OP0665. LA TRAVIATA, recorded 1956, w.Monteux Cond. Rome Opera House Ensemble; Rosanna Carteri, Cesare Valletti, Leonard Warren, etc.; Leonard Warren & Astrid Varnay: Arias & Duets from Il Trovatore, Forza & Simon Boccanegra. (Austria) 2-Testament SBT2 1369. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 749677136925
"This 1956 TRAVIATA departed from the usual formula in that the conductor chosen was Pierre Monteux, an eminent figure in the field of French music during the first half of the 20th century, who was not normally associated with Italian opera, having conducted only a handful of operas. It is not immediately apparent why he took on this particular assignment, although the outcome is remarkably successful.
Pierre Monteux had one of the longest musical careers in memory, exceeded perhaps only by Pablo Casals and Leopold Stokowski. He retained a youthful appearance (and a full head of black hair!) well into old age, and he was well loved by colleagues and audiences alike.
He started violin studies at the age of six and then entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 9. He made his conducting début in Paris at the age of 12. He was a co-winner of the first prize for violin in 1896, with the great violinist Jacques Thibaud. He served as principal violist in the Opéra-Comique, and was also assistant conductor and concertmaster of the Concerts Colonne. In 1894 he joined the Quatuor Geloso as a violist and was privileged to participate in the performance of a Brahms quartet in the composer's presence. In 1908 he became conductor of the Orchestre du Casino in Dieppe and in 1911 founded a series called the Concerts Berlioz. In the same year, he began a historic association when he was hired by Diaghilev to conduct his Ballets Russes. He led the premieres of Ravel's DAPHNIS ET CHLOÉ, Debussy's JEUX, and Stravinsky's PETRUSHKA and RITE OF SPRING, the last of which caused a notorious audience riot.
In 1914, when war broke out, he was called to military service. He received a discharge in 1916 and travelled to the United States, where he obtained a conducting post at the Metropolitan Opera that lasted until 1919. At that point he was engaged to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Taking up the post in 1920, he walked into a labor dispute, with his musicians on strike; by the time the strike was settled, the concertmaster and 30 other musicians had left. Monteux had to rebuild the orchestra - a difficult task, but an opportunity for Monteux to mold the orchestra according to his own taste; ever since then, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has been known for its French sound and its expertise in French and Russian repertoire. He remained in Boston through 1924, gaining a reputation as a supporter of modern music. He brought to America not only Stravinsky and the French composers, but such others as Respighi, Vaughan Williams, and Honegger.
In 1924 he began a ten year association with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He was a good fit with the orchestra's other conductor, Willem Mengelberg, who had a Romantic-era style, and who specialized in traditional repertoire and Dutch composers. In addition, Monteux founded the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris in 1929, and the École Monteux, a coaching school for young conductors in 1932.
In 1936 he returned to the United States as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, staying in that position through the 1952 season. During World War II he obtained American citizenship and transferred his École Monteux to his new hometown of Hancock, Maine, where Erich Kunzel, Neville Marriner, and André Previn were among his students. He guest conducted and recorded extensively, and in 1961, at the age of eighty-six, accepted the musical directorship of the London Symphony Orchestra.
RCA Victor recorded him extensively in stereo, not only in Debussy, Ravel, Milhaud, Stravinsky, and the like, but also in Beethoven and Brahms; Monteux was especially noted for his performances of these composers' music, to which he brought an unusual charm and lyrical quality. He strove for transparency of sound, precision, light and springy rhythms, and that elegance that seems particularly associated with French music."
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“Rosanna Carteri was born in Verona but was raised in Padua. She studied with Cusinati and started singing in concert at the age of twelve. She won a RAI singing contest in 1948 which led to her operatic début at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome as Elsa in LOHENGRIN in 1949, aged only 19. She made her La Scala début in 1951. Other débuts were at the Salzburg Festival as Desdemona in 1952 under the direction of Wilhelm Furtwängler, San Francisco as Mimi in 1954, the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Marguerite in FAUST in 1955, the Arena di Verona as Mimi in 1958, Covent Garden as Tosca in 1960, Opéra de Paris in 1961 as Violetta.
Carteri made a few recordings for Cetra early in her career, recorded LA TRAVIATA for RCA Victor with Cesare Valletti and Leonard Warren under the direction of Pierre Monteux. She participated in several television productions for RAI.
Although Valletti was a student of Tito Schipa (from whom he undoubtedly learnt some of the graces of production and interpretation), he was in some aspects a counterpart to his coach. Valletti’s was a light but flexible tenor voice of Italianate lyricism and a rare beauty of tone. His timbre was not as ‘sweet’ as that of Tito Schipa, Ferruccio Tagliavini or Beniamino Gigli, but he was the most accomplished technician of them all."
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“As one of the younger tenors to emerge soon after World War II, it was obvious that Valletti was an artist whose reputation would be made based on artistic and musical considerations….His musicianship and vocal colour made him an ideal interpreter of Mozart rôles, and like Schipa [his mentor], he became a renowned Werther with sensitivity and nuance being the key to his interpretation….he was considered a lyric tenor of the front rank.”
- Alan Bilgora, program notes to Pearl’s THE CETRA TENORS
"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