OP3217. LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST, Live Performance, 17 Jan., 1966, w.Behr Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Eleanor Steber, Franco Corelli / Gaetano Bardini, Anselmo Colzani, etc. (Canada) 2-Yves St Laurent T-519. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. [This unique recording of Steber's sensational last-minute Minnie was made from a 'pirate' recording from within the house, with the duly excited audience's spontaneous reactions - very occasionally intrusive, but the clear sound comes through beautifully.]
“Stage director Henry Butler…pruned and simplified stage business everywhere he could. We worked out a system of cue sheets which were stuck to furniture and props, so that while I was free-wheeling my way around the stage, I could pick up a few cues wherever I landed. One sheet was pasted in Minnie’s Bible and one was on the bar itself, and I’ve made a big thing about never spending so much time behind a bar in my life; but in truth, I seldom ever glanced at a cue sheet. It was sufficiently reassuring to know they were there….When I finally went down the steps to the stage before the opening curtain…the men of the chorus were waiting for me, and when I walked on they gave me an ovation. What a greeting! …. The door on the landing burst open and I charged out with my pistol blazing. It was only a split second before I heard the roar of the crowd. I remained frozen, gun in hand, watching and listening as the whole audience stood up and hollered. Through all the clapping and shouting, I heard one thing cutting through loud and clear – my name – ‘STEBER’! The whole Opera House went up in smoke. The orchestra had to stop and there was absolute pandemonium! It was great, and I felt fantastic, absolutely fantastic! … the ‘boys’ didn’t sing what was written. They were cheering and shouting and clapping with the audience – ‘Welcome home, Minnie! Welcome home, Steber!’ It was the greatest single moment of my life!”
- Eleanor Steber, ELEANOR STEBER – an Autobiography, pp.238-40
"Franco Corelli, [Steber's] leading man on that unhappy occasion (and unpredictable during the best of times), decided that the whole affair was beneath his dignity, and after Act I he simply packed up and went home."
- Peter G. Davis, NEW YORK, 17 Oct., 1983
"Christmas night of 1962 was, for me, a sad occasion at the Old Met. Eleanor Steber’s performance as Donna Anna was actually her final scheduled appearance there. Not aware of her feelings that night, I went backstage to greet her and waited for nearly an hour for her to emerge from her dressing room. When she did, although duly courteous, she rushed past me exchanging only a few words, then she hurried out of the building. I would subsequently learn that her contract had not been renewed. Her description of that occasion is recounted in her Autobiography, as well as Bing phoning her three years afterward with an urgent request to return for one performance as Minnie in Puccini’s LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST [above]!"
- J. R. Peters