Pagliacci February 13, 1971: Richard Tucker, Teresa Stratas, Sherrill Milnes, Dominic Cossa/Fausto Cleva
|Richard Tucker, THE Canio|
This I heard on my trusty 8V transistor. The audio would have horrified most even in 1971 but I, at thirteen thought it was just great. I can still hear Tucker's voice swelling in Act I: A venti-tre ORE! Sherrill Milnes took the optional high ending of the prologue like a piece of cake. It as a few more years before I could completely appreciate Dominic Cossa. I stood for Les pecheurs de perles , which Cossa sang so beautifully at City Opera in 1980. Later Dominic Cossa gave Beverly Sills's farewell one of its few moments of pure class: He sang Schubert's Du bist die Ruh' while Cynthia Gregory danced. But in this Pagliacci, with no disrespect to anyone else, it was Tucker, Tucker, Tucker. I listen to this performance 40 years later and get chills.
Tristan und Isolde December 18, 1971 Birgit Nilsson, Jess Thomas, Irene Dalis, William Dooley, Giorgio Tozzi/Erich Leinsdorf
And I can still hear Jess Thomas, sounding intense with five notes: 'Was ist's? Isolde!'. I've always had a soft spot for Irene Dalis. At the time of this broadcast she had sung Isolde-not Brangaene-in San Francisco. It wasn't a success. Her chest voice at 'vertraue nun Brangaene!' was devastating. Leinsdorf was music director of the Boston Symphony. He was a regular presence on Channel 2 as many of the BSO concerts were televised. Them were the days. I didn't know enough to pay attention to the conducting per se in 1971. I do remember a funny and unkind comment from a mentor of mine when Leinsdorf died, "And the angels sing!"
Nobody knew what this was. Yes, the opera had been performed in New York (City Opera, God bless them) and it was often heard on campuses: whole lotta roles for women. Today with Sirius broadcasts of From the House of the Dead and Satyagraha, you may surprised to know that opera broadcasts in the 70s and before were not adventurous. La Perichole was about it. No disrespect, but c'mon. The first time I remember the mold being broken was for L'Italiana in Algeri but that had Ponelle and Marilyn Horne.
Carmelites at the Met had John Dexter and Regine Crespin. She was Poulenc's choice for Mme. Lidoine in Paris and Dexter was the razor sharp director of productions. That may not count for radio but the triumph of Carmelites was HIS as much as Poulenc's or anyone else's. So hearing an opera written in the 20th century on the broadcasts was a rarity. Dexter wrote that he insisted the first performance of this work be a Saturday broadcast, believing it would create buzz. It did! This performance was heavily papered...by this Saturday evening there wasn't a ticket to be had for repeats.
It was sung in English and except for Verrett-who was very grand for Mme Lidoine, a contradiction, you could take dictation of the singer's Eng;ish. Maria Ewing had a sadness to her voice, what Italians call morbidezza. Betsy Norden won all hearts as Sister Constance -she knew when to be adorable in this role and when NOT to be. Crespin gave the production authority and class. She was the First Prioress, Mme de Croissy ad the only non native English speaker in the cast. Crespin, even with Verrett on stage-was very much the star of this production. At first hearing Crespin's voice is woofy and hard to control. But like a great artist, she makes you listen. She doesn't have the easiest voice at this point, but it remains huge. Crespin can still caress a phrase: "Yes your heart is gentle and kind" she says to Blanche and melts us all.
The finale as the nuns marched to the guillotine got the silence. It sounds like the New York audience was shocked or moved. I suspect both.
|Maria Ewing, better late...|