OP1998. PAGLIACCI, Live Performance, 13 April, 1957, Boston, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Kurt Baum, Robert Merrill, Lucine Amara, Frank Guarrera, etc. (E.U.) Walhall 0286. - 4035122652864
“Zinka never paused to consider the effect her ‘Milanovisms’ might have on others. She once saw very religious Kurt Baum crossing himself before the third act of TROVATORE. Zinka just looked at him and said, ‘If you don’t know it Baum, Gott ain’t gonna help you.”
- Anna-Lisa Björling, JUSSI, p.261
“A dramatic tenor alternately gauche and exciting, Kurt Baum filled a crucial spot for the Metropolitan Opera and other houses without ever quite having attained star status. Long after his nominal retirement from the stage, he continued to make concert appearances. Noted throughout his career for stentorian top notes, he later wrote several treatises on preservation of the voice and singing well in old age. Whatever his deficiencies as an artist, he was an exemplar of longevity. Baum spent his high school and college years in Cologne, Germany, before entering medical school at Prague University in 1927. During this period, Baum engaged in a number of athletic activities, becoming the amateur boxing champion of Czechoslovakia. He also evinced a strong interest in music. Urged by friends to sing professionally, Baum left medical school and enrolled at Berlin's Music Academy in 1930. By 1933, Baum was sufficiently well prepared to win the Vienna International Singing Competition, taking first prize among 700 contestants. Heard by the Intendant of the Zurich Opera, Baum was engaged for that company and made his début there in 1933 singing in Alexander von Zemlinsky's DER KREIDEKREIS. After singing a variety of lyric rôles at Zurich, Baum was engaged the following year by the Deutsches Theater for a succession of more dramatic rôles. Feeling the need for further study, Baum traveled to Italy to work with Eduardo Garbin in Milan and with faculty at Rome's Accademia Santa Cecilia. Fortified with additional technical expertise, Baum sang in many of Europe's leading houses in Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Monte Carlo, and at Salzburg. Heard in Monte Carlo by the director of the Chicago Opera, Baum was engaged and made his American début in Chicago on 2 November, 1939, singing Radames to the Aïda of Rose Bampton. He was heard in subsequent seasons as Don José and Manrico. Meanwhile, Baum joined the Metropolitan Opera, making his début on 27 November, 1941, as the Italian Singer in DER ROSENKAVALIER. In this short but memorable part, his talents were well matched to the role's requirements. For the next quarter century, Baum sang the spinto repertory at the Metropolitan to reviews both complimentary and critical. When the company mounted WOZZECK for the first time in 1959, Baum found a highly congenial rôle in the preening Drum Major. After WWII, Baum returned to Europe and made his début at La Scala as Manrico and re-established relations with several other major companies.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“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
“With his slender but firm voice and winning stage presence, Frank Guarrera was a fixture at the Met in a number of roles: Escamillo in CARMEN (his début role in 1948), Marcello in LA BOHÈME, Valentin in FAUST. He also essayed larger, Verdian roles with honor, if not quite the vocal opulence of contemporaries like Robert Merrill, or Leonard Warren, whom he replaced as Simon Boccanegra a few days after Mr. Warren’s death onstage in 1960.
In 1948, when the 24-year-old Mr. Guarrera was participating in the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Auditions of the Air’ (a precursor of the current National Council Auditions), which he eventually won, Toscanini heard him on the radio singing Ford’s monologue from FALSTAFF and arranged for an audition. The result was Mr. Guarrera’s engagement at La Scala in Boito’s NERONE on the 30th anniversary of Boito’s death. It was the first of several performances under Toscanini; Mr. Guarrera sang Ford on the conductor’s legendary 1950 FALSTAFF broadcasts, still available on CD.
His final role at the Met was Gianni Schicchi, which he last sang in 1976. After his retirement from the stage, he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle for 10 years."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27 Nov., 2007
"Miss Amara is another of those American singers whose longevity astounds the opera chronicler….In her case, the record is particularly impressive. Probably more than any major soprano of the last fifty years, she was the classic house soprano, taking on an amazing variety of roles and maintaining in them a level of vocalism that demands respect…."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.111
"The Amara sound as first encountered was round, free, limpid, clear, flexible, youthful in the extreme, and had an incredible spin on it. The soprano maintained these characteristics longer than just about any other singer I’ve ever heard or known anything about. No wonder Rudolf Bing cast her as the Celestial Voice in DON CARLOS, the inaugural production of his regime as general manager of the Met. More than half a century went by between the time, a few years later, when Bing famously said: 'She is singing like an angel! An angel!' With awesome intestinal fortitude, she [subsequently] sued the Met for age discrimination in 1977. The company had offered her a contract she deemed to be demeaning when she was not only still in fine voice but producing a sound somewhat larger and richer than she had in earlier years, which wonderful performances of TOSCA, TURANDOT (and I do mean the title role, in which she was terrific), and Elsa in LOHENGRIN in particular proved. The mighty Metropolitan initially felt secure in its ability to prevail over a disgruntled, aging soprano, and in certain other quarters as well, her courage made her a pariah….those who mattered most stood by her and were present to rejoice when, after the suit was settled to her benefit (and the Met’s, though company spokesmen were for some time loath to admit that having her back was a boon), she returned to the Lincoln Center stage after almost three years’ absence as Amelia in BALLO IN MASCHERA. That was in 1981, and her Met farewell was not for another entire decade, a statistic that truly speaks for itself.”
- Bruce Burroughs, Zinka Milanov biographer