OP2031. LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Live Performance, 1 Jan., 1949, w.Cimara Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Lily Pons, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Frank Valentino, Jerome Hines, Felix Knight, Thelma Votipka, etc. (E.U.) 2-Myto 00226. - 0801439902268
“Lily Pons made her début in 1917 in a concert at Paris. She continued studying for 10 more years, making her operatic début in Mulhouse as Lakmé. Because of her youthful beauty, she lied about her age in all interviews saying that she was born in 1904. The ruse was not discovered until after her retirement. She appeared in many provincial French opera houses where she came to the attention of the Italian tenor Giovanni Zenatello and his wife Maria Gay. They assisted Pons in obtaining an audition with the Metropolitan Opera and in 1931 she made her début as Lucia di Lammermoor, the role with which she was to be associated throughout her career and which marked her farewell in 1962. The Metropolitan Opera became her home base, but she continued to appear at the Paris Opéra, Royal Opera Covent Garden in London, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Teatro Colón Buenos Aires. She concentrated her appearances on a few well chosen roles which fit her style and temperament perfectly. In 1951, however, she sang two performances of Violetta in LA TRAVIATA, but this excursion into a more dramatic repertoire was never repeated.
Pons traveled for several months every year, giving recitals and concerts. She was always a welcome visitor for she embodied the essence of the prima donna. She was always made up perfectly and her gowns were created by the finest fashion designers. During World War II, she toured many of the battle theaters, often near the front lines, and even under those difficult conditions she insisted that she look her best in order to lift the spirits of the military personnel. Although her orchestral concerts usually concentrated on famous arias and coloratura showpieces, she did sing the première of ‘Les Chansons de Ronsard’ by Milhaud. In her recitals, she often sang songs of Fauré and Debussy. Her last public performance was with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Andre Kostelanetz in May 1972.
The voice of Pons was a very high, light coloratura soprano. She was a very small woman, about five feet tall and very slight, so she always appeared fragile, and yet she was always in total control of her life and career. She married the conductor Andre Kostelanetz in 1938, but the union dissolved in 1958. She was one of the most popular classical singers of her era.”
- Richard LeSueur, allmusic.com
“Nearly any time opera lovers discuss inherently beautiful voices, Tagliavini's name is sure to come up. His smooth lyric tenor had a luxurious timbre, reminiscent of Tito Schipa's, and was also warm and extremely expressive. In another resemblance to Schipa, he had a particular gift for vocally caressing a phrase without making it sound like a studied effect, and could sing piano and pianissimo without crooning. He excelled in the lighter, lyric repertoire, and for many was the definitive Nemorino, Nadir (Les Pêcheurs de Perles), Ernesto (Don Pasquale), and Fritz (L’AMICO FRITZ) of his generation, or for some, even the century. He and composer Pietro Mascagni became close friends, and Mascagni claimed that Tagliavini was instrumental in making L’AMICO FRITZ a success. During his early years, he focused on this lyric repertoire, but as his career advanced, he added heavier roles, such as Loris Ipanov in Giordano's FEDORA, Riccardo in Verdi's BALLO, and Cavaradossi in Puccini's TOSCA. These roles were not as well-suited to his voice, and after taking these on, he showed definite signs of vocal wear.
After World War II, he gathered a wide following among American GIs still based in Italy. His La Scala début was in 1942, also as Rodolfo, as was his United States début in Chicago in 1946, and his Met début in 1957. In addition to his stage performances and recordings, he also appeared in many popular films, mostly of the light and sentimental type. He retired from the stage in 1965, but gave annual performances at Carnegie Hall through 1981. He was married to soprano Pia Tassinari, whom he met in 1940, (they later divorced), and during their marriage they frequently appeared together, as their repertoire was very often complementary. Their recording of L’AMICO FRITZ, conducted by the composer is a classic.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com