Trained at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia with the object of becoming an opera singer, soprano Anita Darian has had a steady career for fifty years singing in clubs and cabarets, recording television jingles and cartoon voice-overs, and appearing in the occasional musical, opera or symphony concert. Of Armenian-American descent, she first came to popular notice in the late 1950s, touring dance venues as a featured singer with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. Her first LP album, Hawaiian Paradise (in the exotica category), was recorded in 1959 with Bill Jaffee and arranger Jim Timmens.
Living in New York City, and later in Nassau County, Long Island, she appeared with the New York City Opera and sang on a number of albums of Broadway musicals – The King and I and Show Boat among them. A solo album, East of the Sun, of genuine and purportedly-genuine Middle Eastern songs issued in 1960 (“Misirlou,” “Gomen Nasir”) exhibited her extraordinary four-octave range and caused her to be touted as “The Armenian Yma Sumac.” One of Leonard Bernstein’s Young Peoples’ Concerts with the New York Philharmonic featured Anita Darian singing and playing the kazoo in the Koncerto for Kazoo by Mark Bucci.
Darian’s most widely distributed recording by far, although it was made anonymously, was the Tokens’ 1961 hit single “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (“Wimoweh”), on which she provided the extremely high wordless soprano vocal during the saxophone solo in counter-melody to the lead.
Darian has appeared on television in plays and variety shows, recorded works by Ned Rorem, John Corigliano and others, and was a popular participant in a recent Cabaret Festival in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Photofest