OP0726. AÏDA, Live Performance, 24 Jan., 1953, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Mario del Monaco, Blanche Thebom, George London, Jerome Hines, etc. (Italy) 2-Bongiovanni 1173/74. Final copy! - 8007068117321
"On the broadcast of 24 January 1953, [Milanov] justifies her continued dominance in the role [of Aïda]. The years and multiple repetitions have dimmed neither the refulgence of her tones nor her zeal in performance. In fact, on this afternoon Aïda’s enamored state and sorry travails would appear to have captured the diva’s imagination to an unusual degree. From the first she is in excellent voice; undoubtedly confident of her powers, she sings and interprets with an abandon and immediacy which command our involvement as well. Her reading of ‘Ritorna vincitor!’ is intensely theatrical….[Del Monaco’s] stentorian tenor is the ideal instrument for the concerted numbers (one can actually hear him through the tumult)."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.171/72
“It was the Nile scene that did it. Never in my life have I heard a pianissimo like that, or the pure vocal control she had....[We] used to sit up in the balcony for every one of Zinka's performances and just marvel at her singing. When we came to Prague, we didn't expect to hear anything like that. Of course, I had heard wonderful Aïdas in New York — Rethberg, for instance — as a Juilliard student who went to [performances at] the Met. But Zinka's voice made such a direct connection with you. I would say the way that sound came out into the opera house and just pulsated all around you, that was electrifying.”
- Risë Stevens (on hearing Milanov's Aïda in Prague)
“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
“It was always a given that del Monaco possessed a remarkably powerful, steady voice with unsurpassed brilliance and power. He was, however, often criticized for singing with little finesse, for using his power unrelentingly. That was never true (his many live broadcast recordings give even stronger evidence of his ability to sing with light and shade)….I found myself thrilling to the sheer sound of the voice and to the commitment and passion with which he sang. What will surprise many is the variety of dynamics and color that the tenor did bring to his singing….It is easy for critics to comment on the method of a singer and to forget the most important element—the sound of the voice....His diction was a model of clarity and crispness, his intonation was almost always centered, and his rhythmic pulse was extremely strong. In many cases one listens to this kind of singing and longs for the days gone by when there were singers like this....old-timers...reminisce over one of the great operatic tenor voices to be heard in the 1950s and ‘60s, and younger listeners discover what a great ‘tenore di forza’ sounds like. We have nothing like him today.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Mario del Monaco was one of the most widely recorded singers of the 1950's and 60's and divided his busy operatic career between Europe and America during those years. Sir Rudolf Bing, then manager of the Metropolitan Opera, heard Mr. del Monaco's debut as Radames in Verdi's AÏDA at the San Francisco Opera in 1950 and asked the tenor to stop in New York for a guest appearance at the Met in Puccini's MANON LESCAUT on his way back to Europe. Mr. del Monaco's singing made a distinct impression and won him a long and prosperous relationship with the Met beginning the next year. At the New York company from 1951 to 1959, he sang 102 times, in 16 roles. He appeared on the Met's tour 38 times. His last performance at the Met was as Canio in Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI in 1959. But he returned three years later to Carnegie Hall in a concert of arias and duets with Gabriella Tucci.
Indeed, when Mr. del Monaco was loved, it was for the brilliant, stentorian quality of his voice rather than for his subtlety of phrase or ability to act. And in a profession often peopled by overweight tenors, Mr. Del Monaco offered a classic profile and dark good looks that made him an attractive presence on stage.
Mario del Monaco was born in Florence in 1915 and grew up in nearby Pesaro where his father was employed in city government. His parents were both musically inclined and encouraged his singing. Although he had some lessons, he was largely self-taught. Mr. del Monaco made his professional début in Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY in Milan in 1941. He spent the war years in the Italian Army. After the war, Mr. del Monaco's career blossomed and spread to Milan's La Scala and London's Covent Garden as well as opera houses in Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Lisbon and Stockholm. In 1946, he sang in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, moved northward to Mexico City and then on to San Francisco for his American début. Mr. del Monaco's relationship with the Metropolitan Opera ended in 1959, reportedly by mutual consent, but he was recording until the end of the 1960's. In 1973, he joined a gathering of prominent tenors in Naples to honor Caruso's centenary and pres reports spoke of his ‘personal glamour and still thrilling dynamism’.
Mr. del Monaco retired to his villa near Venice later in 1973 and turned to teaching. Mr. del Monaco and his wife, Rina Fedora, a former singer, had two sons. One of them, Giancarlo, is now a stage director in Europe's opera world.”
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 Oct., 1982
"In a field long dominated by Europeans, Ms. Thebom was part of the first midcentury wave of American opera singers to attain international careers. Associated with the Met from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, she was praised by critics for her warm voice, attentive phrasing and sensitive acting."
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28 March, 2010