C1438. CHARLES MÜNCH Cond. Boston S.O., w.Cesare Valletti, Florence Kopleff, Gérard Souzay & Giorgio Tozzi: L'ENFANCE DU CHRIST (Berlioz), Live Performance, 21 Dec., 1956 (Symphony Hall, Boston). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-336. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Cesare Valletti was the most elegant and versatile tenore di grazia of his time; Italy has produced nothing like him since his short career ended. He started in the late ‘40s, came to the Met in 1953, and left in 1960 after a dispute with Rudolf Bing….[he] refused all offers to come back to the Met….Valletti sings fluently in Italian, French, German, Spanish, and English. He was regarded an exemplary French stylist in his time....”
- Ralph V. Lucano, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2008
“Active chiefly as a concert and oratorio soloist, [Kopleff] appeared frequently with the Robert Shaw Chorale and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Shaw. Kopleff appeared on several of the Chorale's popular LP recitals in the 1950s and '60s, including'The Stephen Foster Songbook', 'Irish Folk Songs' and 'The Great Choruses from MESSIAH'. Other conductors with whom Kopleff worked and recorded included Charles Münch, Fritz Reiner and Maurice Abravanel.
- OPERA NEWS, Nov., 2012
“Florence Kopleff was a true contralto. She was one of those artists who possessed such an amazing instrument that when you heard that sound, you knew it was Florence. You didn’t confuse it with anyone else. Her personality, the person that was Florence, came through in the quality of her vocal tone and in the beautiful artistry, her gorgeous phrasing.”
- Michael Palmer, ARTS ATLANTA, 25 July, 2012
“Gérard Souzay, the French baritone who was one of the 20th century's finest interpreters of art songs, frequently appeared in opera - including New York City Opera and the Met - and was widely held to be the definitive Golaud in Debussy's PÉLLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE. But it was in art song that he made his greatest mark, and not only in the songs of French composers. His more than 750 recordings include classic versions of Schumann, Schubert and Hugo Wolf.
Mr. Souzay certainly did have a proper voice: not huge, but rich in color and tone, supple, sensual and lovely. His reluctance to be stereotyped as merely a French singer was related to the fact that he tended to be eclipsed by his contemporary the German baritone and art-song specialist Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Many aficionados have always preferred Souzay. The difference between the two is crudely outlined in the notion that Fischer-Dieskau specialized in intellectual, text-driven, carefully planned performances, while Mr. Souzay was more of a sensualist, reacting viscerally to the music and allowing it to carry him in new directions in a given concert.
Born in December 1918 as Gérard Tisserand, Mr. Souzay studied with Bernac, Claire Croiza and Vanni Marcoux at the Paris Conservatory, from 1940 to 1945. His opera career didn't begin until 1960, when he made his début in Aix-en-Provence in Purcell's DIDO AND AENEAS, but by then he was already well established as a recitalist and recording artist. Famously loyal to his accompanists, he recorded only with two: Jacqueline Bonneau, and Dalton Baldwin, who was still a student when he met Mr. Souzay. The two began a long artistic and personal association.
‘Simply, music means a lot to me and I feel very deeply what I sing’, Mr. Souzay once said. ‘Sometimes when I sing I shiver. But it's not because I love what I am doing. It's because music moves me to the bones’."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 AUG., 2004
“Giorgio Tozzi, a distinguished bass who spent two decades with the Metropolitan Opera and also appeared on film, television and Broadway [was]esteemed for his warm, smooth voice; skillful acting; pinpoint diction; and authoritative stage presence. Mr. Tozzi sang 528 performances with the Met. He was so ubiquitous there for so long that THE NEW YORK TIMES was later moved to describe him (admiringly) as ‘inescapable’.
Mr. Tozzi made his Met début as Alvise in LA GIOCONDA, by Amilcare Ponchielli, in 1955. Reviewing the performance, THE NEW YORK POST wrote that he ‘proved to have a voice of beautiful quality’, adding: ‘It was rich in texture and expertly handled both as to characterization and technique’.
His most famous performances at the Met include the title roles in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV and Mozart’s MARRIAGE OF FIGARO; Ramfis in Verdi’s AÏDA; Don Basilio in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE; Philip II in Verdi’s DON CARLO; and Hans Sachs in Wagner’s MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG.
He originated the role of the Doctor in Samuel Barber’s VANESSA, which had its world premiere at the Met in 1958. Conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, the production also starred Eleanor Steber and Nicolai Gedda. Mr. Tozzi’s last performance with the Met was in 1975, as Colline in Puccini’s BOHÈME.
He also sang with the San Francisco Opera, La Scala and other companies and appeared as a soloist with major symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Europe.
On film Mr. Tozzi dubbed the singing voice of the actor Rossano Brazzi in the role of Emile de Becque in SOUTH PACIFIC (1958), directed by Joshua Logan. (Mr. Tozzi had played the role himself, opposite Mary Martin, in a West Coast production of the musical the year before.) On the small screen he sang King Melchior in the 1978 television film of Gian Carlo Menotti’s AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS, also starring Teresa Stratas.
On Broadway he received a Tony nomination for the role of the lonely California grape farmer Tony Esposito in the 1979 revival of Frank Loesser’s operatic musical comedy THE MOST HAPPY FELLA.
Mr. Tozzi was sometimes asked from what part of Italy he hailed. The answer was Chicago, where he was born George John Tozzi on Jan. 8, 1923. He began singing as a teenager but entered DePaul University planning to major in biology. He soon returned to music, studying with Rosa Raisa, Giacomo Rimini and John Daggett Howell.
After Army service in World War II Mr. Tozzi began his vocal life as a baritone. He made his début (as George Tozzi) in 1948, singing Tarquinius in Benjamin Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA. Staged at the Ziegfeld Theater on Broadway, the production also starred Kitty Carlisle. Mr. Tozzi emerged from Milan a bass. Soon afterward, at the suggestion of RCA Victor, for whom he made some of his early recordings, he became Giorgio Tozzi, with its fittingly operatic overtones.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 2 June, 2011
“It’s difficult to articulate what makes Münch’s conducting special – or indeed if there even is anything identifiably unique about it. A lesser talent would simply turn out generic, cookie-cutter performances; but Münch was anything but generic. He was one of the most musical of conductors; in so many of his performances, everything simply sounds ‘right’. Certainly, his experience as an orchestral musician gave him a lot of practical insight into the mechanics of directing orchestra traffic. But a classic Münch interpretation never sounds calculated. Spontaneity was one of his hallmarks, sometimes to the surprise and discomfort of the musicians playing under him. From one night to the next, a Münch performance of the same piece might be very different, depending on his mood of the moment – yet it would always sound like Münch.”
- Lawrence Hansen, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2012