Vanessa  (Samuel Barber)  (Mitropoulos;  Steber, Elias, Gedda, Resnik, Tozzi)   (2-RCA 7899)
Item# OP2202
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Vanessa  (Samuel Barber)  (Mitropoulos;  Steber, Elias, Gedda, Resnik, Tozzi)   (2-RCA 7899)
OP2202. VANESSA (Samuel Barber), recorded 1958, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Eleanor Steber, Rosalind Elias, Regina Resnik, Nicolai Gedda, Giorgio Tozzi, etc. (All-CREATOR cast, 15 January, 1958, Metropolitan Opera House, NYC). 2-RCA 7899, Slipcase Edition, w.Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy! - 078635789928

CRITIC REVIEWS:

“Every single voice on it is one of the greatest voices ever and the opera is magnificent. When you listen to this recording, you cannot believe what a golden age of singing that must have been! Samuel Barber’s score aches with Chekovian longing.”

- Ricky Ian Gordon, Sybaritic Singer



“Strangely enough, I don’t think I really enjoyed VANESSA with my usual relish that season. I had learned it so fast that I was never quite as sure of it that first year as I was of my other rôles. I was always conscious of small mistakes, and that bothered me. The recording, on the other hand, is musically perfect. Nevertheless, I loved the opera. I don’t think I could have done what I did if I hadn’t adored the work itself. It not only seemed to have been written for me. It was me!....Anyone who was backstage during the first and subsequent performances of VANESSA knows that I came off the stage after that big first act so near to collapse that the story got around that I had fainted….VANESSA took absolutely everything out of me. Until then, I’d always been able to keep something in reserve. I had always been able to do my rôles and have a little bit left over. But as Vanessa, I spent everything.”

- Eleanor Steber, ELEANOR STEBER, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, p.193



“Steber was one of the most important sopranos in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s, with a sweet and yet full voice and outstanding versatility. Her recitals were practically vocal pentathlons for their wide range of styles and vocal demands, and the day she sang Desdemona in Verdi's OTELLO for a Met matinee and Fiordiligi in Mozart's COSÌ FAN TUTTE that evening is still legendary She is perhaps most famous for her creation of the title rôle in Samuel Barber's VANESSA (actually as a substitute for Sena Jurinac), and for commissioning his ‘Knoxville: Summer of 1915’.”

- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com



“Widely admired for his sensitive musicianship, masterly tonal control and impeccable diction in a spate of European languages, Mr. Gedda possessed a lyric tenor voice that shimmered like silver but was no less warm for that. He was one of the most versatile, and professionally long-lived, tenors of his era, with many dozens of roles to his name in a career that lasted until he was well into his 70s - a good two decades past a classical singer’s customary retirement age. Over a quarter-century, he sang 367 performances with the Metropolitan Opera, from his début in the title role of Gounod’s FAUST in 1957 to his final performance, as Alfredo in Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA, in 1983. But the role for which Mr. Gedda was very likely most famous was Russian: Lensky, the young poet in Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN. Reviewing Mr. Gedda in a concert performance of ONEGIN with the Boston Symphony in 1976, Richard Dyer wrote in The Boston Globe: ‘The tenor’s voicing of Lensky’s aria - an ideal union of responsiveness to word and musical line, a demonstration of vocal and technical mastery and varied and beautiful tone, and an expression of wise and generous human feeling - was a classic demonstration of why, for some of us at least, operatic singing is the highest achievement of human art’.

Mr. Gedda made his United States début in 1957, singing Faust with the Pittsburgh Opera. Reviewing his Met début, in the same role later that year, under the baton of Jean Morel, Howard Taubman wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES: ‘His carriage is tall and straight and his movement buoyant. It is credible that he will attract Marguerite. Even more impressive than his appearance is the intelligence of his singing’.

With the Met, he also sang Anatol in the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s VANESSA, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, in 1958, and Kodanda in the United States premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti’s THE LAST SAVAGE, under Thomas Schippers, in 1964.”

- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 Feb., 2017



“Of all the important tenors active during the latter half of the twentieth century, Nicolai Gedda was by far the most versatile and industrious, a questing musical spirit who left few areas of the operatic and song repertories unexplored. During a career that spanned nearly fifty years, Gedda was in demand the world over for the warm, sweet, silvery beauty of his voice, his patrician command of style, and an unshowy but dazzling technical virtuosity that was invariably in the service of the music.

Born to poor parents in Stockholm, Gedda was raised by his father’s sister and her Russian husband, a Don Cossack singer and cantor in a Russian orthodox church. It was from his strict stepfather that Gedda picked up his facility with languages and reading music - as well as an innate shyness and a distaste for confrontation that did not serve him well in later dealings with opera managements, not to mention two unhappy early marriages. The vocal rudiments were there from the beginning, however, and while he was working at his first job, as a bank teller, one of his helpful customers recommended a teacher - Carl-Martin Oehman, a former lyric tenor at Stockholm Opera and mentor of Jussi Björling.

Oehman, Gedda once recalled in his typically modest way, ‘taught me all the essentials, which I knew nothing about’. One can’t help thinking that the perfect vocal placement, firm muscular support, smooth register management and sovereign musical instincts were already present, just waiting to be coaxed out. Additional studies at Stockholm Conservatory lasted just two years before Gedda - in 1952, at age twenty-six - was given the leading role in Adam’s POSTILLON DE LONJUMEAU at the Royal Opera and created a sensation, especially with the brilliant high Ds that cap the coachman Chapelou’s famous entrance aria. Walter Legge, EMI’s legendary record impresario, and his wife, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, were in town and demanded to hear the new tenor everyone was raving about. After a short audition, Legge immediately fired off cables to conductor Herbert von Karajan and Antonio Ghiringhelli, the intendant of La Scala: ‘Just heard the greatest Mozart singer in my life: his name is Nicolai Gedda’.

What happened next would probably leave any young singer breathless. Gedda was instantly cast as Dimitri in EMI’s splashy new recording of BORIS GODUNOV, starring Boris Christoff (‘that BORIS recording opened the doors of the world to me’, Gedda once remarked), and he made a La Scala début as Don Ottavio in DON GIOVANNI under Karajan’s baton. Gedda suddenly had invitations to sing everywhere - Faust and Weber's Oberon in Paris, the Duke of Mantua at Covent Garden and dozens of other requests from Rome, Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Munich and Tokyo.

Meanwhile Legge kept Gedda busy in the recording studios after BORIS with Bach’s b-minor Mass under Karajan, rarities such as Cornelius’ BARBIER VON BAGHDAD and the French version of Gluck’s ORPHÉE, Strauss’ CAPRICCIO, Pinkerton in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Faust, as well as solo recitals covering a wide range of repertory. One of the most impressive examples I know of the young Gedda on disc, at age twenty-eight, is Lehár’s LAND DES LÄCHELNS, in which he sings the mysterious yet passion-driven Prince Sou-Chong, a role made famous by Richard Tauber. It’s a ravishing piece of singing, delicately shaded and exquisitely controlled until all the character’s banked-up emotions come tumbling out in a glorious rendition of the Tauberlied, ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’. Even here, vocal connoisseurs will marvel at the singer’s technical control when Gedda eases into the reprise of the big tune without so much as drawing a breath.

Rudolf Bing snapped up Gedda early on (an unusual move by this canny impresario, who usually liked to keep Metropolitan Opera audiences expectantly waiting, even for the most sensational new discoveries), and Gedda made his Met début on 1 November, 1957, as Faust. Thereafter the tenor, like so many important singers of his generation, tended to base himself in New York, while reserving plenty of time to fulfill engagements in Europe and make hundreds of recordings. So New York heard Gedda display the full range of his vocal talents and language facility until he left the company in 1983 - classic roles (Don Ottavio, Admèto in ALCESTE), standard repertory (the Duke, Alfredo, Rodolfo, Pinkerton, Edgardo), French specialties (Hoffmann, Don José, des Grieux, Pelléas, Roméo), bel canto (LA SONNAMBULA, L’ELISIR D’AMORE, DON PASQUALE), Russian roles (Dmitri, Lenski, Gherman), new American opera (VANESSA and THE LAST SAVAGE) and even a touch of operetta (Johann Strauss’s GYPSY BARON). Gedda never generated the hysterical fan response of, say, Franco Corelli, but few left his finely nuanced, vocally secure, emotionally generous performances feeling cheated.

Gedda wound down his career slowly during the 1990s, giving concerts, teaching and taking on occasional character roles, such as the ancient Abdisu, Patriarch of Assyria, in Covent Garden’s 1997 production of Pfitzner’s PALESTRINA. He also finally found marital contentment in 1997 with Aino Sellermark, who collaborated with Gedda on his memoirs, MY LIFE—MY ART. The couple settled in what appeared to be an idyllic retirement in Tolochenaz, a Swiss villa, where Gedda could take pride in recalling an extraordinarily productive career that had made him one of the most admired and widely heard tenors of his generation. Gedda died 8 January, 2017, aged 91.”

- Peter G. Davis, OPERA NEWS, 9 Feb., 2017



“Giorgio Tozzi, a distinguished bass who spent two decades with the Metropolitan Opera and also appeared on film, television and Broadway, was a distinguished professor emeritus at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where he had taught since 1991. He was previously on the Juilliard School faculty [originally having studied with Rosa Raisa, Giacomo Rimini and John Daggett Howell].

Esteemed for his warm, smooth voice; skillful acting; pinpoint diction; and authoritative stage presence - he was 6 foot 2 in his prime - Mr. Tozzi sang 528 performances with the Met. He was so ubiquitous there for so long that THE NEW YORK TIMES was later moved to describe him (admiringly) as ‘inescapable’. Mr. Tozzi made his Met début as Alvise in Ponchielli’s LA GIOCONDA in 1955. Reviewing the performance, The NEW YORK POST wrote that he ‘proved to have a voice of beautiful quality’, adding: ‘It was rich in texture and expertly handled both as to characterization and technique’. His most famous performances at the Met include the title roles in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV and Mozart’s MARRIAGE OF FIGARO; Ramfis in Verdi’s AÏDA; Don Basilio in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE; Philip II in Verdi’s DON CARLO; and Hans Sachs in Wagner’s DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG. Mr. Tozzi began his vocal life as a baritone. He made his début (as George Tozzi) in 1948, singing Tarquinius in Benjamin Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA. Staged at the Ziegfeld Theater on Broadway, the production also starred Kitty Carlisle.

He originated the role of the Doctor in Samuel Barber’s VANESSA, which had its world premiere at the Met in 1958. Conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, the production also starred Eleanor Steber and Nicolai Gedda. Mr. Tozzi’s last performance with the Met was in 1975, as Colline in Puccini’s BOHÈME.

He also sang with the San Francisco Opera, La Scala and other companies and appeared as a soloist with major symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. On film Mr. Tozzi dubbed the singing voice of the actor Rossano Brazzi in the role of Emile de Becque in SOUTH PACIFIC (1958), directed by Joshua Logan. (Mr. Tozzi had played the role himself, opposite Mary Martin, in a West Coast production of the musical the year before.) On the small screen he sang King Melchior in the 1978 television film of Gian Carlo Menotti’s AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS, also starring Teresa Stratas. On Broadway he received a Tony nomination for the role of the lonely California grape farmer Tony Esposito in the 1979 revival of Frank Loesser’s operatic musical comedy THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. (The award went to Jim Dale for BARNUM.)

- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 2 June, 2011



“Regina Resnik, a Bronx-born opera star who sang more than 300 performances at the Metropolitan Opera and who made the shift from soprano to mezzo-soprano in the middle of her career, died on 8 Aug., 2013, in Manhattan. She was 90.

Ms. Resnik made her Met début in 1944 as Leonora in IL TROVATORE and over the years 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.

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, Klytemnestra 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