OP0886. FAUST, Live Performance, 23 Dec., 1950, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Jussi Björling, Dorothy Kirsten, Cesare Siepi, Frank Guarrera, etc.; JUSSI BJORLING: Songs by Sibelius & Schubert; Arias & Duets (w.Anna-Lisa Bjorling) from Princess Pat, Cavalleria, Faust, L'Elisir, La Boheme, Roméo & Lohengrin. (E.U.) 3-Naxos 8.111083/85. Transfers by Ward Marston. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 747313308323
“One of the greatest singers of the twentieth century, [Björling’s] career is well documented in his legacy of recordings and in music literature….His voice serves as a model for singers all over the world."
- Richard T. Soper, NORDIC VOICES
“In the mid years of the twentieth century Jussi Björling could lay fair claim to be the world’s finest lyric tenor. His is what may be described as a central voice – instantly recognisable and, to use a perhaps overworked description, unique.”
- Stanley Henig, CLASSICAL RECORDINGS QUARTERLY, Spring, 2011
"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
“Mr. Siepi was a classic Italian basso cantante, or ‘singing bass’, with a warm, slightly dark voice that was ideally suited to Mozart. Yet his voice was so robust that he could easily summon the power for King Philip II in DON CARLO, Gurnemanz in PARSIFAL and the title role in BORIS GODUNOV. In his prime, the tall, handsome Mr. Siepi, a natural onstage, was a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera, where he gave nearly 500 performances, singing 17 roles during a 23-year association. Bing wrote in his 1972 memoir, 5,000 NIGHTS AT THE OPERA, [that Siepi] ‘made an overpowering debut and a well-deserved great career at the Metropolitan’. After his first Don Giovanni at the Met in 1952, Mr. Siepi became the Giovanni of choice in houses around the world, bringing a sly blend of vocal refinement and animal magnetism to his portrayal. Critics and audiences embraced him for a wide range of roles. Assessing an impressive Gurnemanz in a 1970 PARSIFAL at the Met, the critic Herbert Weinstock wrote in the British magazine OPERA that Mr. Siepi ‘really sang the role rather than growling it and acted with touching conviction’, articulating Wagner’s words ‘as if born to them’. He also excelled in broadly comic roles, like Don Basilio in Rossini’s BARBIERE.
At 18, urged on by friends, he entered a voice competition in Florence and won first prize. A manager in the audience quickly engaged him to sing the role of the hired assassin Sparafucile in Verdi’s RIGOLETTO for a production in Schio, near Vicenza. With the outbreak of war he moved to neutral Switzerland, returning to Italy when hostilities ended. He appeared in Verdi’s NABUCCO at La Scala in Milan in the first postwar production at the reconstructed theater, which had been damaged by bombs.
After his breakthrough Met debut, Mr. Siepi was in demand internationally. He scored triumphs at the Salzburg Festival during the 1950s and made several live recordings there, including a 1954 DON GIOVANNI conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Erna Berger among the cast.
In his day Mr. Siepi was considered a natural successor to Ezio Pinza. Like Pinza, who had starred in SOUTH PACIFIC, Mr. Siepi appeared in a stage musical, BRAVO GIOVANNI. The critic Howard Taubman, writing in THE NEW YORK TIMES, praised Mr. Siepi for bringing ‘the richest and best cultivated vocal instrument to Broadway’ since Pinza. The show, however, unlike Pinza’s SOUTH PACIFIC, was a flop. Still, Taubman gave the famous bass credit for trying. ‘Happily’, he concluded, ‘Mr. Siepi is at ease in his new surroundings and his voice glorifies them’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2010