B0019. Paul Jackson. Saturday Afternoons at the Old Met. Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1931-50. Portland, OR, Amadeus, 1992. 569pp. Index; Bibliography; Numerous Photos; DJ. - 9780931340482 0-931340-48-9
“For over sixty years the weekly broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York has been an important part of American cultural life. The broadcasts, whose continuity was ensured when Texaco assumed sponsorship in 1940, have played a significant role in introducing an audience of millions to the splendors of opera. Paul Jackson, whose own recollections of the broadcasts start in 1940, presents a rich and detailed history of the broadcasts from their inception in 1931, when the imperious Gatti-Casazza ruled, on through the troubled, yet often triumphant, regime of the more affable Edward Johnson. This was a time when the Wagner operas were performed with unparalleled grandeur, when the Mozart operas were introduced to a nationwide public, and the American singer came to the fore. Above all, it was an age of glorious voices and memorable characterizations – Pinza’s Figaro, Melchior’s Siegfried, Lehmann’s Marschallin, Martinelli’s Otello, Milanov‘s Gioconda, Björling’s Manrico, Albanese’s Violetta. Beecham, Walter, Reiner and Szell contributed to the era of legendary conductors in the forties. Jackson, a musicologist with an uncommon ability to combine narrative history with musical analysis and criticism, brings to life the more than two hundred broadcasts of which recordings, pirated or archival, survive. They constitute a unique record in sound of one of the Metropolitan’s great periods. The author explores the glory and decline of Tibbett’s and Rethberg’s careers, the probity of Ponselle’s Carmen, the premiere of Hanson s MERRY MOUNT, the débuts of Flagstad and Sayao. Nor are the blemishes on the Met record slighted in this candid critique. In addition to these primary sources of live performances, Jackson utilizes unpublished documents and letters from the Metropolitan Opera Archives to tell the story of intricate maneuvers between the Met and the National Broadcasting System, and artistic intrigues within the company....here is one of the best opera books I have ever read....It's the next-best thing to having been there during the Johnson era or having heard the actual broadcasts. Warning: don't start idly reading through it in the local bookstore if you don't intend to buy it: before you know what's hit you, you'll be reaching for that credit card!"
- James Miller, FANFARE, May/June, 1993
"Of course, I found reviewing this volume pure serendipity...It is not simply a matter of curiosity at reading about such legendary (afternoons) at the opera miraculously preserved on disc...but also the distinction of the judgements and their descriptions that so catches one’s imagination...I found Jackson at once illuminating and pertinent in his comments. He is no fan overpraising lavishly, rather a fastidious student of the voice, and the art of acting with it."
— Alan Blyth, OPERA
"Saturday Afternoons at the Old Met is the best surprise a writer has sprung on an opera lover since J. B. Steane... produced The Grand Tradition more than 20 years ago. Paul Jackson, retired dean of the College of Fine Arts at Drake University, has. . .produced a thorough and thoroughly entertaining history of the first 19 years of the Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. . . .A well-written, exhaustive and stimulatingly opinionated history and survey."
— Richard Dyer, THE BOSTON GLOBE
"In addition to Jackson’s considerable academic training, his practical performing experience includes tours as a pianist with many Metropolitan Opera singers. This combination of performer and scholar is clearly evident in his book, a meticulously researched volume, to which he has brought a musicologist’s commitment to scholarship and documentation. Yet his knowledge and enthusiasm for operatic performance on an artistic and human level make his book fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable reading, with his commentary on the performances revealing a rare depth of understanding. It would be difficult to imagine an author more ideally suited to such an undertaking."
— Gary A. Galo, NOTES
"Like John Steane’s The Grand Tradition. . .this is destined to become a virtual bible for collectors and may prove very hard to find once it’s gone out of print."
— Marc Mandel, FANFARE
"This book contains some of the finest commentary on vocal performances ever published and should be obligatory reading for every critic who currently reports on the operatic scene."
— THE RECORD COLLECTOR