OP3204. SIMON BOCCANEGRA, Live Performance, 9 April, 1965, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Cornell MacNeil, Zinka Milanov, Giorgio Tozzi, Barry Morell, William Walker, Norman Scott, etc. (Canada) 2-Yves St Laurent T-442. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. [This unique recording of Milanov's final Amelia Grimaldi was made from a most advantageous in-house location in somewhat distant, but in very clear sound with no surrounding audience noise.]
"There are some things about a live operatic performance that a studio-made recording just can't duplicate. All the possibilities - inspiration, subtlety, revelation of a composer's work, seizure of a great moment, athleticism with its risk of disaster, simple music-making - are in play before an audience of flesh and blood, in one particular moment. The stakes are high and immediate."
- Will Crutchfield, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 15 July, 1990
"A pure baritone with power from low to high notes, Cornell MacNeil was considered the equal of Leonard Warren and Robert Merrill, the other stellar American Verdi baritones during the second half of the 20th century. From 1959 to 1987, he sang 26 roles in more than 600 appearances at the Metropolitan Opera alone. But he reached his peak in his Verdi performances. 'The larger and more complex the part, the better he was', James Levine, the Met's longtime conductor, said of Mr. MacNeil's Verdi roles in a 2007 interview with Opera News. 'Boccanegra, Rigoletto, Macbeth, Nabucco, Falstaff, Iago - a lot of these parts could be said to be the most challenging and varied. He sang lots of Amonasros and Scarpias marvelously well, but those more complex ones were where he was at his best'.
Though not known as a temperamental artist, Mr. MacNeil was remembered for a spectacular public outburst when he stormed off the Parma Opera stage in Italy on 26 Dec., 1964. It happened during UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, when the Parma audience, notorious for rude displays of disapproval, hissed at the soprano Luisa Maragliano just as Mr. MacNeil was about to sing the aria 'Eri tu'. 'I was getting more and more angry as the rumbling and noise got worse', he told THE NEW YORK TIMES the following day. 'I couldn't stand it any longer. 'Basta, cretini!' I shouted and walked off the stage'. The situation grew worse in his dressing room, where the stage director warned him to return to the performance because he had his family's safety to consider. Refusing to go back onstage, Mr. MacNeil sent his wife and children to their hotel. But when he made his way to the back entrance, he was assaulted by theater employees. 'During the scuffle, I got socked on the jaw', Mr. MacNeil said, displaying a bruised chin during his TIMES interview. The following day the MacNeils fled Parma.
Cornell MacNeil - on his mother's advice, studied with the retired baritone Friedrich Schorr at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford. Before WW II ended, Mr. MacNeil joined the Radio City Music Hall Glee Club and also did backstage announcements. It was his sonorous baritone that announced the news to Radio City audiences of both the German and Japanese surrenders.
Mr. MacNeil made his opera debut when, after a brief vocal audition, the composer and director Gian Carlo Menotti immediately decided to cast him as the male lead in THE CONSUL, which opened on 1 March, 1950, at the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia. THE CONSUL, the first full-length opera composed by Menotti, won the Pulitzer Prize in music that year. Still a raw talent, Mr. MacNeil took voice lessons over the next two years while working nights at the Bulova Watch factory in Queens. In 1953 Mr. MacNeil made his New York City Opera debut, as Germont in LA TRAVIATA. Though acclaimed for his sumptuous singing in that performance, he also committed a memorable faux pas that began the occasional carping by critics about his acting abilities. In a 2007 interview with Rudolph Rauch for OPERA NEWS, Mr. MacNeil recalled making hand gestures in the aria 'Di Provenza' that didn't agree with the music, and he acknowledged he had been unaware of the meaning of the words he was singing. 'It seemed like the hand was out there for about half an hour, and it began to shake', he said. 'I finally got it back in, and I decided then I was not going to sing any more Italian operas until I really knew the language'. His Italian improved, though his acting continued to draw sporadic barbs from critics. Commenting on his performance as the villain Scarpia, the villain in a 1985 performance of TOSCA at the Metropolitan Opera, Donal Henahan of The Times wrote, 'Cornell MacNeil, the Scarpia, sang mellifluously, but his wooden acting could fool nobody into believing him a sadistic tyrant'.
In 1959 Mr. MacNeil made his debut at La Scala in Milan as Carlo in Verdi's ERNANI. 'His rich, flexible baritone soared and swelled with enormous power', TIME Magazine wrote. He impressed La Scala's manager, Antonio Ghiringhelli, enough that he offered him a contract. But Mr. MacNeil signed instead with the Met after making his debut there on 21 March, 1959 - barely two weeks after his La Scala debut - as the lead in Verdi's RIGOLETTO. He would go on to sing that role at the Met more than 100 times.
Mr. MacNeil scored numerous successes in other roles as well. Commenting on his first Met appearance as Renato in Verdi's UN BALLO IN MASCHERA on 7 March, 1962, Alan Rich wrote in THE TIMES, 'This superb American baritone may very possibly have had his finest hour'. He sang Scarpia more than 90 times at the Metropolitan following his debut in the role on 2 Nov., 1959. His final performance at the Met was in that role, on 5 Dec., 1987. He retired from the opera a year later after medical tests showed he had a possible blockage of the carotid artery.
A few years before leaving the stage, Mr. MacNeil gave a straightforward assessment of the opera world to his friend and Met colleague Jerome Hines, the well-known bass, who interviewed him for a 1982 book GREAT SINGERS ON GREAT SINGING. 'Opera is an excessive art form populated by excessive people', Mr. MacNeil said. 'We make it more excessive than necessary. Singing is really a very simple thing'."
- Jonathan Kandell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 July, 2011
“Milanov came like a bolt out of heaven - the voice and the young woman, both so vibrant and exciting. We knew something great had come into [the Met’s] Italian wing. What was not obvious at the beginning was that she would have such a staying power, for she gave so much in her singing.…I was present years later on her great anniversaries and she sang at mine [the fiftieth anniversary of [my] Met début, 1963]. She was incomparable. She was like a vocal sorceress singing the OTELLO arias that night. Such a roar went up from the public, I can never forget it.”
- Giovanni Martinelli
“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
"Barry Morell, a tenor who sang leading roles for 21 years at the Metropolitan Opera as well as at other major international houses, sang 7 leading roles in 22 performances in his first year with the Metropolitan Opera, a record that, it was claimed at the time, was matched by only two other tenors, Enrico Caruso and Edward Johnson.
Jay S. Harrison, the music critic for THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE at the time of Mr. Morell's dï¿½but, described his voice as 'a glorious instrument - true, vibrant, splashed with silverï¿½.
At 17 he made his stage debut singing 'Ol' Man River' at a benefit for the New York City Actors' Fund, on Broadway. That song is generally taken by a deep voice, and Mr. Morell indeed believed he was a baritone for many years. Mr. Morell eventually met Giuseppe Danise, a noted pedagogue who had married his star pupil, the soprano Bidï¿½ Sayï¿½o. 'First of all, you are not a baritone; you are a tenorï¿½, Danise is supposed to have said. 'Now we shall see whether you can become a singerï¿½ [and] after six years of study, Mr. Morell made his dï¿½but as Pinkerton in 1955 with what was then known as the New York City Center Opera Company. Two and a half years later the Met invited him to audition, and Rudolf Bing signed him up with the company, where his dï¿½but, in the same role, was in 1958. He appeared at Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper, Berlin, Barcelona, and many other international houses, including the Rome Opera, where his debut as Cavaradossi was received with a 15-minute ovation."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 Dec., 2003