OP1902. LA BOHEME, Live Performance, 19 Dec., 1953, w.Erede Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Hilde Güden, Eugene Conley, Jean Fenn, Robert Merrill, etc. (E.U.) 2–Walhall 0274. - 4035122652741
“Hilde Güden made her début at the Vienna Volksoper in Benatzky’s operetta HERZEN IM SCHNEE. Her operatic début was at the opera house of Zürich where she appeared as Cherubino. Although the soprano was of Jewish origin it was Clemens Krauss who engaged her to the Munich State Opera, but she was soon forced to leave Germany. Tullio Serafin gave her the opportunity to sing in Rome and Florence. It was not until after the end of the war that she was allowed to return to the Munich State Opera where she remained an admired member until 1973. She gained great success abroad, at La Scala, Covent Garden, at the Grand Opéra de Paris, at the Glyndebourne Festival (Despina, Zerlina), at the Teatro La Fenice, the Maggio musicale di Fiorentino, and last but not least, at the Met, where she sang from 1951 until 1965. One of her greatest achievements was Rosalinde in Johann Strauss’ DIE FLEDERMAUS. At the Salzburg Festival she regularly appeared as Cherubino (1947, 1952, 1953), Zdenka, Zerlina (1946), Sophie (1949, 1953, 1960), Norina (1952), Aminta in DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (1959), Zerbinetta (1954), the Countess Almaviva (1963 - 1966), Anne Truelove in Stravinsky’s THE RAKE’S PROGRESS and as Julia in the first performance of Boris Blacher’s ROMEO UND JULIA (1950). Hilde Güden was a versatile singer, equally successful in operettas, lieder and oratorio work. She was considered as one of the most accomplished Mozart and Strauss singers of the time and was a much admired member of the so-called ‘Wiener Mozart Ensemble’. On 1 May 1945, before World War II was officially ended, the Vienna State Opera resumed operations with a performance of Mozart’s LE NOZZE DI FIGARO under Josef Krips. Hilde Güden was one of the brightest Viennese stars and one of Decca’s busiest artists during the ‘50s and ‘60s. As a lyric and coloratura soprano she enjoyed remarkable success.
Hilde Güden’s voice was a high soprano of silvery gleam and youthful shining. It was very responsive to coloraturas as well as to cantilenas (essential for Richard Strauss), and it was of a highly individual timbre. If you want to experience Güden’s charming personality, play her magnificent recordings of Richard Strauss or her ravishing operetta recordings. She was the ideal Sophie, Zerbinetta, Zdenka, Daphne, Aminta - and, she is still unequalled as Rosalinde!”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Hilde Güden was among the extraordinary young Mozart/Strauss singers who emerged from Vienna immediately after WWII and who dominated Mozart performance well into the 1960s. Güden's considerable ease in the top register destined her to sing the lighter roles of Richard Strauss and she made a mark in operetta as well, achieving celebrity in the works of Johann Strauss, Lehár, and others. She was a trim, sparkling personality on stage; as a Decca artist, she left numerous recordings of her best roles.
With the Anschluss, Güden escaped to Switzerland where she auditioned for the Zürich Opera. Engaged on the spot, Güden made her début in 1939 as Cherubino in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. Numerous other roles came in the aftermath of her success and she remained in Zürich for two years. Family matters called her back to Vienna in 1941 and, finding herself unable to leave her home country, she accepted an engagement in Munich where she appeared first with conductor Clemens Krauss as Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI. Composer Richard Strauss attended a performance of COSÌ FAN TUTTE and, struck by the beauty and splendid vocal resources of the young singer, urged Güden to study the role of Sophie in his DER ROSENKAVALIER. After taking his advice, Güden made her Italian début as Sophie at the Rome Opera in December 1942. Given her intense dislike for the Nazi regimes in both Austria and Germany, Gueden elected to remain in Italy. When the Nazis occupied that country, she simply withdrew from performing for the duration of the war, seeking shelter first in Venice, then in a rural town near Milan.
Following the conclusion of hostilities, Güden returned to Austria and was invited to the Salzburg Festival in 1946 where she débuted in the signature role of Zerlina. That same year, she was engaged by the Vienna Staatsoper where she remained a treasured artist until 1973. In 1947, she sang at Covent Garden for the first time and, in 1951, she began a relationship with the Metropolitan Opera which lasted for nine seasons and embraced more than 100 performances in 13 roles. For the Metropolitan, she created the role of Anne Truelove in Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS in a production coming shortly after the work's Venice premiere. Among other roles in New York, Güden sang both Musetta and Mimì in LA BOHÈME, Zerlina, Susanna, Sophie, Zdenka, and Rosalinde.
At Salzburg, Gueden offered a saucy performance of the title role in Strauss' DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU in 1959, and, in Vienna, a radiant Daphne in 1964, both productions captured on disc. Her cherishable Sophie was preserved on commercial recording under Erich Kleiber.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“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
“Robert Merrill made his Metropolitan début as Germont on 15 Dec., 1945, and celebrated his 500th performance there on 5 March, 1973. He remained on the Met roster until 1976. During his tenure with the Met, Mr. Merrill sang leading roles in much of the standard repertory, including the title role in RIGOLETTO, Germont in LA TRAVIATA, Figaro in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, Escamillo in CARMEN and Tonio in PAGLIACCI; he appeared in most of these many times. Regarded as one of the greatest Verdi baritones of his generation, he was known for the security and strength of his sound, as well as for the precision and clarity with which he could hit pitches across his two-octave range.
‘Although he occasionally appeared in Europe and South America, he preferred to base his career at the Metropolitan Opera, where he sang all the major baritone roles of the Italian and French repertories’, Peter G. Davis wrote of Mr. Merrill in THE NEW GROVE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN MUSIC. ‘In terms of vocal endowment, technical security and longevity, he was unequaled among baritones of his generation at the Metropolitan’. ‘After Leonard Warren's tragic death onstage at the Metropolitan in 1960, Merrill became more or less indisputably America's principal baritone and perhaps the best lyricist since Giuseppe de Luca’, the critic J. B. Steane wrote in his book THE GRAND TRADITION. ‘The easy and even production of a beautifully well-rounded tone is not common, especially when the voice is also a powerful one; yet this is, after all, the basis of operatic singing, and Merrill's records will always commend themselves in these terms. Mr. Merrill made many recordings for RCA. He sang in two complete opera broadcasts on radio under Toscanini - LA TRAVIATA in 1946 and UN BALLO IN MASCHERA in 1953 - both of which were later issued on CD. He wrote two autobiographies, ONCE MORE FROM THE BEGINNING (1965) and BETWEEN ACTS (1976), as well as a novel, THE DIVAS (1978). He received a number of honorary doctorates and awards.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Oct., 2004