OP3203. CARMEN, Live Performance, 19 Nov., 1959, w. Paray Cond. Detroit S.O. & Rockham Symphony Choir; Jean Madeira, Brian Sullivan, Marjorie Gordon & Donald Gramm. (Canada) 2–St Laurent Studio YSL T-396. [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
“Brian Sullivan was born on 9 August, 1912 in Oakland, California. He was an actor, known for Cavalcade of Stars (1949), The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) and Musical Comedy Time (1950).
A versatile, boyishly good-looking (in his younger days) tenor, he came from Broadway to spend fourteen seasons with the Metropolitan Opera, beginning with the title role in Benjamin Britten's PETER GRIMES in 1948. Other frequent roles with the company included Alfred in Johann Strauss II's DIE FLEDERMAUS, Tamino in Mozart's ZAUBERFLÖTE, Grigori in Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV, and the title role in Wagner's LOHENGRIN. From what I can glean from the Internet and The Met Archives, Brian Sullivan sang in 162 performances at The Met, including his first performance as Peter Grimes 23 Feb., 1948, and ending with Alceste in 1961. He enjoyed an active career in the United States and Europe.
Brian Sullivan believed he had been engaged to sing in Wagner’s GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG in Switzerland. Apparently, he believed that he was contracted to star in the production but, in actuality, was just the understudy to the star, Claude Heater. When he failed to find an opportunity to sing in the production, Sullivan drowned himself on 17 June, 1969, as did Peter Grimes, a case of Life Imitating Art.”
- Lloyd L. Thoms Jr., Greenville, Wilmington, Delaware
“Donald Gramm, a distinguished, aristocratic American bass-baritone, was unusual for an American singer because [his career] was concentrated almost entirely in this country. His work was divided between opera and concert appearances. He sang…with the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, as well with opera companies, symphony orchestras and chamber series all over the country.
His voice ranged from the lowest bass notes into the upper baritone reaches. He had an unusually rich, noble tone, and although its volume may not have been large, it penetrated even the biggest theaters easily. Technically, he could handle bel-canto ornamentation fluently. But his real strengths lay in his aristocratic musicianship (impeccable phrasing that he polished by accompanying himself at the piano, and an easy command of five languages) and his instinctive acting.
Mr. Gramm's reviews were a litany of raves. In 1974, Harold C. Schonberg said in THE NEW YORK TIMES that Mr. Gramm 'could not be faulted’ as Sancho Panza in a Boston staging of Massenet's DON QUICHOTTE, and added that ‘he never gives a bad performance’. In 1977, Donal Henahan of THE TIMES called Mr. Gramm ‘the premiere American male singer of art songs, an important artist at his peak’.
Following his New York City Opera début as Colline in Puccini's LA BOHEME in 1952, Mr. Gramm sang with the City Opera nearly every season for more than 30 years. He made his début at the Met on 10 Jan., 1964, as Truffaldino in Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS....His principal bases for major roles became Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston and John Crosby's Santa Fe Opera, where he often sang unusual or contemporary repertory. Eventually, he assumed major parts at the Met as well, including the Doctor in Berg's WOZZECK, Papageno and Leporello in Mozart's DON GIOVANNI, Alfonso in COSI and Waldner in Richard Strauss' ARABELLA. In Europe, he sang at festivals in Spoleto, Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne.
Miss Caldwell remained his most stalwart champion. ‘Donald's high level of musicianship and intelligence and his beautiful voice are attributes which make him the logical choice of a conductor’, she told The Times in 1975. ‘His remarkable ability for physical characterization and his deep interest in its development make him the logical choice of a stage director. This fusion of musical and dramatic abilities sets him apart as one of the most extraordinary singing actors of our time’."
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3 June, 1983
“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.
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