OP3202. SAMSON ET DALILA (in English), Live Performance, 7 Dec., 1961, w. Paray Cond. Detroit S.O. & Rockham Symphony Choir; Jean Madeira, Albert da Costa & Chester Ludgin. (Canada) 2–St Laurent Studio YSL T-403. [Remarkably 'alive' broadcast sound quality in this concert version]. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Born Jean Browning in Central Illinois, this contralto established for herself a singular identity among singers of the deepest, darkest rôles for female voice. Tall and strikingly attractive, she possessed both the physical and vocal allure for Carmen and created a riveting portrait of Klytemnestra, both addled and imperious. The later rôle, perhaps the one with which she was most closely identified, was captured on disc in both studio (with Böhm) and on-stage at Salzburg (with Mitropoulos). Her RHEINGOLD Erda in Solti's RING was likewise striking, voiced with steady, earth-deep tones, a sound once likened to ‘gleaming anthracite’."
Browning's father, half American Indian, half English, was a coal miner; her mother taught piano and soon included her daughter among her pupils. Upon her father's death, Browning moved with her family to St. Louis, where she won a scholarship to the Leo C. Miller School of Music. While a student there, she placed first in a competition whose prize was an appearance with the St. Louis Symphony. Under Vladimir Golschmann's direction, she performed Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. In 1941, Browning entered the Juilliard School of Music, where she majored in piano, but also pursued singing, making her début as Nancy in von Flotow's MARTHA in a 1943 Chautauqua Summer Opera production. At Juilliard, she met and subsequently married a piano student, Francis Madeira, who later became conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, a faculty member at Brown University, and occasionally accompanied his wife following her transition to a full-time singing career.
Olga Samaroff urged the young woman in 1946 to concentrate on becoming a professional singer. While still studying voice at Juilliard, Jean Madeira (as she was by then known) began making appearances with such other groups as the (American) San Carlo Opera Company. Gian Carlo Menotti chose her in 1947 to alternate with Marie Powers in the title rôle of his THE MEDIUM on its European tour. That same year, she was the recipient of the St. Louis Woman of Achievement Award. In 1948, she made her début at the Metropolitan Opera as the First Norn in a performance of DIE GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, beginning her steady progress through such rôles as Amneris, Azucena, Ulrica, Orfeo, and Dalila. In 1954, she began a series of European appearances taking her to Covent Garden, Stockholm, Munich, and Salzburg.
The fall of 1955 brought Madeira's début at the Vienna Staatsoper in the rôle of Carmen, a triumph resulting in 45 curtain calls. When she sang Carmen at the Metropolitan in 1956, critic Irving Kolodin, writing in the Saturday Review, described her as ‘an intelligent artist who gives thought to what she undertakes’ and noted her effective use of her striking height. He also praised her portrayal by commenting, ‘Mostly it was done with a suggestion of youthful suppleness not often seen’.
In addition to her almost 300 Metropolitan performances in some 41 rôles, Madeira continued to appear elsewhere in America and Europe, offering her Carmen at Chicago, where critic Claudia Cassidy praised her as ‘svelte, darkly beautiful, with a mezzo soprano streaked in burnt umber and edged with a threat’, and at Aix-en-Provence. Her authoritative Erda was heard at Munich, London, and Bayreuth. In 1968, she took part in the premiere of Dallapiccola's ULISSE IN BERLIN, creating the rôle of Circe. She retired in 1971, shortly before her death in 1972.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“It is in this repertoire that da Costa excels. The voice is robust, fresh, full of confidence, with strength to spare….da Costa has a cleaner sound, good musicianship, and a generally good grasp of the dramatics.”
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2011
“Without question, da Costa’s is a major voice with briliant top notes, deserving to be much better-known to today’s music lovers. His electrifying high D in Bellini's I PURITANI ‘Credensi misera’ is outstanding. Da Costa was an heroic tenor with amazing breath control, capable of singing a great variety of favorite opera arias, interpreting each one with authority and taste. There are today three or four tenors with high quality voices, but most likely none of them could match Albert da Costa for his great versatility and to be able to sing them consistently on such a high artistic level. The arias from Meyerbeer's operas and Halévy’s LA JUIVE, as well as the Wagnerian arias, displaying his potential to be a great performer in all these operas, had da Costa lived longer. The rest of his repertory is very well-known and sung very beautifully.”
- Peter Dietrich
“Chester Ludgin, a baritone who sang more than 30 roles for the New York City Opera, including leading roles in its world premieres of THE CRUCIBLE by Robert Ward and THE GOOD SOLDIER SCHWEIK by Robert Kurka, made his City Opera début in 1957 as Dr. Falke in Johann Strauss II's DIE FLEDERMAUS. In that performance and for many decades afterward, Mr. Ludgin was praised for his dramatic stage presence as well as his singing. Reviewing his performance in Janacek's MAKROPOULOS AFFAIR in 1970, Harold C. Schonberg, the senior music critic of THE NEW YORK TIMES, cited his ‘characterization with every detail thought through, a characterization of chilling reality’. After a 1960 performance as Sharpless in Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY, another critic noted that ‘his noble, rich voice was a pleasure to hear, as always’.
Mr. Ludgin sang many leading baritone roles, but was particularly accomplished in American repertory, including THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE, THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER and SUSANNAH. In addition to his many premieres with City Opera, he created the role of Sam for the Houston Grand Opera's 1983 world premiere of A QUIET PLACE, by Leonard Bernstein. He sang often at the San Francisco Opera and other companies in North America.”
- Jeremy Eichleraug, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 March, 2003
“Throughout its history, treble clef graphic classical music developed in distinct national schools. While European artists occasionally would entrain for Russia or set sail for the New World, most were content to remain nestled in their own culture. Recently, though, that all changed.
Blame America as the catalyst. At first, we were the poor stepchild, with no distinct heritage of our own. But as repression and then genocide pushed European artists to emigrate to fill the vacuum among our wealthy but unenlightened masses, something new emerged – a multicultural force that blended together into a pluralism that gleamed brighter than any of its components….the very essence of refined French culture is in the Motor City, or at least it was from 1952 to 1963. That’s when the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (the ‘DSO’) led by Paul Paray recorded a legendary series of LPs with Mercury’s ‘Living Presence’ label.
Paray established a solid reputation as a French conductor, heading orchestras in Lamoureux, Monte Carlo and Paris. American guest stints led to his appointment as permanent conductor of the recently reorganized DSO. Their very first records prove that he quickly forged the ensemble into a truly great orchestra and transformed its sound into a replica of those he had known in France.
It’s especially remarkable that the fiercely proud French tradition should thrive in the heart of America, the very place where national trends became forsaken and assimilated. After all, French culture is the most deeply chauvinistic of any, proudly defended to the death against the pollution of foreign influence. Indeed, the most famous French music has a unique sound, often described as impressionistic, much like the paintings of Monet and Renoir. It’s a valid analogy. Like that art, French impressionist music is concerned more with color effects than formal structure, as sensual melodies briefly appear before flitting away. While the overall effect is of subtle, blended mist, the sound is achieved through a layering of distinct instruments, much as in a Seraut painting in which the pastel atmosphere arises from dots of intense color. That’s what Paray gives us – not a sonic blur but precise dabs of bold instrumental coloration. Just as brushstrokes are carefully placed, the DSO’s rhythm and articulation of individual notes are always precise and luminously clear.
Naturally, Paray brought an appropriate Gallic touch to the great French repertoire. His Debussy, Ravel, Chabrier and Roussel are magnificent, beautifully capturing their elegance with a self-effacing confidence. The DSO complements Paray’s approach with superb playing, each instrument gleaming with individual pride yet prefectly nestled in the ensemble. Paray also produced unusually polished and convincing readings of overtures and light pieces, according them a respect usually reserved for more challenging music....He works similar wonders with Rachmaninov, Sibelius and even Wagner, the epitome of German music and about as far from the French aesthetic as possible.
Paray brought to all his work the highest achievement in any art, whether acting, painting or music – from careful preparation, constant revision and grueling work emerges something natural, accessible and inviting. And through this process, Paray created and preserved an island of his native land in a most unlikely place, as distant geographically and culturally as could be. His DSO records prove his undeniable success.”
- Peter Gutmann, classicalnotes.net