OP0580. UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Live Performance, 22 Nov., 1947, w.Antonicelli Cond. Daniza Ilitsch, Jan Peerce, Leonard Warren, Margaret Harshaw, Pierrette Alarie, etc. (Italy) 2-Fabbri Editori 13. Long out-of-print, final copy!
“Daniza Ilitsch was born in Belgrade and studied at the Conservatory of her hometown and later in Berlin . In the role of Nedda in Pagliacci, she made her début in 1936 at the Berlin State Opera and appeared in guest performances at various stages, among them the Vienna State Opera (1938 and 1939), where she became a member of the ensemble in the last season during the War in 1943/44. Vienna remained the central point of her career during the first postwar years and she appeared at the Volksoper and at the Theater an der Wien, where opera was given then. Soon after the War, Ilitsch was approached by the Met, where she made her début on 12 March, 1947 as Desdemona in Otello. During her two seasons at the MET, 1946/47 and 1947/48 she was heard as Leonora in Il Trovatore, Amelia, Aïda, Madama Butterfly and Gioconda. Her career was cut short by a dangerous illness, which forced her into premature retirement. She returned to Vienna, where she lived totally secluded and where she died on 17 January, 1965 at the age of only 51.”
- Ned Ludd
“Indeed, the tenor’s vocal solidity seems indestructible. Peerce, heard here in the fifth of his six impersonations of Riccardo, had sung the rôle in Toscanini’s NBC Symphony concerts of January, 1954; though one does not look for variety of tone or graceful nuances with this tenor, his musical rectitude and dramatic continence are capital assets.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.194
"Leonard Warren emerged as the principal baritone of the Met’s Italian wing in the early 1940s and remained so until his untimely death on the Met’s stage, 4 March, 1960, at the peak of his career. His smooth, velvety, and beautiful voice was powerful and had an unusually large range in its high register. It was easily and evenly produced, whether he sang softly or roared like a lion….Warren acted his roles primarily by vocal coloring, expressivity, and his excellent diction….his singing was unusually consistent….Warren’s legacy should be of interest to all lovers of great singing."
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2006
"[Warren's] remarkable voice had a dramatic intensity which did not come naturally to him. As with everything else in his life, he worked at that until he got it right. Fortunately, his incomparable voice and dramatic power are still available to us on recordings of some of his most famous roles....[He] became one of the most famous and beloved operatic baritones in the world....Warren's flawless technique, seamless flow of sound, and brilliant top voice were his vocal trademarks and these qualities became the standard by which others would be measured, including me."
- Sherrill Milnes, AMERICAN ARIA, pp.76-77
"The basic tonal quality [of Peerce’s voice] is bright, ringing, and firmly focused on the note….The superior diction that Toscanini so admired is abundantly audible, as is the elegant musicianship and fervent declamation. Most striking of all [Peerce] exudes an infectious self-confidence and absolute security in his vocal personality, virtues that cannot be taught."
- Peter G. Davis, THE AMERICAN OPERA SINGER, p.421
“Jan Peerce was known as ‘Toscanini's tenor’, with his clean, incisive singing, exceptional breath support, and immediately distinctive timbre. After his New York song recital in 1964, Theodore Strongin wrote in The New York Times: ‘He is a phenomenon, a master professional, a tenor of impeccable poise and control. His enunciation is completely clear, no matter what the language. His fortissimos fill the hall. His pianissimos, though remarkably soft, come through as clearly as many singers' fortissimos, so solid is the basic quality of his voice’. Mr. Peerce participated in Toscanini's broadcasts of LA BOHEME, LA TRAVIATA, FIDELIO, UN BALLO IN MASCHERA and the last act of RIGOLETTO. Many of these were released by Victor as commercial recordings. On 14 May, 1941, Mr. Peerce made his stage début as the Duke in RIGOLETTO in Philadelphia. He made his Metropolitan Opera début on 29 Nov., 1941, as Alfredo in LA TRAVIATA. In his Metropolitan Opera years, Mr. Peerce concentrated on the Italian repertory. From 1941 to 1968 at the Met, Mr. Peerce sang 205 performances in 11 operas, plus 119 performances on tour. His last complete stage performance at the Metropolitan Opera took place on 21 Feb, 1966, in DON GIOVANNI. On 16 April, 1966, he was one of the participants in the Metropolitan's farewell gala, the last performance in the old opera house.
‘Basically’, Robert Merrill said, ‘Jan was a lyric tenor with a heavier voice than most lyrics’. Mr. Merrill, the baritone who sang many times with Mr. Peerce, said that the tenor kept his voice to the very end because he never forced. ‘He never went out of his repertory’, Mr. Merrill said. ‘The Met offered him many roles that he refused to accept because he thought they were too heavy for him. Jan stuck to what he knew he could do. He produced a beautiful sound and had a perfect legato. He also had high notes, and who can forget the C he used to take at the end of the first act of BOHEME? Everybody at the Met loved Jan. He had temperament, sure, but never a bothersome ego’.
James Levine, who first heard Mr. Peerce in Cincinnati many years ago and later worked with him professionally, described Mr. Peerce as ‘one of the most extraordinary singers and human beings I have ever known’. He paid tribute to the tenor's ‘stylistic versatility, rhythmic élan, communicative ability and wide repertory’.
When he was not singing at the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Peerce was giving concerts. He never could stand still. But the basic condition of his voice never changed, and he thrived on a schedule that would have killed most other singers. He also appeared in European opera houses, and in 1956 was the first American ever to sing at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow since the war.
His films included appearances in CARNEGIE HALL, TONIGHT WE SING and GOODBYE, COLUMBUS. He recorded for many companies. For many years Mr. Peerce was one of the steadiest, most reliable singers before the public. He attributed his vocal longevity to a secure technique.”
- Harold C. Schonberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 Dec., 1984
“Pierrette Alarie-Simoneau sang in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, among other operas at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s. A coloratura whose light, lyric voice was often described as silvery or crystalline, Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau was known for her dynamic stage presence and refined musical interpretations. She and her husband, the renowned lyric tenor Léopold Simoneau, often performed together and were long considered the first couple of Canadian opera. Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau, who before her marriage in 1946 was billed as Pierrette Alarie, was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1945. She made her Met début on 8 Dec., 1945, as Oscar in Verdi’s UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. She remained at the Met for three seasons, appearing 26 times between 1945 and 1948. Her other rôles there included Xenia in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV, Blonde in Mozart’s ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO and Olympia in Offenbach’s LES CONTES d’HOFMANN. Reviewing her Olympia in The New York Times in 1946, Olin Downes wrote, ‘She has a brilliant coloratura, and good stage business in the representation of the stiff gestures of the mechanistic doll’.
Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau also sang with the New York Philharmonic, the Paris Opéra-Comique and the Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne Festivals. Her rôles over the years included Rosina in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE and the title rôles in Delibes’ LAKMÉ, and LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR.
Pierrette Marguerite Alarie was born in Montréal on 9 Nov., 1921. Her father, Sylva, was a choirmaster; her mother, Amanda, a singer and actress. Pierrette began acting on local stages as a child and as a teenager sang popular songs on Canadian radio. She later studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia with the distinguished soprano Elisabeth Schumann. After retiring from the opera and concert stages, Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau worked as an opera director and teacher. In 1982 she and her husband Leopold Simoneau founded Canada Opera Piccola, a training company in Victoria.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 July, 2011