Jean Forward Baker sang the famous 'Salammbo' aria for Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore) in Citizen Kane. I was honored to be granted her first interview ever on the Music of the Stars for Mothers Day in 2006.
With the 2007 death of Sonny Bupp ("Charles Foster Kane, Jr.") Ms. Baker is now the last living cast member of 'Citizen Kane'.
Her daughter Sherryl Nelson gave us a nice photo of her Mom. It's posted here.
Here's a Scripps interview from last March:
Camarillo woman, granddaughter have opera in their veins
By Mark Storer
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Jean Baker remembers the thrill of getting her first real singing gig.
"It was 1941 and I had auditioned in Hollywood, and RKO Pictures called me and told me they had a movie they needed me for."
The Camarillo resident was asked to sing the parts for the character Susan Alexander Kane played by Dorothy Comingore in Orson Welles' new film, "Citizen Kane."
"They paid me $400 a week while they filmed. It was lip-syncing in a dark room with headphones on watching the character and singing her lines," Baker said. "I loved it."
After "Citizen Kane," Baker, who then went by her maiden name, Jean Forward, got the opportunity to sing opera and never looked back.
"I sang Marguerite in the opera 'Faust' and it was a wonderful experience. That was my entrée into that world," she said. She continued to sing in films and with popular artists. She sang with Judy Garland in "Meet Me in St. Louis" and with Lena Horne, as well. Music is a passion that Baker, who turned 90 in February, has passed down through the generations in her family.
Susanna Lucarelli, 28, Baker's granddaughter, grew up with music in her veins.
"My mother, Sherryl Nelson, was the founding director of the Spivey Music Hall in Georgia," Lucarelli said. "I was kind of like Eloise at the Plaza except I grew up in a music hall and traveled the world with my mom, looking for great musical acts to come perform," she said.
Baker helped raise Lucarelli.
"I feel like we're best friends separated by about 60 years," Lucarelli said. "When I was 16, I was already singing in the commercial music business. I got to sing with Taj Mahal and that opened up a lot of opportunities for me. Music is the family business, I guess. It's what we do," she said.
But Lucarelli wasn't clear that her grandmother's passion for singing opera would become her own. She majored in journalism and became the arts and entertainment editor for the Moorpark College newspaper.
"But I wasn't satisfied. I didn't wake up wanting to do it," Lucarelli said. "I was tired of writing about people who were following their passions."
While still singing whenever she could, Lucarelli managed a real estate office in Westlake Village until the real estate bubble burst.
"I had a counselor at Moorpark named Michael Johnson, and he had always been a great source of inspiration," she said. "He asked me if I was still singing and when I told him I was, he said, 'Do what you love, Susanna. If you do what you love, it will work,' and so I majored in music and I haven't looked back," she said.
Lucarelli began to take the classes at Moorpark. While looking at YouTube videos of classical performances, she came across an aria by Giacomo Puccini. "Until then, I thought of classical music as my family's bag. I didn't see it as my thing. But now, I'm discovering an absolute passion."
"I'm delighted," Baker said. "I can truly relate to what she went through, going from popular to classical music," she said. "I'm her number one fan, and I'm so proud of all she's doing."
Now studying with private vocal coach Gualtiero Negrini, Lucarelli has performed with the Palm Springs Opera Guild and auditioned for the Metropolitan opera in New York. Most recently, she auditioned at both USC and UCLA and also is applying in various programs nationally.
While studying under professors Marilyn Anderson and Vail Keck at Moorpark College, Lucarelli knew she had made the right choice during a 2009 performance of Joseph Hayden's "The Creation."
"I was singing the part of Gabriel and I was backstage in the calm before the storm, the darkness, and I thought 'This is what I'm meant for,'" she said.
© 2011 Scripps Newspaper Group