OP3177. JON VICKERS MEMORIAL . . . includes:
AÏDA, Live Performance, 11 Oct., 1965, w. Zubin Mehta Cond. Opéra de Montréal Ensemble; Virginia Zeani, Jon Vickers, Lili Chookasian, Victor Braun, Thomas Paul, etc. [recorded by this production's stage manager, Irving Guttman, the sound is clear but rather shallow due to the lack of upstage mikes];
CARMEN, Live Performance, 5 July, 1968, w.Georges Prêtre Cond. Teatro Colón Ensemble; Grace Bumbry, Jon Vickers, Robert Merrill, Joan Carlyle, etc.; [well recorded by the Teatro Colón for broadcast];
JON VICKERS & GIULIETTA SIMIONATO: AÏDA - Judgment Scene (Act IV), Bell Telephone Hour, 5 May, 1964. (Canada) 4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1056, accompanied by elaborate 46pp. booklet. Transfers by Richard Caniell. Notes by Stanley Henig & Richard Caniell. This Jon Vickers Memorial Set is specially priced at 4 CDs for the price of 3. - 01996243463
“The Canadian tenor Jon Vickers brought a colossal voice and raw dramatic intensity to everything he sang, including legendary portrayals of Wagner’s Tristan, Verdi’s Otello, Beethoven’s Florestan and Britten’s Peter Grimes, had few rivals. Yet, even in subdued passages, whether posing questions as the clueless title character of Wagner’s PARSIFAL or singing tender phrases of a Schubert song, Mr. Vickers’ voice had penetrating body and depth. For all his power, he was a master at singing high pianissimo phrases with ethereal beauty. Making every word he sang matter was another hallmark of his artistry.
Mr. Vickers’ first performances at the Metropolitan Opera came in early 1960, singing Canio in Leoncavallo’s PAGLIACCI, Florestan in Beethoven’s FIDELIO and Siegmund in Wagner’s WALKÜRE, all within two months. It was on the Met stage in 1967 that Mr. Vickers introduced what many consider his greatest achievement, the title role of Britten’s PETER GRIMES, conducted by Colin Davis and directed by Tyrone Guthrie. He sang more than 280 total performances at the Met, including the company premiere of LES TROYENS in 1973, and the title roles of Verdi’s OTELLO and Wagner’s PARSIFAL.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 July, 2015
“[Virgini Zeani], a Romanian opera star, was just one of a group of outstanding sopranos condemned to pursue their careers in the shadow of Callas, Tebaldi and Sutherland….Zeani is revealed as a totally dependable singer. The voice is lovely, if slightly of occluded quality and the scale even and well balanced through a wide range. Her interpretations are finely judged and often quite individual….Definitely an enjoyable experience.”
- Vivian A. Liff, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2009
“Dame Joan Sutherland wrote that both she and her husband, the conductor Richard Bonynge, regarded Zeani’s voice as the finest natural instrument they heard during their storied careers in opera. Aside from a few indifferently-engineered titles recorded in her native Romania and recordings of widely-varying quality of live performances, in many of which she partnered her husband, bass Nicola Rossi Lemeni, Zeani’s is a voice scarcely documented on recordings.”
- Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts
“Lili Chookasian was a principal singer with the Metropolitan Opera for a quarter-century, appearing there 290 times from 1962 to 1986. She also sang in recital and was a soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras. Critics and operagoers hailed Ms. Chookasian as a ‘real contralto’. Where many contraltos are endowed with the lightish, dusky equivalent of a viola, her voice - immense, deep, velvety and burnished - put a cello at her command. She was also praised for her sensitive musicianship, powerful dramatic characterizations and impeccable diction.
Ms. Chookasian made her Met début 9 March, 1962, at 40, in the role of La Cieca in LA GIOCONDA, with Zinka Milanov, Franco Corelli and Robert Merrill. As was widely reported, Ms. Chookasian sang so well that she received an immense ovation after her aria ‘Voce di Donna’.
She was perhaps most closely associated with the work of Gian Carlo Menotti. At the Met, she sang the Maharanee in the United States premiere of his opera THE LAST SAVAGE. On loan from the company, she made her New York City Opera début in 1963 as Madame Flora, the title character of his opera THE MEDIUM. Her other Met roles included Amneris in Verdi’s AÏDA, Erda in Wagner’s RHEINGOLD and SIEGFRIED and Mamma Lucia in Mascagni’s CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA.
Ms. Chookasian began her career as a concert singer, making a notable appearance in 1955 as a soloist in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony with the Chicago Symphony under Bruno Walter. She made her operatic début in 1959, as Adalgisa in Bellini’s NORMA with the Arkansas State Opera and later studied with the distinguished soprano Rosa Ponselle. Her last performance with the Met was on 17 May, 1986, as Gertrude in Gounod’s ROMÉO ET JULIETTE.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 APRIL, 2012
“In 1958 Grace Bumbry was joint winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, sharing first place with Martina Arroyo. She won some other prizes, and made her professional début in a recital in London in 1959. Her first operatic appearance was at the Paris Opéra, as Amneris in Verdi's AÏDA. It was one of the most spectacular operatic débuts in history; Bumbry became an instant star and was invited to join the roster of the Basle Opera. She made operatic history in 1961 when she was engaged by Wieland Wagner to sing at the Bayreuth Festival and became the first black singer to perform in that shrine of Wagnerian opera. Furthermore, musical historian Nicolas Slomimsky has pointed out that she was the first African American to make a professional operatic as a goddess, for her début at Bayreuth was as Venus in TANNHÄUSER, 23 July, 1961.
Bumbry's 1963 London début came in the role of Princess Eboli in Verdi's DON CARLOS, and she gave her first Metropolitan Opera performance in the same role in 1965. During the 1960s Bumbry worked on extending her vocal range. In 1970 at the Vienna Staatsoper, she sang the part of Santuzza, making her début as a soprano. She sang Richard Strauss' SALOME at Covent Garden the same year, and her first appearance in Puccini's TOSCA at the Metropolitan Opera came in 1971. She has a very warm voice with rich tone quality throughout the mezzo range, although it loses some of its distinctiveness in the very upper part of her soprano register. She is among the few sopranos who have sung both the roles of Aïda and Amneris in AÏDA and both Venus and Elisabeth in Wagner's TANNHÄUSER.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“Robert Merrill made his Metropolitan début as Germont on 15 Dec., 1945, and celebrated his 500th performance there on 5 March, 1973. He remained on the Met roster until 1976. During his tenure with the Met, Mr. Merrill sang leading roles in much of the standard repertory, including the title role in RIGOLETTO, Germont in LA TRAVIATA, Figaro in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, Escamillo in CARMEN and Tonio in PAGLIACCI; he appeared in most of these many times. Regarded as one of the greatest Verdi baritones of his generation, he was known for the security and strength of his sound, as well as for the precision and clarity with which he could hit pitches across his two-octave range.
‘Although he occasionally appeared in Europe and South America, he preferred to base his career at the Metropolitan Opera, where he sang all the major baritone roles of the Italian and French repertories’, Peter G. Davis wrote of Mr. Merrill in THE NEW GROVE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN MUSIC. ‘In terms of vocal endowment, technical security and longevity, he was unequaled among baritones of his generation at the Metropolitan’. ‘After Leonard Warren's tragic death onstage at the Metropolitan in 1960, Merrill became more or less indisputably America's principal baritone and perhaps the best lyricist since Giuseppe de Luca’, the critic J. B. Steane wrote in his book THE GRAND TRADITION. ‘The easy and even production of a beautifully well-rounded tone is not common, especially when the voice is also a powerful one; yet this is, after all, the basis of operatic singing, and Merrill's records will always commend themselves in these terms.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Oct., 2004