Rigoletto   (Perlea;  Merrill, Bjorling, Peters, Tozzi)   (2-Naxos 8.111276/77)
Item# OP0080
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Product Description

Rigoletto   (Perlea;  Merrill, Bjorling, Peters, Tozzi)   (2-Naxos 8.111276/77)
OP0080. RIGOLETTO, recorded 1956, w. Perlea Cond. Rome Opera Ensemble; Robert Merrill, Jussi Björling, Roberta Peters, Giogio Tozzi, etc.; ROBERT MERRILL: Verdi & Rossini Arias. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. (England) 2-Naxos 8.111276/77. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 747313327621

CRITIC REVIEWS:

“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!)



“A conductor/composer much beset by a series of catastrophes, Jonel Perlea nonetheless ranks high among his contemporaries for the fervor and meticulous attention to sound and form he brought to his interpretations. Interned by the Nazis during WWII and later the victim of a stroke, he prevailed, teaching and conducting with a modified technique employing the left hand only. Recorded evidence causes one to wonder about Perlea's abbreviated time with the Metropolitan Opera, but stories of backstage jealousies suggest the answer.

Perlea was invited to Bucharest to conduct the premiere of an orchestral work he had written and found himself intrigued by the possibility of a conducting career. His official début as a conductor came in Leipzig where he led an opera house performance of the ballet PUPPENFEE and quickly thereafter, the opera HÄNSEL UND GRETEL. Following several other German engagements and a year's service in the Romanian army, Perlea was made first principal conductor at the Bucharest Opera in 1926 and later, the company's music director and director of the city's conservatory. Throughout the ensuing years, Perlea's reputation grew through guest appearances at Europe's leading opera institutions and with its finest orchestras.

On their way from Bucharest to Paris in August 1944, Perlea and his wife were detained by Nazi officials in Vienna because they lacked the necessary visas. For the next year, they were placed in concentration camps, initially in Silesia, later in Kärten. Upon liberation by British troops, Perlea was sent to Italy for repatriation; subsequently he chose to attempt the rebuilding of his career there. A substitute engagement with Rome's Santa Cecilia Orchestra was so well-received that he was given a second concert, this time with his name on the playbills. Another success led to an engagement at La Scala where his TRISTAN UND ISOLDe was acclaimed. Perlea remained a principal conductor at Milan until 1949, also leading performances regularly at Naples.

After his American début with the San Francisco Symphony in 1949, Perlea came to the Metropolitan Opera where his 1 December début in TRISTAN drew high praise. The refined and clearly defined orchestral textures bespoke an exceptional gift for leadership; he supported his singers rather than dominating them. Similar high enthusiasm greeted his RIGOLETTO and CARMEN, but a failure to agree on repertory (the official story) led incoming manager Rudolf Bing to offer Perlea only one production for the following year.

Perlea returned to Italy to continue conducting there, finding ongoing favor with critics and audiences alike and leading several important opera recordings. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, he was appointed music director of the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra in 1955 and taught at the Manhattan School of Music. A heart attack in 1957 presaged a stroke that left him disabled but not defeated. He continued to direct with his left arm only and in 1967, led a production of TOSCA for the American National Opera hailed as extraordinary for its authority and intensity.”

- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com



“Robert Merrill made his Metropolitan début as Germont on 15 Dec., 1945, and celebrated his 500th performance there on 5 March, 1973. He remained on the Met roster until 1976. During his tenure with the Met, Mr. Merrill sang leading roles in much of the standard repertory, including the title role in RIGOLETTO, Germont in LA TRAVIATA, Figaro in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, Escamillo in CARMEN and Tonio in PAGLIACCI; he appeared in most of these many times. Regarded as one of the greatest Verdi baritones of his generation, he was known for the security and strength of his sound, as well as for the precision and clarity with which he could hit pitches across his two-octave range.

‘Although he occasionally appeared in Europe and South America, he preferred to base his career at the Metropolitan Opera, where he sang all the major baritone roles of the Italian and French repertories’, Peter G. Davis wrote of Mr. Merrill in THE NEW GROVE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN MUSIC. ‘In terms of vocal endowment, technical security and longevity, he was unequaled among baritones of his generation at the Metropolitan’. ‘After Leonard Warren's tragic death onstage at the Metropolitan in 1960, Merrill became more or less indisputably America's principal baritone and perhaps the best lyricist since Giuseppe de Luca’, the critic J. B. Steane wrote in his book THE GRAND TRADITION. ‘The easy and even production of a beautifully well-rounded tone is not common, especially when the voice is also a powerful one; yet this is, after all, the basis of operatic singing, and Merrill's records will always commend themselves in these terms. Mr. Merrill made many recordings for RCA. He sang in two complete opera broadcasts on radio under Toscanini - LA TRAVIATA in 1946 and UN BALLO IN MASCHERA in 1953 - both of which were later issued on CD. He wrote two autobiographies, ONCE MORE FROM THE BEGINNING (1965) and BETWEEN ACTS (1976), as well as a novel, THE DIVAS (1978). He received a number of honorary doctorates and awards.”

- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Oct., 2004