OP0256. UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Live Performance, 22 Jan., 1955, w. Mitropoulos Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Richard Tucker, Josef Metternich, Jean Madeira, Roberta Peters, etc. (France) 2-Foyer CF 2004. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy!
“Milanov came like a bolt out of heaven - the voice and the young woman, both so vibrant and exciting. We knew something great had come into [the Met’s] Italian wing. What was not obvious at the beginning was that she would have such a staying power, for she gave so much in her singing.…I was present years later on her great anniversaries and she sang at mine [the fiftieth anniversary of [my] Met début, 1963]. She was incomparable. She was like a vocal sorceress singing the OTELLO arias that night. Such a roar went up from the public, I can never forget it.”
- Giovanni Martinelli
"...for some thirty years, until his sudden death in 1975, Tucker's vocal security, boundless energy, unceasing enthusiasm, and thorough professionalism ensured a level of popularity that necessitated comparisons to some of his greatest predecessors....Tucker sang thrillingly and delivered the goods, communicating his own joy in singing to all who would listen...."
- Marc Mandel, FANFARE, May/June, 1997
“From 1940 until his retirement in 1971, [Metternich] was one of the leading German baritones, singing in most of the major opera houses around the world. His was a massive voice of dark power, not rich and smooth, but with an intensity and grittiness that added much to his characterizations.”
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2008
"Metternich’s rich, dark voice, extraordinary breath control, and fine musicianship was coupled with an incisiveness of text projection and a sensitivity of characterization in an outpouring of luxurious sound….In an era when German baritones were expected to sing only German opera, Joseph Metternich made an international career…specializing in the dramatic baritone roles of Italian opera."
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May/June, 2006
"Born Jean Browning in Central Illinois, this contralto established for herself a singular identity among singers of the deepest, darkest roles for female voice. Tall and strikingly attractive, she possessed both the physical and vocal allure for Carmen and created a riveting portrait of Klytemnestra, both addled and imperious. The later role, perhaps the one with which she was most closely identified, was captured on disc in both studio (with Bohm) and on-stage at Salzburg (with Mitropoulos). Her RHEINGOLD Erda in Solti's RING was likewise striking, voiced with steady, earth-deep tones, a sound once likened to 'gleaming anthracite'."
Browning's father, half American Indian, half English, was a coal miner; her mother taught piano and soon included her daughter among her pupils. Upon her father's death, Browning moved with her family to St. Louis, where she won a scholarship to the Leo C. Miller School of Music. While a student there, she placed first in a competition whose prize was an appearance with the St. Louis Symphony. Under Vladimir Golschmann's direction, she performed Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. In 1941, Browning entered the Juilliard School of Music, where she majored in piano, but also pursued singing, making her debut as Nancy in von Flotow's MARTHA in a 1943 Chautauqua Summer Opera production. At Juilliard, she met and subsequently married a piano student, Francis Madeira, who later became conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, a faculty member at Brown University, and occasionally accompanied his wife following her transition to a full-time singing career.
Olga Samaroff urged the young woman in 1946 to concentrate on becoming a professional singer. While still studying voice at Juilliard, Jean Madeira (as she was by then known) began making appearances with such other groups as the (American) San Carlo Opera Company. Gian Carlo Menotti chose her in 1947 to alternate with Marie Powers in the title role of his THE MEDIUM on its European tour. That same year, she was the recipient of the St. Louis Woman of Achievement Award. In 1948, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as the First Norn in a performance of DIE GOTTERDAMMERUNG, beginning her steady progress through such roles as Amneris, Azucena, Ulrica, Orfeo, and Dalila. In 1954, she began a series of European appearances taking her to Covent Garden, Stockholm, Munich, and Salzburg.
The fall of 1955 brought Madeira's debut at the Vienna Staatsoper in the role of Carmen, a triumph resulting in 45 curtain calls. When she sang Carmen at the Metropolitan in 1956, critic Irving Kolodin, writing in the Saturday Review, described her as 'an intelligent artist who gives thought to what she undertakes' and noted her effective use of her striking height. He also praised her portrayal by commenting, 'Mostly it was done with a suggestion of youthful suppleness not often seen'.
In addition to her almost 300 Metropolitan performances in some 41 roles, Madeira continued to appear elsewhere in America and Europe, offering her Carmen at Chicago, where critic Claudia Cassidy praised her as 'svelte, darkly beautiful, with a mezzo soprano streaked in burnt umber and edged with a threat', and at Aix-en-Provence. Her authoritative Erda was heard at Munich, London, and Bayreuth. In 1968, she took part in the premiere of Dallapiccola's ULISSE IN BERLIN, creating the role of Circe. She retired in 1971, shortly before her death in 1972."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“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!)