A Star in the Family       (James McCracken)
Item# B1312
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A Star in the Family       (James McCracken)
B1312. JAMES McCRACKEN & SANDRA WARFIELD. A Star in the Family – An Autobiography in Diary Form. New York, Coward-McCann-Geoghegan, 1971. 388pp. Photos; DJ.


“Mr. McCracken was present for some historic moments in this first Met career. He sang in the début performances of Marian Anderson, Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi. But he found it understandably frustrating. On the night of Miss Tebaldi's début in OTELLO, for instance, he did not even get the grateful secondary tenor part of Cassio; he sang the tiny role of Roderigo. It is not quite the case that Mr. McCracken went unnoticed at the Met in those years; on one occasion in 1954, a Times critic devoted an entire paragraph to praising him in the brief part of the Messenger in AÏDA, certainly a rare accolade. But the management did not notice, and so Mr. McCracken took himself to Europe. He built up valuable experience singing big rôles repeatedly in Bonn, then in Zürich, gradually coming to the attention of the larger European houses.

Once he had become a leading Otello abroad, the Met could hardly afford to hold his hasty departure against him; he returned in 1963 as a star, with a new production and a whole list of other choice rôles. He specialized in the biggest Italian parts. The high point of Mr. McCracken's Met activity came in the early 1970's, when he starred in new productions in five consecutive seasons at the house: OTELLO, CARMEN, AÏDA, LE PROPHETE and TANNHAUSER - his first Wagnerian part, which he accepted after declining many earlier offers to sing Wagner. But when OTELLO was televised twice without him, and a telecast of TANNHAUSER that the tenor felt he had been promised was dropped in 1978, the tenor abruptly severed his relations with the house.

The house had to do without him in some of the hardest-to-cast rôles in the repertory for six seasons while the tenor sang elsewhere, but the promise of a 'Live From the Met’ slot at last moved him to let bygones be bygones. The telecast took place on the occasion of Leontyne Price's farewell to opera in AÏDA, with Mr. McCracken singing Radames.”

- Will Crutchfield, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1 May, 1988