OP3269. TOSCA, Live Performance, 11 April, 1959, w.Kurt Adler Cond. Eleanor Steber, Carlo Bergonzi, George London, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-726.
“I sang two Toscas before our broadcast performance on April 11, and after one of them my husband mentioned that my leap off the parapet at the end wasn’t visible to the audience. ‘If you are going to risk breaking your neck’, he quipped, ‘why don’t you do it out there where everyone can see you?’.
We experimented before the broadcast, setting the mattress so I could leap dramatically but safely to my death. When Tosca plunged from the Sant’ Angelo that afternoon, it was only a two-point landing. I gave the jump all I had - which was too much – and tumbled off the far side of the mattress. My head hit the floor with a terrible crack; I chipped a tooth and cut my lip….
During that evening’s performance of LA GIOCONDA [not CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA], Pat [Tavernia, our stage director] was chatting in the wings with Zinka Milanov (one of the Met’s great Toscas) and asked ‘ Did you hear what happened to Steber this afternoon?’ ‘Naw’, replied Milanov. ‘Vat happent?’ ‘Well, when she jumped from the parapet she overshot the mattress, cracked her head and cut her lip’. Milanov arched an eyebrow. ‘Vel, I always told Eleanor the part was too heavy for her!’.
- Eleanor Steber, ELEANOR STEBER - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, p.201
“…George London provides the dominant portrayal of the afternoon. His Scarpia is a brute of a man, all strength and arrogance. In contrast to the courtly elegance of Warren and Schöffler’s businessman police chief, London revels in overt violence, pouring out black, icily severe tones with unstinting power….[his] tone turns to lava, its heat continuing to prevail in the torture chamber. This Scarpia is black-hearted but purple-voiced, something sensuous in the tone, arresting to the listener, and perhaps to Tosca as well.
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.429
“In the many performances I have appeared in, there were many wonderful colleagues who had me in raptures. There were those with magnificent voices, or great musicians, wonderful actors or great personalities. But George London had it ALL. He was as impressive on stage as he was the wonderful colleague and friend in his private life.”
- Birgit Nilsson, as quoted in Leonardo A. Ciampa’s THE TWILIGHT OF BELCANTO, p.130
"Considered the foremost Verdi tenor of his age, Mr. Bergonzi sang more than 300 times with the Metropolitan Opera of New York from the 1950s to the '80s, appearing opposite a roster of celebrated divas that included Maria Callas, Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi, Rise Stevens, Victoria de los Angeles and Leontyne Price.
A lyric tenor of some vocal heft, Mr. Bergonzi lacked the sonic weight and brilliance of tenors in the Wagnerian mold. But what he did possess was an instrument of velvety beauty and nearly unrivaled subtlety.
'More than the sound of the voice, it is Mr. Bergonzi's way of using it that is so special', Peter G. Davis, reviewing a 1978 Carnegie Hall recital by Mr. Bergonzi, wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. 'He is a natural singer in that everything he does seems right and inevitable - the artful phrasing, the coloristic variety, the perfectly positioned accents, the theatrical sense of well-proportioned climaxes, the honest emotional fervor. Best of all, Mr. Bergonzi obviously uses these effects artistically because he feels them rather than intellectualizes them - a rare instinctual gift, possibly the most precious one any musician can possess'. In the view of his many fans, this vocal elegance amply compensated for the fact that Mr. Bergonzi was no actor and, by his own ready admission, no matinee idol. 'I know I don't look like Rudolph Valentino', he told THE TIMES in 1981. 'I know what a proper physique should be for the parts I sing, but I have tried to learn to act through the voice. The proper, pure expression of the line is the most important thing'.
Mr. Bergonzi began his career as a baritone, and after becoming a tenor a few years later was careful not to push his voice past its natural confines. As a result, he largely escaped the vocal wear that can force singers to retire by the time they reach their early 50s; Mr. Bergonzi, by contrast, continued to sing on prominent stages - and, as critical opinion had it, sing well - into his late 60s.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 July, 2014