OP0788. TOSCA, Live Performance, 13 Dec., 1952, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Dorothy Kirsten, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Paul Schöffler, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Melodram GM 5.0051. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 608974150518
“As Tosca, Kirsten gives her finest broadcast performance to date. One senses that she has absolutely no trepidation about any aspect of the rôle, vocal, musical, or dramatic….Her vocalism is indeed pristine…And she sounds vocally fresh enough to do the entire opera again. It comes as no surprise that Kirsten was able to sing a farewell TOSCA at the Met twenty-seven years after this broadcast. I wish I had been there to hear it.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.420-422
"Dorothy Kirsten made her professional concert debut in a stage show at the New York World's Fair. She was also reunited with Grace Moore, who recommended her to the Chicago Grand Opera, where Miss Kirsten made her operatic début as Pousette in Massenet's MANON in 1940. Miss Kirsten sang 15 minor roles during her first season, and the following year shared the stage with Miss Moore in a Chicago performance of LA BOHEME, singing Musetta to Miss Moore's Mimi. In 1942, Miss Kirsten began to sing leading roles with the San Carlo Opera Company, in Washington and New York City. She made her New York City Opera debut in 1943, and by 1945 had performed with the San Francisco Opera, the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras. Starting in September 1943, she had her own radio program, 'Keepsakes’, which ran for a year. Miss Kirsten's Metropolitan Opera debut, as Mimi in LA BOHEME on 1 Dec., 1945, was a critical success, and was the start of a 30-year association with that house. In 1971, when she celebrated her 25th anniversary with the company, she reminisced about that debut, and recalled that Miss Moore sat in the first box, at the side of the stage, and threw roses to her. When Miss Moore died in a plane crash in Denmark in 1947, Miss Kirsten sang Schubert's 'Ave Maria' at her funeral. Miss Kirsten's career was centered in the United States, but she did tour Europe and, in 1962, the Soviet Union. There, besides giving recitals, she sang Violetta in a Bolshoi Opera performance of LA TRAVIATA, to considerable acclaim, even though, as she said later, she had to go on without the benefit of a stage rehearsal. During her years at the Met, Miss Kirsten sang most of the important Puccini roles, including the title roles in MANON LESCAUT, TOSCA and MADAMA BUTTERFLY, and she starred as Minnie in a revival of LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST that helped restore the work to the repertory. She prepared for the title role in LOUISE by going to France to study it with the composer. She also worked with the composer Italo Montemezzi on L'AMORE DEI TRE RE before she performed it in San Francisco and at the Met. In addition to the Puccini heroines, her repertory included the female leads in Gounod's ROMEO ET JULIETTE and FAUST, Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI and Verdi's LA TRAVIATA. She sang in the American premieres of Walton's TROILUS AND CRESSIDA and Poulenc's DIALOGUES DES CARMÉLITES, both in San Francisco. Miss Kirsten's voice was not huge, but she used it gracefully throughout her long career. When she gave her farewell performance at the Met, on 31 Dec., 1976, Allen Hughes wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES that 'she sang and acted the part of Tosca with the vocal control and dramatic acuity of a prima donna in mid-career’."
-Zillah D. Akron
“Nearly any time opera lovers discuss inherently beautiful voices, Tagliavini's name is sure to come up. His smooth lyric tenor had a luxurious timbre, reminiscent of Tito Schipa's, and was also warm and extremely expressive. In another resemblance to Schipa, he had a particular gift for vocally caressing a phrase without making it sound like a studied effect, and could sing piano and pianissimo without crooning. He excelled in the lighter, lyric repertoire, and for many was the definitive Nemorino, Nadir (Les Pêcheurs de Perles), Ernesto (Don Pasquale), and Fritz (L’AMICO FRITZ) of his generation, or for some, even the century. He and composer Pietro Mascagni became close friends, and Mascagni claimed that Tagliavini was instrumental in making L’AMICO FRITZ a success. During his early years, he focused on this lyric repertoire, but as his career advanced, he added heavier roles, such as Loris Ipanov in Giordano's FEDORA, Riccardo in Verdi's BALLO, and Cavaradossi in Puccini's TOSCA. These roles were not as well-suited to his voice, and after taking these on, he showed definite signs of vocal wear.
After World War II, he gathered a wide following among American GIs still based in Italy. His La Scala début was in 1942, also as Rodolfo, as was his United States début in Chicago in 1946, and his Met début in 1957. In addition to his stage performances and recordings, he also appeared in many popular films, mostly of the light and sentimental type. He retired from the stage in 1965, but gave annual performances at Carnegie Hall through 1981. He was married to soprano Pia Tassinari, whom he met in 1940, (they later divorced), and during their marriage they frequently appeared together, as their repertoire was very often complementary. Their recording of L’AMICO FRITZ, conducted by the composer is a classic.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
“Despite having been born in Germany, bass-baritone Paul Schöffler became a favorite in Austria, both at the Vienna Staatsoper and at the Salzburg Festival. Aside from Friedrich Schorr, he was undoubtedly the finest, most complex interpreter of Hans Sachs in the recorded era. Although his voice could sound slightly dry and lacked the imperious sound for Wotan (which he did sing on occasion), it served him well through an unusually long career. His Sachs at the Metropolitan Opera in November 1964 was superbly sung, remarkable in its stamina, even though Schöffler was 67 at the time. A live recording of Strauss' DAPHNE made in Vienna that same year confirms the impression. The work of an aristocratic artist, Schöffler's interpretations of such roles as Scarpia, Don Giovanni, and Iago were always distinguished, even when not stylistically definitive. The years since his retirement from leading roles have not produced a remotely comparable artist.
Schöffler studied with Waldemar Stägemann in his native Dresden before traveling to Italy to work with baritone Mario Sammarco. His 1926 stage début took place in Dresden in the role of the Herald in LOHENGRIN, beginning an association with that theater that continued until 1939. In 1939, Schöffler was engaged by the Vienna Staatsoper and remained there until 1970 when he was 73 years old. During his long career, he also sang in London, at Bayreuth, at the Salzburg Festival (1938 - 1965), in several Italian theaters and in America at the Metropolitan Opera, in San Francisco, and in Chicago.
Schöffler's London début came as Donner in a 1934 RHEINGOLD, conducted by Beecham. He was well-received by both the public and the critics, later confirming the positive first impression with his ‘excellent’ singing of the title role in Weinberger's SCHWANDA, THE BAGPIPER. In 1936, he sang Scarpia and, with the visiting Dresden Opera, Figaro in Mozart's LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (sung in German as’Die Hochzeit’) and the title role in one performance of DON GIOVANNI. In the Mozart operas, he was praised for both fine singing and histrionic aptitude. He undertook such other roles in London as Jochanaan, Kurwenal, the RHEINGOLD Wotan (described as ‘lightweight’), and, following WWII, Don Giovanni ‘Germanic’), Don Alfonso, and Pizarro with the visiting Vienna Staatsoper company. With the Royal Opera House company, he repeated his Kurwenal and RHEINGOLD Wotan and added Gunther and his genial Sachs.
At Salzburg, Schöffler created the title role in Gottfried von Einem's DANTONS TOD in 1947, and, five years later, he premiered Jupiter in Strauss' DIE LIEBE DER DANAE.
Schöffler's first American stage appearances came well after WWII, when the singer was already in his early fifties. His Met début was on 26 January, 1950, as Jochanaan, a role he sang to the spectacular Salome of Ljuba Welitsch a few weeks later. Schöffler's performance was praised as that of a superior artist, delineating the character with intelligence and involvement. The bass-baritone faced off against Welitsch in two other productions, setting his Don Giovanni at odds with her Donna Anna and, as a ‘brutish’ Scarpia, menacing her fiery Tosca. Over nine seasons, Schöffler sang a total of 91 performances. His 14 roles included Pizarro, Amfortas, Kurwenal, Oreste, and the Grand Inquisitor. San Francisco heard him, too briefly, in Wagner and Strauss, as did Chicago.
Although Schöffler's voice lacked a sensuous timbre, its warmth and firmness left a positive impression, while his musicianship and artistic integrity were unfailingly of the highest order.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com