OP2158. TANNHÄUSER, Live Performance, 17 Dec., 1960, w.Solti (Début) Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Hermann Prey (Début), Marko Rothmüller, Leonie Rysanek, Irene Dalis, Hans Hopf, Jerome Hines, Norman Scott, etc. (E.U.) 3-Walhall 0325. - 4035122653250
“Though Mr. Prey's voice was a mellow, lyric baritone, he sang with such focused sound and robust projection that he enjoyed an active career in opera. He avoided the heavier Verdi roles, but excelled at Mozart, Gluck, Rossini, and lighter Strauss and Wagner roles. One of his great achievements was Beckmesser in Wagner's MEISTERSINGER, which he sang at the Met in 1993. To his characterization of a town clerk in medieval Nuremberg, typically portrayed as a scheming buffoon, Mr. Prey brought an emotional complexity and light-on-the-feet comic grace that made Beckmesser endearing.
Mr. Prey's voice was ideally suited to lieder, and he left a large and important discography, including songs by Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Mahler, and Carl Loewe, a neglected 19th-century composer whom Mr. Prey championed. Commenting on Mr. Prey's 1985 recording of Schubert's WINTERREISE with the pianist Philippe Bianconi, The New York Times critic Bernard Holland wrote: ‘This is Schubert singing that does not twist sound for pictorial or dramatic effect but instead creates, with unusual musical clarity and purity of tone, a narrative voice which, though concerned and moved, tells the story first and lives it only indirectly’."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 July, 1998
“The opening phrases of ‘Dich, teure Halle’ are flavored with [Rysanek’s] trademark vigor – when she can soar, we travel with her….communication and character revelation are always Rysanek’s formidable assets….As Venus, Dalis offers one of her best broadcast portraits, her vocalism strongly colored in the lower range and firmly anchored on high. Her handling of text and musical nuance is exemplary, seduction seems plausible, and a searing top tone puts the cap on the Venusburg episode.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.290
“Irene Dalis, a versatile and fiery mezzo-soprano who starred at the Metropolitan Opera for two decades before building a second career as the director of Opera San José, an innovative company she founded in her California hometown, did not set out to be a singer or an impresario. She studied piano and music education at what was then San Jose State College before earning a master’s degree at Columbia’s Teachers College in Manhattan in the late 1940s. The plan was to go back home and teach. Yet her instructors in New York were struck by her voice and encouraged her to develop it. She began taking lessons with the mezzo-soprano Edyth Walker. Instead of returning to San Jose, she went to Italy to study voice on a Fulbright scholarship in 1951. Just two years later she made her operatic début as Princess Eboli in Verdi’s DON CARLO in Oldenburg, Germany. Four years after that, she performed the same role at the Met. Her début at the Met, on 16 March, 1957, was ‘one of the most exciting of the season’, Howard Taubman wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. ‘By the time she reached the second-act trio she showed she could sing with temperament’, Mr. Taubman said. ‘And in the third-act, ‘O don fatale’, one of Verdi’s greatest dramatic arias, she was like a veteran. Her voice, which has range, security and brilliant top notes, was now under full control. She sang and moved with a total absorption in the emotion of the character. ‘Her singing had color and fire. In terms of sheer quality there may be more sumptuous voices at the Met in the mezzo-soprano division; Miss Dalis uses hers like an artist’.
For the next two decades, Ms. Dalis was among the Met’s most admired performers, appearing more than 270 times and singing virtually every major mezzo-soprano part written by Verdi, Wagner, Richard Strauss and others. She was nurtured by Rudolf Bing, the Met’s formidable general manager, and performed with Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Bjorling, Robert Merrill, Leontyne Price, Plácido Domingo and Leonie Rysanek.
She sang on many other stages, including at the San Francisco Opera and at Covent Garden. One of her most acclaimed performances was in 1962, when she sang the role of Kundry in PARSIFAL at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. She said later that, under stress from a grueling schedule, she had a revelation while she was there. ‘I asked myself if my talent, which I had always thought so sacred, was so special after all’, she recalled in 1964. ‘I decided it wasn’t. I realized that this was just my way of making a living. I began to see that I couldn’t deliver my best all the time, nobody can, and that I shouldn’t punish myself for my mistakes. ‘I have now approached the time of life where I want to enjoy what I’m doing. Does it seem silly? It seems to me a great discovery’.
She would perform for another decade, but in the mid-1970s she finally went home to California to teach voice, finding a position at San Jose State. Her work with students there led to her founding of Opera San José in 1984. It was modeled on a program in Oldenburg, which gave young performers like Ms. Dalis the chance to sing big roles early in their careers. ‘In the old days, singers started singing major roles at a young age, and it didn’t ruin their voices, did it?’ she said in an interview with OPERA NEWS in 2007. The company, which performs at the California Theater, a restored 1927 movie palace, has its own costume and set shops, owns administrative buildings and provides apartments to some performers. Ms. Dalis ran it until this June. OPERA NEWS called Opera San José ‘the only opera company in the U.S. entirely dedicated to developing the careers of emerging young artists’.”
- William Yardley, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 18 Dec., 2014
“With the end of the war Solti was appointed musical director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 1946. In normal circumstances this prestigious post would have been an unthinkable appointment for a young and inexperienced conductor, but the leading German conductors such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Clemens Krauss and Herbert von Karajan were prohibited from conducting pending the conclusion of denazification proceedings against them. Under Solti's direction, the company rebuilt its repertoire and began to recover its pre-war eminence. He benefited from the encouragement of the elderly Richard Strauss, in whose presence he conducted DER ROSENKAVALIER. In 1961 he became musical director of the Covent Garden Opera Company, London. During his ten-year tenure, he introduced changes that raised standards to the highest international levels. Under his musical directorship the status of the company was recognised with the grant of the title ‘the Royal Opera’.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron