OP2028. TANNHÄUSER, Live Performance, 9 Jan. 1954, w.Szell Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Ramón Vinay, George London, Jerome Hines, Brian Sullivan, Margaret Harshaw, Astrid Varnay, Roberta Peters, etc. (E.U.) 3-Myto 00247. - 0801439902473
"Chilean-born Ramón Vinay began his operatic career as a baritone (Mexico City, 1938), singing many of the major baritone roles…, but after study with tenor René Maison, he began a second career as a tenor (Mexico City, 1943), and after a long, distinguished career as a tenor, returned to the baritone repertoire in the 1960s, retiring in 1969 with a final Iago. He was most noted for tenor roles requiring great heft and power….His services were in demand everywhere."
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May/June, 2006
“Margaret Harshaw, an American soprano and mezzo-soprano who was best known as a Wagnerian singer but whose performances in Mozart and Verdi operas were also highly regarded, sang at the Metropolitan Opera for 22 seasons, from November 1942, when she made her debut as the Second Norn in DIE GOTTERDAMMERUNG until March 1964, when she gave her final performance as Ortud in LOHENGRIN. Because she spent the first nine years of her Met career as a mezzo-soprano and then switched to soprano roles, she sang more Wagner roles than any other singer in the Met's history. These include 14 roles in the RING operas, in which she began as a Rhinemaiden and eventually sang all three Brunnhildes, as well as both Senta and Mary (in the same season) in DIE FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER, Isolde in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Magdalene in DIE MEISTERSINGER, Kundry in PARSIFAL and Elisabeth and Venus in TANNHAUSER.
A series of competition victories in the early 1930s led to performances in Philadelphia, Washington and New York, all before she enrolled at the Juilliard Graduate School to begin her formal studies with Anna Schoen-Rene in 1936. In March 1942, Miss Harshaw won the Metropolitan Opera's Auditions of the Air, and she began her career at the house at the start of the next season. In 1950 Rudolf Bing, the Met's general manager, was looking for a dramatic soprano to succeed Helen Traubel, particularly in Wagner roles, and persuaded Ms. Harshaw to switch to the higher range. She did so with notable success: her recordings as a soprano show her to have a clear timbre and considerable power. All told, she sang 375 performances of 39 roles in 25 works at the house and was heard in 40 of the Met's weekly live broadcasts.
Ms. Harshaw also sang at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, the San Francisco Opera, the Paris Opera and with companies in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, New Orleans, San Antonio, Pittsburgh and Houston. She also made several Latin American tours and was a soloist with many of the major American orchestras.
In 1962, Miss Harshaw became a professor of voice at Indiana University, where she taught until 1993.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Nov., 1997
“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
“The American bass Jerome Hines had a long and distinguished career at the Metropolitan Opera singing a wide variety of rôles with true consistency of voice and style. He appeared with the company for more than 40 years from 1946. An imposing figure - he was 6ft 6in tall - he had a voluminous bass to match his stature.
His charismatic presence made him ideal for the many rôles demanding a big personality. It was thus hardly surprising that Sarastro in THE MAGIC FLUTE, Gounod's Mephistopheles, the high priest Ramfis in AÏDA, the Grand Inquisitor in DON CARLOS, Boris Godunov, and King Mark in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE were among his leading rôles.
Although always faithful to the Met, Hines made many forays abroad. In 1953, he undertook Nick Shadow, with Glyndebourne, at the Edinburgh festival, in the first British performances of Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS. That led to engagements in leading houses in Europe and south America, and eventually to Bayreuth, where he sang Gurnemanz, King Mark and Wotan (1958-63). In 1958, he made his La Scala début in the title part of Handel's HERCULES, and, in 1961, he first appeared at the San Carlo in Naples, in the title rôle of Boito's MEFISTOFELE. His Boris Godunov, at the Bolshoi in Moscow in 1962, was, by all accounts, a deeply impressive portrayal.
He was fortunate to arrive at the Met just as the opera house was in need of replacements for the great Ezio Pinza, who had decided to appear in SOUTH PACIFIC. Unlike his distinguished predecessor, Hines could also sing the German and Russian repertory, in addition to Italian and French. In all, his innate musicianship stood him in good stead. Most of his discs derived from live performances. They reveal a sterling voice, a refined style, consisting of a burnished tone, a fine line and exemplary diction, although he never seems to have have been a very profound interpreter.
Hines was both a deeply religious person and a good writer. He combined these qualities in his own opera, I AM THE WAY, a work about Jesus, performed, with Hines as the protagonist, at Philadelphia in 1969. The previous year, he had published his autobiography, THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG, but his most lasting volume was GREAT SINGERS ON GREAT SINGING (1982), in which he made discerning comments on the art of many colleagues.
Hines' later appearances befitted his advancing years: he was Arkel, the elderly grandfather in PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE (Rome, 1984), and the blind father in Mascagni's IRIS (Newark, 1989). His last stage appearance was as Sarastro, in New Orleans in 1998, when he was 77.”
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 13 Feb., 2003
“Roberta Peters, who would sing with the Met 515 times over 35 vigorous years, was internationally renowned for her high, silvery voice; her clarion diction in a flurry of languages; [and] her attractive stage presence. In addition to the Met, with which she appeared regularly from 1950 to 1985 - one of the longest associations of any singer with a major opera company - Ms. Peters was heard at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden and elsewhere. Known for taking meticulous care of her voice, she continued to sing in recital until well into her 70s, a good two decades past the de facto retirement age in her line of work.
On 23 Jan., 1950, the 19-year-old Ms. Peters stood on the stage of the old Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway and 39th Street in Manhattan. There, in the darkened hall, she sang ‘Der Hölle Rache’ from THE MAGIC FLUTE, which, with its fiendish series of high F’s, is among the canonical texts of the coloratura repertory. Somewhere out in the darkness was Mr. Bing. ‘It was the first audition I had done for anyone, and I was so scared’, Ms. Peters told The Chicago Tribune in 1993. ‘When it was over he asked if I would sing it again. Then he asked me to do it again. Well, I sang it four times, not knowing that he had silently brought in conductors Fritz Reiner, Fausto Cleva and Fritz Stiedry to hear me’. Peters made her impromptu Met début 17 Nov., 1951, substituting for Nadine Conner. ‘The delightful surprise of last night’s performance of DON GIOVANNI at the Metropolitan was the emergency début of little Roberta Peters in the part of Zerlina’, The New York World-Telegram’s review the next day said. ‘The voice came through the big house as clear as a bell, the notes equally bright and focused and the phrasing that of a true musician’.
Ms. Peters was by all accounts one of opera’s least diva-like divas.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 JAN., 2017
“On the other hand, I cannot resist sharing a typical diva-like confrontation Roberta Peters had at the Sol Hurok management in the then-shared office of Harold Shaw and Joe Lippman. Early in her career, when all performning artists were obliged to earn their stripes by recital-touring throughout the United States, Joe Lippman had arranged an extended recital tour for her which took her to all possible outposts, cultural or otherwise, many in the mid-West where venues were few are far apart, thus requiring travel via train and therein sometimes in cattle cars. Upon returning to New York she burst into their shared office lambasting Joe Lippman for her ’ordeal’. She clearly delineated all the indelicacies to which she had been subjected, not least of which was the cattle car experience. It should be noted that unlike other managers, Joe Lippman to his dying day, never once travelled via air, so he was all-too-familiar with travel conditions of that time. Harold Shaw, an old friend of mine, recounted this meeting with Peters and Lippman which Harold observed first-hand. When Peters finally abated, Joe Lippman, who had spent the time during her outburst twirling his unsmoked and wet cigar in his mouth, removed it briefly to quietly inform her that she was lucky: ‘They wouldn’t hire you the first time I offered your services’. That finally silenced her!”
- J. R. Peters (positively NO relation!)