Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur MET April 19, 1969 Renata Tebaldi, Franco Corelli, Anselmo Colzani, Irene Dalis/Fausto Cleva
|Tebaldi and Corelli: God and Goddess|
This Adriana came to Boston the following week on tour. I was 12. It was the one evening I couldn't attend. Probably because my parents had a card game or the St. Vincent de Paul Society and I couldn't get a ride into Boston. I missed Tebaldi and Corelli. All the more reason to enjoy this broadcast.
|Lawrence Tibbett as Simon Boccanegra|
Lawrence Tibbett put this dark, wonderful opera of the Genovese doge on the map. This is a well known performance, studded with names the likes of which don't exist today. Father Owen Lee, who is my guide in life, suggested that this may be the greatest Met broadcast ever. Lawrence Tibett's name is always mentioned with a sadness. His career was destroyed by alcohol but on this Saturday afternoon nearly seventy-five years ago he retained this large, warm beautiful baritone. Elisabeth Rethberg was in the twilight of her career but sunsets are usually very beautiful. Pinza and Martinelli. Legends today. It was just a Saturday afternoon in New York. I m humbled listening to this-especially to Leonard Warren as Paolo-already at 28 the next great voice in line to the great roles.
Giannini: The Taming of the Shrew. NEW YORK CITY OPERA April 13, 1958. Phyllis Curtin, Walter Cassel, John Alexander, Sonia Stolin/Peter Herman Adler.
The sound quality here makes me wonder if this was a telecast. Peter Herman Adler was music director of the NBC Opera. I don't know. this was a New York City Opera production and a work and a cast like this make the best case for this company. An opera written by an American composer with a wonderful all-American cast. Phyllis Curtin, a gorgeous woman and exemplary musician. She probably makes music out of her grocery list. Walter Cassel is best known today for another American opera-The Ballad of Baby Doe. A few blocks south he was also a Kurwenal, Scarpia, Telramund and Rigoletto. John Alexander sang everything and sang everything well. It's a further testament to the New York City Opera that his cast plays and sings so well as a unit. It's truly an ensemble company-delightful..exactly what this opera needs.
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde MET March 19, 1955 Astrid Varnay, Set Svanholm, Joseph Metternich, Blanche Thebom, Jerome Hines, James McCracken/Rudolf Kempe
Read Astrid Varnay's memoir 55 Years in Five Acts.By the time of this performance the lady was in her mid thirties and had been singing leading roles at the Met since her last minute debut as Sieglinde December 6, 1941 (imagine the reviews THAT morning after). Varnay was coming to the end of her first Met tenure. From her book we learn that Rudolf Bing didn't much like Wagner and didn't much like Varnay. Her huge, black marble voice-which could take on a whine or a twinge of bitterness-is in great form for this Isolde. She gets the rage of Act I down. The love is a stretch for her, but there's plenty of beautiful singing. Bing also complained of the difficulty of bringing great conductors to the Met. He got it right with Rudolf Kempe. Kempe gets the architecture right-but he remembers that Wagner himself never intended his singers to be dwarfed by the orchestra. The beginning of Act II is a perfect blend of an ecstatic orchestra and an electrifying Isolde. Set Svanhom doesn't need to be second to Melchior or anybody else. His performance is a bit square-not a lot of passion or fire-but he paces the treacherous third act quite well-he begins the opera strongly ("Was ist's? Isolde!") and ends it in beauty. I'm delighted to have re -discovered this broadcast. All the more reason to clean your room once in a while.
Rossini: Semiramide OPERA CO. OF BOSTON February 7, 1965 Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Joseph Rouleau, Andre Montal/Richard Bonynge.
I had heard about this performance from folks who were there nearly fifty years ago. Marilyn Horne as the Assiriyan general Arsace was eight months pregnant, thank you very much. She made her entrance aboard a ship that came down the aisle of the Donelly Theater on Mass. Ave and Huntington Ave-the theater is long gone. I doubt Semiramide was known by many in 1965. Dame Joan had been singing it since 1962 and would bring it to Chicago, London, Australia-everywhere but New York! Boston got her in this long, magnificent tragic opera by Rossini. Not only was Semiramide known in 1965, but the type of dramatic florid singing would have been new to many. Of all of the off air and studio recordings of Sutherland and Horne in this music it is this performance in my hometown, in a decrepit theater near Symphony Hall that out sings all the others. Both are in their magnificent primes-pregnant or not. Both blend perfectly in the two great extended duets. The music holds no terrors for wither of them-and my they do toss off the notes. The men fare less well. Rouleau has a marvelous bass voice but the fiorature, heavily cut-is beyond him. On my CD there are chunks of the opera missing-it was either severely cut-likely-or parts are simply missing on the original tape. Whatever. Find this for the two ladies, or the one lady and the pregnant general.