I had spent part of this spring cataloging and updating my collection of broadcasts going back to 193 (Deems Taylor's Peter Ibbetson). My list is long but in no way as impressive as the many completists with whom I correspond.
My friend sent me his 'wish list' from my collection. I'm delighted to share. As I pulled the CDs and sampled some, the floodgates of memory opened.
|Rosalind Elias: Still wowin' them|
|Last night of 'La Loca' Beverly Sills and John Mauceri|
Puccini: La boheme October 16, 1972. The Met debut of Henry Lewis, who became the first African American to conduct at the Met. Is he still the only one? Scandalous. This is an in house recording. Anna Moffo was in the midst of her vocal crisis, plus a high profile marriage to Robert Sarnoff, the chairman of RCA. She lost her voice but not her glamour. She had just sung Mimi in Hartford. The reviews were not kind. Occasionally she could put it over, but her career never recovered from a disastrous broadcast of Lucia in 1969. (A party favorite for vocal necrophiliacs.) Richard Tucker sang Rodolfo-what a luxury to have that great voice based at the Met for so many years. He died a few years later at 63-I heard later performances and he easily rattled the roof. The real deal. If you are under fifty you missed out on a voice that like Nilsson, had vast and tremendous presence.
J. Strauss: Die Fledermaus January 23, 1955 Eleanor Steber. What's not to love? By 1955 the booze and the night life were catching up with her. She had a few years of great singing ahead of her (Arabella, Vanessa) but already she was feeling Bing's preference for foreign artists. I don't think there was a finer musician in opera than Steber. Her master classes at NEC years later were a hoot. She was bedecked like the Boston common Christmas tree. Her concerts in Jordan Hall yielded nothing to age or the party life: Big Verdi, Strauss, Mozart, Poulenc, Brahms. The voice was patchy but the delivery was great. Oh yes-Fledermaus. Patrice Munsel I'm sure stole the show as Adele. She was later considered somewhat crude but I've never heard an -ina performance from Munsel where she didn't steal the show. Charles Kullman and John Brownlee are in the cast: the latter made his debut in opera in London, 1926, on Melba's last night at Covent Garden. Jarmila Novotna was demoted to Orlofsky in her final Met years. Franz Lehar's Giuditta, not to mention a Violetta, Butterfly and Octavain of note-I used to see Novotna at the Met in the mid 1980s. She was that age herself then, but a lovelier old lady you never saw, except for my Grandmother Annie Duddy-but she died a few years earlier.
|Phyllis Curtin. Who was lovelier?|
Milhaud La mere coupable This is the neglected third Figaro play by Beaumarchais. Milhaud's opera was introduced in Geneva in 1966. I doubt it's been performed again. This is the premiere, in so- so sound. I have always loved Phyllis Curtin, for her pioneering of American music-and her great mix of sexiness and brains. What an artist! She's the Rosine-the title character. Curtin stated many year ago in an interview that she had sung the permiere of this opera. Last year I finally found this 50 year old broadcasts. I wrote the lady asking if she's like a copy-she wasn't interested but wrote me a long marvelous post ("Dear Christopher: What a memory you have!") She herself recalled little of this except it was a rush-rush job, deadlines missed and there was a whole lotta sight reading going on. One listen told me why the opera isn't done. Jose van Dam has a tiny role-with Luis Quilico. Serge Baudo conducts.
MORE TO COME........