Metropolitan Opera - Debut at the Met     (Roberta Peters)
Item# B1363
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Metropolitan Opera - Debut at the Met     (Roberta Peters)
B1363. ROBERTA PETERS & LOUIS BIANCOLLI. A Début at the Met [Autobiography]. New York, Meredith, 1967. 86pp. DJ. Excellent, albeit pencil markings.

CRITIC REVIEW:

“Roberta Peters, who would sing with the Met 515 times over 35 vigorous years, was internationally renowned for her high, silvery voice; her clarion diction in a flurry of languages; [and] her attractive stage presence. In addition to the Met, with which she appeared regularly from 1950 to 1985 - one of the longest associations of any singer with a major opera company - Ms. Peters was heard at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden and elsewhere. Known for taking meticulous care of her voice, she continued to sing in recital until well into her 70s, a good two decades past the de facto retirement age in her line of work.

On 23 Jan., 1950, the 19-year-old Ms. Peters stood on the stage of the old Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway and 39th Street in Manhattan. There, in the darkened hall, she sang ‘Der Hölle Rache’ from THE MAGIC FLUTE, which, with its fiendish series of high F’s, is among the canonical texts of the coloratura repertory. Somewhere out in the darkness was Mr. Bing. ‘It was the first audition I had done for anyone, and I was so scared’, Ms. Peters told The Chicago Tribune in 1993. ‘When it was over he asked if I would sing it again. Then he asked me to do it again. Well, I sang it four times, not knowing that he had silently brought in conductors Fritz Reiner, Fausto Cleva and Fritz Stiedry to hear me’. Peters made her impromptu Met début 17 Nov., 1951, substituting for Nadine Conner. ‘The delightful surprise of last night’s performance of DON GIOVANNI at the Metropolitan was the emergency début of little Roberta Peters in the part of Zerlina’, The New York World-Telegram’s review the next day said. ‘The voice came through the big house as clear as a bell, the notes equally bright and focused and the phrasing that of a true musician’.

Ms. Peters was by all accounts one of opera’s least diva-like divas.”

- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 JAN., 2017



“On the other hand, I cannot resist sharing a typical diva-like confrontation Roberta Peters had at the Sol Hurok management in the then-shared office of Harold Shaw and Joe Lippman. Early in her career, when all performing artists were obliged to earn their stripes by recital-touring throughout the United States, Joe Lippman had arranged an extended recital tour for her which took her to all possible outposts, cultural or otherwise, many in the mid-West where venues were few are far apart, thus requiring travel via train and therein sometimes in cattle cars. Upon returning to New York she burst into Harold Shaw's and Joe Lippman's shared office lambasting Joe Lippman for her ’ordeal’. She clearly delineated all the indelicacies to which she had been subjected, not least of which was the cattle car experience. It should be noted that unlike other managers, Joe Lippman, to his dying day, never once travelled via air, so he was all-too-familiar with travel conditions of that time. Harold Shaw, an old friend of mine, recounted this meeting with Peters and Lippman which Harold observed first-hand. When Peters finally abated, Joe Lippman, who had spent the time during her outburst twirling his unsmoked and wet cigar in his mouth, removed it briefly to quietly inform her that she was lucky: ‘They wouldn’t hire you the first time I offered your services’. That finally silenced her!”

- J. R. Peters (positively NO relation!)

“Encouraged by tenor Jan Peerce, Roberta Peters started her music studies at age 13 with William Herman, a voice teacher known for his exacting and thorough teaching method. Under Herman's training, Peters studied the French, German and Italian languages and practiced singing scales from a clarinet method. After six years of training, Herman introduced her to impresario Sol Hurok, who arranged for an audition with Rudolf Bing, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. Bing asked her to sing the Queen of the Night's second aria from THE MAGIC FLUTE (with its four Fs above high C), seven times, listening from all parts of the hall to make sure she could fill the hall with sound. He then scheduled her to sing the rôle in February 1951.

Peters, however, made her début earlier than planned. On 17 November, 1950, Bing phoned her asking if she could step in to replace Nadine Conner, who was ill, as Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI. Peters knew the rôle, but had not yet ever performed on stage, or even sung with a full orchestra, accepted. Fritz Reiner was the conductor that night. Despite a reputation for being distant and reserved, Reiner made a point of coming to Peters' dressing room to encourage her and guided her through the performance. Her performance was received with great enthusiasm, and her career was established.”

-Zillah Dorset Akron