OP1717. DON GIOVANNI, Live Performance, 13 March, 1954, w.Rudolf Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; George London, Margaret Harshaw, Eleanor Steber, Eugene Conley, Fernando Corena, Nadine Conner, etc. (E.U.) 3-Walhall 0237. - 4035122652376
“In the many performances I have appeared in, there were many wonderful colleagues who had me in raptures. There were those with magnificent voices, or great musicians, wonderful actors or great personalities. But George London had it ALL. He was as impressive on stage as he was the wonderful colleague and friend in his private life.”
- Birgit Nilsson, as quoted in Leonardo A. Ciampa’s THE TWILIGHT OF BELCANTO, p.130
“George London was a dramatic and very expressive singer. In many rôles he sang like a demonic panther with a sound of purple-black in color. London was a singer favoring the drama in a piece, varying color to suggest shifts of mood. His acting on stage was described as overwhelming. The special magnetism of this artist is documented on his great recordings. Every rôle he sang was sung with utmost expression and unbelievable commitment, truly a singing-actor!”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Steber brushes every bit of fioriture with a light touch, the tone ever gracious to the ear….She launches into [‘Mi tradì’] with the gusto and confidence which were a Steber trademark. No difficulties daunt her, and why should they when the florid passage work is so securely in her throat? It is a pleasure to make yet another positive report on Margaret Harshaw, by this date in her career firmly ensconced as the heavyweight of the Wagner wing….When heard hard against Steber’s refulgent soprano, Harshaw’s timbre pales, but within its own sphere the voice is entirely agreeable in this music. Her musicianship is sterling, and her dramatic sense alive.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.107
“Eugene Conley, a tenor with the Metropolitan and New York City Opera Companies, was the first American tenor to open the season at Milan's La Scala. Noted for his ability to reach high notes, Mr. Conley was invited to La Scala in 1949 for the revival of Bellini's I PURITANI, which was rarely performed because the first tenor aria included a D flat above high C. Mr. Conley' success resulted in his becoming a favorite with Milan operagoers.
A native of Lynn, Mass., Mr. Conley began his professional career as a radio singer on a small station in the Boston area. He was first heard on national radio in 1939, when the National Broadcasting Company put him on the air in ‘NBC Presents Eugene Conley’. He performed also on NBC's 'Magic Key’,' the Columbia Broadcasting System's 'Golden Treasures of Song' and Mutual's 'Operatic Review’. Mr. Conley appeared with Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra and was also a regular performer on the 'Voice of Firestone’, a radio and television program.
In 1940, he made his operatic début at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as the Duke in RIGOLETTO, and in the New York La Scala Opera Company's production of Verdi's RIGOLETTO. He went on stage without rehearsal. Mr. Conley performed with New York's San Carlo Opera Company, the Cincinnati Summer Opera and the Chicago Opera Company before going into the Army Air Corps in 1942.
While in the service, he sang in the musical WINGED VICTORY, in a cast composed entirely of Air Corps personnel. In 1944, during the show's New York run, Mr. Conley was loaned to the San Carlo Opera when Fortune Gallo, the impresario, pleaded that the war had created a shortage of tenors in New York. At that time, this was regarded as Mr. Conley's most prominent performance on the operatic stage.
In a concert at Town Hall, in 1946, he presented a program of operatic arias and Irish songs. Ross Parmenter, a critic for The New York Times, wrote: ‘It is in opera that Mr. Conley is most at home. Not only does he sing arias with a passionate outpouring of melody, but he has the control and amplitude of voice to bring them off on the ambitious scale he sets for himself. His high, ringing notes evoked many a 'bravo’.'
By the time he made his début with the Metropolitan Opera, in January 1950, Mr. Conley had sung at the Paris Opéra-Comique, where he made his European début; London's Covent Garden, Stockholm's Royal Opera and La Scala. At the Metropolitan, in his first performance, he sang the title role in FAUST.
In 1953, Mr. Conley sang at President Dwight D. Eisenhower's inaugural. In 1978, Mr. Conley appeared in concert at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in a program of operatic selections, including in the performance, as he did all in his others, ‘Danny Boy’.”
- C. Gerald Fraser, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 Dec., 1981
“Margaret Harshaw (made her professional début in the dramatic mezzo-soprano rôle of Azucena in IL TROVATORE with The Philadelphia Operatic Society in 1934. She entered the graduate program at The Juilliard School in 1936, where she studied with Anna E. Schoen-René, who had been a student of Pauline Viardot-García and her brother Manuel García. It was at Juilliard where Harshaw, after singing the rôle of Dido in Purcell’s DIDO AND AEANEAS, met Walter Damrosch who prophesied: ‘My child, one day you will be Brünnhilde!’. She won the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Auditions on the Air’ in 1942, and made her Met début as the second Norn in Wagner’s GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG. Gifted with an extended range, Harshaw sang many mezzo-soprano rôles for the next nine seasons before she entered soprano territory in 1951 when she sang the rôle of Senta in THE FLYING DUTCHMAN. By 1954 she had inherited the mantel of Kirsten Flagstad and Helen Traubel, and sang all the leading Wagnerian soprano rôles, including Isolde, Brünnhilde, Elisabeth, Kundry and Sieglinde. Harshaw retired in 1964 from the Metropolitan Opera after having sung 375 performances of 38 rôles in 25 works over 22 consecutive seasons. She then became a professor of voice at Indiana University in 1962, where she taught until 1993. She also taught at the Curtis Institute of Music and Westminster Choir College. Among her many students are Benita Valente, Vinson Cole, Matthew Polenzani, etc."
- Daniel James Shigo