OP0798. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Live Performance, 17 Dec., 1949, w.Perlea Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Helen Traubel, Lauritz Melchior, Blanche Thebom, Herbert Janssen, Mihaly Székely, etc. (Germany) 3–Archipel 0183. Legendary Perlea performance, albeit in variable sound. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 4035122401837
“A conductor/composer much beset by a series of catastrophes, Jonel Perlea nonetheless ranks high among his contemporaries for the fervor and meticulous attention to sound and form he brought to his interpretations. Interned by the Nazis during WWII and later the victim of a stroke, he prevailed, teaching and conducting with a modified technique employing the left hand only. Recorded evidence causes one to wonder about Perlea's abbreviated time with the Metropolitan Opera, but stories of backstage jealousies suggest the answer.
Perlea was invited to Bucharest to conduct the premiere of an orchestral work he had written and found himself intrigued by the possibility of a conducting career. His official début as a conductor came in Leipzig where he led an opera house performance of the ballet PUPPENFEE and quickly thereafter, the opera HÄNSEL UND GRETEL. Following several other German engagements and a year's service in the Romanian army, Perlea was made first principal conductor at the Bucharest Opera in 1926 and later, the company's music director and director of the city's conservatory. Throughout the ensuing years, Perlea's reputation grew through guest appearances at Europe's leading opera institutions and with its finest orchestras.
On their way from Bucharest to Paris in August 1944, Perlea and his wife were detained by Nazi officials in Vienna because they lacked the necessary visas. For the next year, they were placed in concentration camps, initially in Silesia, later in Kärten. Upon liberation by British troops, Perlea was sent to Italy for repatriation; subsequently he chose to attempt the rebuilding of his career there. A substitute engagement with Rome's Santa Cecilia Orchestra was so well-received that he was given a second concert, this time with his name on the playbills. Another success led to an engagement at La Scala where his TRISTAN UND ISOLDe was acclaimed. Perlea remained a principal conductor at Milan until 1949, also leading performances regularly at Naples.
After his American début with the San Francisco Symphony in 1949, Perlea came to the Metropolitan Opera where his 1 December début in TRISTAN drew high praise. The refined and clearly defined orchestral textures bespoke an exceptional gift for leadership; he supported his singers rather than dominating them. Similar high enthusiasm greeted his RIGOLETTO and CARMEN, but a failure to agree on repertory (the official story) led incoming manager Rudolf Bing to offer Perlea only one production for the following year.
Perlea returned to Italy to continue conducting there, finding ongoing favor with critics and audiences alike and leading several important opera recordings. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, he was appointed music director of the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra in 1955 and taught at the Manhattan School of Music. A heart attack in 1957 presaged a stroke that left him disabled but not defeated. He continued to direct with his left arm only and in 1967, led a production of TOSCA for the American National Opera hailed as extraordinary for its authority and intensity.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Helen Traubel had a beautiful voice that soared easily over any kind of orchestral surge, yet could be full of sweetness and lyricism….She became the most important person to the Met management [after Flagstad’s departure] who hoped to keep the lucrative Wagner music dramas in the repertoire; that was possible only as long as somebody was at hand to do the great female roles….Of course Traubel secured and got the willing and able assistance of Melchior, whose meal ticket was again safe with an Isolde and Brünnhilde around….”
- Erich Leinsdorf, CADENZA, pp.105-06
“Lauritz Melchior trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannhäuser. 1924 saw his first performances at Bayreuth (Siegmund, Parsifal), and at Covent Garden (Siegmund), two of the most important theaters of his career. Another crucial debut came in 1926: the Metropolitan Opera, portraying Tannhäuser. The remainder of the 1920s passed by in a whirlwind of newness.
Although in the 1920s Melchior was planning to make Germany the center of his career, the unforeseen Nazification and Great Depression of the early 1930s in fact moved him away from that country's theaters, including ‘Hitler's Bayreuth’. After 1933, the majority of his opera season was spent at the Metropolitan. It was a Dionysiac time for Wagner performance. His only new operatic rôle in the 1930s was Florestan.
Melchior left the Met and the opera after a much publicized kafuffle with incoming General Manager Rudolf Bing, giving his last performance (Lohengrin) in February of 1950."
-Zillah D. Akron
“According to Rudolf Bing, among many other authorities, Mihály Székekly had been gifted not only with one of the most genuinely beautiful basso profundo voices of the 20th Century, but with his enormous interpretative power and thorough understanding of the music he sang, he was able to mesmerize his audiences….For obscure reasons, much of Székely’s recorded legacy remains unavailable.”
- George Kennedy, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2015
"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