour Of Prayer
Were You There
Presentation of the Awards
Norma: Casta diva

All Victor Herbert Program
Kiss Me Again
To The Land Of My Own Romance
The Fortune Teller

Excerpts from Verdi's La traviata
E strano... e strano
Ah, fors'e lui
Follie! Follie!
Sempre libera
Teneste la promessa
Addio del passato

Volume III

The Art of the Coloratura
Rigoletto:Tutte le feste
The Russian Nightingale
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fa

All Sigmund Romberg Program
When I Grow Too Old to Dream
Will You Remember
Love Song

Pop Opera Program
La forza del destino: Pace, pace mio Dio
Cavalleria rusticana: Voi lo sapete
Pagliacci: Stridono lassu


Each DVD sells for $20.
All three DVDs sell for $50.


I do not include the jewel case(s); I include cover/back inserts.
I accept Paypal - send payment to my Paypal account:
I accept a personal check or money order.

For further information, please email:

Click here to purchase "The Muse Surmounted"