OP2153. DIE FLEDERMAUS (in English), Live Performance, 20 Jan., 1951, w.Ormandy Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Marguerite Piazza, Patrice Munsel, Nana Gollner, Risë Stevens (for Blanche Thebom), Richard Tucker, Charles Kullman, John Brownlee, Jack Gilford, etc. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0332. - 4035122653328
“As the soubrette Adele, Munsel found the metier which she would successfully exploit to her and the company’s benefit. Her comic sense is adroit, never forced but always incisive, and her singing of Adele’s sprightly music is expert….[Tucker’s] gambol as the carefree lover of Rosalinda is pure delight. Can an Alfred dominate the operetta? Tucker manages to do so with this taut, tonally pungent delivery of the music (he sounds every note of the cadenza in his interpolated ‘La donna è mobile’ in the prison scene), and by his crisp delivery….”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.15
“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
"...for some thirty years, until his sudden death in 1975, Tucker's vocal security, boundless energy, unceasing enthusiasm, and thorough professionalism ensured a level of popularity that necessitated comparisons to some of his greatest predecessors....Tucker sang thrillingly and delivered the goods, communicating his own joy in singing to all who would listen...."
- Marc Mandel, FANFARE, May/June, 1997
"Risë Stevens was a force of nature on the stage. From her humble beginnings in New York, Stevens' talent, determination and heart helped her rise up to perform on the greatest stages all over the world. Whether she was on the radio, television, the silver screen, or stunning audiences at the Met, her vocal presence was unforgettable. In Carmen, Risë Stevens ascended to the level of legendary performers. Stevens was a star who will always be one of our 'great voices'. "
- Jo Mottola, Baskerville Publishers
“Risë Stevens is a fiery and juvenile Octavian in two live performances conducted by Bodanzky opposite Lotte Lehmann, Marita Farell and Emanuel List [OP1074], and in a performance under Fritz Reiner opposite Eleanor Steber, Erna Berger and Emanuel List (all at their best) [OP2054]. Both recordings are a ‘must’.
She sings a young and ardent Cherubino in Vittorio Gui’s production of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO which belongs to the most lively recordings of the work (ensemble singing!) [OP1310].”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“By the time Risë Stevens was 18, she was appearing regularly, sometimes in leading roles, with the Little Theater Opera Company, a Brooklyn troupe. (The company was later known as the New York Opéra-Comique). In the audience one night was Anna Schön-René, a well-known voice teacher on the faculty of the Juilliard School. She began teaching Ms. Stevens privately, and arranged for her to attend Juilliard on a scholarship, starting in the fall of 1933. Ms. Stevens spent two and a half years at Juilliard, where she continued her studies with Schön-René. Though Ms. Stevens had been considered a contralto, Schön-René discerned her true vocal register and helped lighten her voice for mezzo roles. In 1935, financed by Schön-René, Ms. Stevens spent the summer at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, where her teachers included the distinguished soprano Marie Gutheil-Schöder.
Ms. Stevens returned to Europe, making her formal operatic début in Prague, as Mignon, in 1936. Joining the Met in 1938, she made her first appearance with the company on 22 Nov., singing Octavian out of town in Philadelphia. On 17 Dec., she performed for the first time on the Metropolitan Opera stage in New York, singing Mignon.
In Ms. Stevens’ 351 regular appearances at the Met, her professionalism was perhaps never more apparent than it was in one of her many productions of SAMSON ET DALILA. Playing the temptress Dalila, Ms. Stevens reclined on a chaise longue to sing the aria ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’, among the most famous seductions in opera. One night, overcome with theatrical passion, Samson flung himself onto her mid-aria. Samson did not know his own strength. Under his considerable force, the chaise longue, on casters, began to move. Ms. Stevens sailed offstage and into the wings, still singing."
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 March, 2013