OP2080. DIE FLEDERMAUS (in English), Live Performance, 22 Dec., 1951, w.Ormandy (Acts I & II & Blatt (Act III) Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Regina Resnik, Patrice Munsel, Blanche Thebom, Charles Kullman, Brian Sullivan, John Brownlee, Maria Karnilova, etc. (E.U.) 2-Myto 00253. - 0801439902534
“Patrice Munsel was 17 when, in March 1943, she won a Met contract and $1,000 after tying for first place in the eighth annual Metropolitan Auditions of the Air, a precursor to the Met’s National Council Auditions, a program to discover promising young opera singers and nurture their careers. By November Ms. Munsel had signed a three-year contract with the impresario Sol Hurok for a guaranteed $120,000. On 4 Dec., at 18, she made her Met début as the temptress Philine in Ambroise Thomas’ MIGNON wearing a good-luck ring and a crown lent to her by the soprano Lily Pons. The audience gave Ms. Munsel a standing ovation of several minutes. The critics were generally less kind. More than 40 years later, in a LOS ANGELES TIMES interview, Ms. Munsel said simply, ‘I didn’t have a clue as to what the part was about’.
She performed a total of 225 times at the Met, excelling as the maid Adele in Johann STRAUSS’ DIE FLEDERMAUS and earning praise fromOlin Downes for her ‘virtuoso singing’ and ‘very amusing acting’. He declared her born for the role ‘by personality, wit, temperament’. Rudolf Bing, the company’s general manager during Ms. Munsel’s tenure, is said to have called her ‘a superb soubrette’.
But Ms. Munsel had given up touring the moment she became engaged to Robert C. Schuler, an adman turned television producer, whom she married in 1952. Not long after returning from their summer-long European honeymoon, she did a star turn on movie screens as Dame Nellie Melba, the 19th-century Australian soprano, in the 1953 biopic MELBA, produced by the Hollywood legend Sam Spiegel.
Ms. Munsel last performed at the Met in 1958 as Mimi in LA BOHÈME,”a role she had long coveted. She then focused on motherhood, traveling and musical comedies, performing splits in the 1965 Lincoln Center Theater presentation of THE MERRY WIDOW and occasionally turning productions of THE SOUND OF MUSIC and THE KING AND I into family affairs with her four children.
Ms. Munsel had a lifelong comedic streak. ‘I’m sure when I emerged from my mother’s womb, the doctor slapped me, I hit a high C and slapped him back’, she wrote in a biographical sketch on her website. ‘I stepped on the stage and sang my first aria on the Metropolitan Auditions of the Air without a nerve in my body. I won, and I was on my way to fame and stardom’.”
- Kathryn Shattuck, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 Aug., 2016
“Regina Resnik won the Metropolitan Opera auditions and débuted with great success at the Met on 6 December, 1944, as a last-minute replacement for Zinka Milanov. The role was Leonora in Verdi’s IL TROVATORE and over the years she performed many of opera’s most important roles on its most prominent stages, including those of the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden and other European houses. Her best-known roles include Ellen Orford in Britten’s PETER GRIMES, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI and the title role in Bizet’s CARMEN. Later in her career she performed in musical theater and became a sought-after instructor and opera director. She was known for her strong dramatic skills and impeccable musicianship onstage and for her bold personality offstage. She displayed fearlessness from the beginning. Following the triumph of her first season, Resnik became a leading soprano at the Met, during which time she sang Rosalinde in this English-language production of DIE FLEDERMAUS, a delightful tour-de-force!
In 1942, she made her début at the New Opera Company of New York after being given 24 hours’ notice that she was needed to substitute. Two years later, she made a similar last-minute substitution in her début at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora, in IL TROVATORE. Each time she impressed. ‘All things considered, Miss Resnik’s début was an auspicious one’, a review of her Metropolitan début in THE NEW YORK TIMES said. ‘She has a strong, clear soprano, which, though occasionally marred by a tremolo, is both agile enough for the florid passages allotted to Leonora and forceful enough for the dramatic ones’.
Ms. Resnik became a much-admired soprano and toured widely through the mid-1950s, when she and others began to notice that her voice was darkening. A friend, the baritone Giuseppe Danise, helped persuade her to change, telling her he believed she had always been a mezzo. ‘It was the biggest gamble of my life, when I decided over two tumultuous years that perhaps I was not a soprano after all’, she told The Times in 1967. ‘There were many opinions: I was a soprano with low notes, or mezzo with high notes’. The gamble paid off, she said, and it ultimately provided her with better roles, including some of her most notable, as Carmen, Klytämnestra in ELEKTRA, Mistress Quickly in FALSTAFF and the Countess in PIQUE DAME. ‘I have really run the gamut’, she added, emphatic that she had not lost her upper register. ‘And my range is exactly the same today. Not one note higher or lower. But I was happier in the depth of my voice than in its height’.
Ms. Resnik graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx and studied music education at Hunter College, graduating in 1942.
‘She was a totally American original’, said F. Paul Driscoll, the editor in chief of OPERA NEWS. ‘She was always very proud of being educated in the United States and beginning her career in the United States’. Mr. Driscoll emphasized Ms. Resnik’s resilience, particularly under Rudolf Bing, the sometimes autocratic general manager of the Met, for much of her career. ‘She embraced the opportunities she was given, and whether or not Mr. Bing thought they were star parts, she made them star parts’, Mr. Driscoll said. ‘Directors loved her, conductors loved her, and the audience loved her’.”
- William Yardley, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 Aug., 2013
“Charles Kullman was one of the first American singers to establish a career in Europe before returning to his home country in triumph. His successes in Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg and London, and his work with such conductors as Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini made it possible for him to join the Metropolitan, where he sang a remarkably varied repertory in 402 performances - 283 in New York, 119 on tour - between 1935 and 1960. Although never one of the greatest opera stars - in part because his international career was hindered in its prime by World War II - Mr. Kullman was a deeply respected artist.
In the late ‘20s there was hardly any domestic circuit for young American singers. Mr. Kullman did tour for a season with Vladimir Rosing's pioneering, English-language American Opera Company, but realized that his best hope for success was to establish a European career. Mr. Kullman auditioned in Berlin for Klemperer, who at that time was director of the Kroll Opera, the experimental wing of the Berlin State Opera. He made his début with the Kroll as Pinkerton in Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY on 24 Feb., 1931. The Kroll Opera shut down at the end of that season, but Mr. Kullman was taken on by the State Opera proper, where he sang until 1936. His tenure in Berlin was cut short by his defiance of a Nazi ban on German-based singers appearing at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, where Toscanini and Walter were attempting to establish an anti-Fascist counterweight to the German summer festivals. Mr. Kullman, who was now singing regularly in Vienna, as well, performed often with those conductors, including Walter's first recording of Mahler's DAS LIED VON DER ERDE and Toscanini's famous productions of Beethoven's FIDELIO and Verdi's FALSTAFF at Salzburg. Mr. Kullman's Met début took place on 20 Dec., 1935, in the title role of Gounod's FAUST.
At the Met, Mr. Kullman's repertory included 33 parts, ranging from Mozart, to mainstream Italian tenor roles, to French operas, to the lighter Wagner. His most frequently sung role was Eisenstein in DIE FLEDERMAUS, which he performed 30 times. In 1956 he accepted a teaching position at Indiana University in Bloomington, but continued to sing at the Met.”
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Feb., 1983
"In a field long dominated by Europeans, Ms. Thebom was part of the first midcentury wave of American opera singers to attain international careers. Associated with the Met from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, she was praised by critics for her warm voice, attentive phrasing and sensitive acting."
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28 March, 2010
“Brian Sullivan was born on 9 August, 1912 in Oakland, California. He was an actor, known for Cavalcade of Stars (1949), The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) and Musical Comedy Time (1950).
A versatile, boyishly good-looking (in his younger days) tenor, he came from Broadway to spend fourteen seasons with the Metropolitan Opera, beginning with the title role in Benjamin Britten's PETER GRIMES in 1948. Other frequent roles with the company included Alfred in Johann Strauss II's DIE FLEDERMAUS, Tamino in Mozart's ZAUBERFLÖTE, Grigori in Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV, and the title role in Wagner's LOHENGRIN. From what I can glean from the Internet and The Met Archives, Brian Sullivan sang in 162 performances at The Met, including his first performance as Peter Grimes 23 Feb., 1948, and ending with Alceste in 1961. He enjoyed an active career in the United States and Europe.
Brian Sullivan believed he had been engaged to sing in Wagner’s GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG in Switzerland. Apparently, he believed that he was contracted to star in the production but, in actuality, was just the understudy to the star, Claude Heater. When he failed to find an opportunity to sing in the production, Sullivan drowned himself on 17 June, 1969, as did Peter Grimes, a case of Life Imitating Art.”
- Lloyd L. Thoms Jr., Greenville, Wilmington, Delaware