OP2666. LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Live Performance, 29 Jan., 1944, w.Walter Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Ezio Pinza, Bidú Sayão, Eleanor Steber, Jarmila Novotná, John Brownlee, Salvatore Baccaloni, etc.: DON GIOVANNI, Live Performance, 7 March, 1942, w.Walter Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Ezio Pinza, Alexander Kipnis, Rose Bampton, Jarmila Novotná, Bidú Sayão, Charles Kullman, etc. (E.U.) 5-West Hill Radio Archives WHRA 6045. Transfers from new sources by Ward Marston. Final Sealed Copy!
“During the forties, [Steber’s] Mozart singing is a herald of the emerging Viennese Mozart manner. She is as subtle as any Viennese in handling tone and word, vocally able to cast a glinting shimmer upon Mozart’s phrases…. the Steber voice is as lovely as ever, or more so, since the palette she draws upon is greater and her emotional response has deepened….In Walter’s ‘Dove sono’ Steber is no longer merely spinning tone – she summons an outburst of tone and shame at the close of the recitative…..‘Dove sono’ is a vocal and interpretive trial by fire, and the young soprano, whose control of the Mozartean line is both supple and steadfast, emerges not only unscathed but triumphant….What remains a matter for wonder is the complete poise of her vocalism from start to finish….Thoroughly composed, she wafts the gentlest, slenderest thread of tone onto the ether, yet there is nothing anemic or uncommunicative about it….Seldom does an artist capture the psychology as well as the beauty of Mozart’s heroine.
At projecting character, Sayão, in particular, is a past mistess, especially in those parts where a wheedling charm is essential….Bampton is at the peak of her form here and gives an estimable performance….she offers a thoughtfully, carefully plotted reading of the role….Anna’s plight has captured her imagination.”
- Paul Jackson, SATURDAY AFTERNOONS AT THE OLD MET, pp.304; 309 & 310
“Probably the greatest Giovanni of the inter-war years was Ezio Pinza who had the voice, looks and charisma to do justice to the role. Here, with Walter’s support, he gives a performance close to the ideal….He is superbly abetted by the Leporello of Kipnis; this is a performance where no-one could possibly mistake one for the other since their vocal characteristics are so different….The richness of Kipnis’ voice is almost too much for the character….Pinza and Kipnis had two of the greatest voices of the twentieth century…. Sayão’s Zerlina is closer in vocal stature to the men and her characterisation is enchanting. Her personality simply jumps out of the speakers….The [West Hill Radio Archives] issue here is from newly discovered sources….There is a very fine set of notes in the accompanying booklet, as well as some excellent colour photographs of the performances. The set is priced at five CDs for the price of four…highly recommended.”
- Paul Steinson, CLASSIC RECORDINGS QUARTERLY, Winter, 2012
“Jarmila Novotná…was a legendary beauty with an uncanny gift for the stage….She brought a radiance to every role she undertook: her every entrance was like a burst of sunshine.”
- Lanfranco Rasponi, THE LAST PRIMA DONNAS, p.296
“Jarmila Novotná was widely considered one of the finest singing actresses of her time. Her interpretations of such roles as Donna Elvira, Euridice, Manon, Mélisande, Antonia and Marenka were praised for their intelligence and lyrical grace. She also excelled in trouser roles, particularly Orlofsky in DIE FLEDERMAUS, Cherubino in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO and Octavian in DER ROSENKAVALIER. On hearing her American début in San Francisco in MADAMA BUTTERFLY in 1939, Olin Downes wrote in The New York Times: ‘There is grace, warmth, communicative feeling in all that she does’.
She made her Metropolitan début in LA BOHEME in 1940, singing with Jussi Björling. That year Downes also praised her ‘great’ Violetta at the Met: ‘She conceived the music, from first note to last, dramatically, and portrayed the character with an aristocratic sensibility and simplicity. The word and the tone were indissoluble; the phrasing was that of the finest musician’. In her years at the Metropolitan Opera, Miss Novotna sang 193 performances and won consistent praise for her expressiveness and musicianship.
Miss Novotná studied with Emmy Destinn and made her début at the age of 17 with the Prague National Opera. She continued her studies in Milan and became a member of the Vienna State Opera from 1933 to 1938, eventually singing opera and concerts in most of the major houses of Europe. Toscanini brought her to the attention of the Met after she sang Pamina under his direction in Salzburg in 1937. She came to New York in 1940, arriving, she noted years later, the day Hitler marched into Prague. During the war years she recorded ‘Songs of Lidice’, in memory of the victims of the Nazi massacre. The recording presents folk songs of her native land; the piano accompaniments are by Jan Masaryk, the son of the former president of Czechoslovakia.”
- Edward Rothstein, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 Feb., 1994