LP0405. UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Live Performance, 14 Dec., 1940, w. Ettore Panizza Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Jussi Björling, Alexander Svéd, Bruna Castagna, Stella Andreva, Nicola Moscona, Norman Cordon, etc. 3-Metropolitan Opera Historic Broadcast Recordings MET 8. Producer: Dario Soria [Sadly, Dario Soria died of a heart attack in 1980 while he and Tom Owen were preparing the final scene for MET 8, this 14 Dec., 1940 broadcast]; Audio Engineer: Tom Owen, R & H Archives. The packaging is in the style of the deluxe RCA Victor Soria Series releases - velvet-covered slipcase edition with an inner box that holds, in addition to the records, an elaborate beautifully-illustrated booklet with background on the opera's Met history by John W. Freeman & Gerald Fitzgerald, photos and biographies of the artists, plus a second booklet containing a libretto with translation. Produced by RCA in 1980. Factory-Sealed.
“...the quality of the singing anno 1940 is far superior to what can be heard on some later [performances] from the same house. Hungarian Svéd already had an important career in Europe behind him before arriving in New York - the BALLO premiere on 2 December was his MET début; in 1937 he had sung Renato opposite Björling at the Vienna State Opera. Bruna Castagna, the only Italian singer in the cast (Moscona, in spite of his Italian sounding name, was Greek) was one of the truly great mezzo-sopranos of the 1930s and early 1940s but is largely forgotten today, probably due to a lack of commercial recordings. Her ‘Re dell’abisso’ is masterly: what grandezza, what intensity and what expressivity!
I have left the loving couple until last, since here we have grandezza in galore! Zinka Milanov, who had been on the MET roster since 1937 and continued to be so until 1966, must be counted as one of the great Verdi sopranos of the 20th century. Born in Zagreb in Croatia in 1906, the same year as Alexander Svéd, and making her début in Ljubljana in 1927 as Leonora in IL TROVATORE, she spent the next ten years at the Zagreb opera with guest appearances in Hamburg, Dresden and Prague, where Edward Johnson, Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, heard her and engaged her to the Met. She made her début there, again as Leonora, on 17 December 1937, and sang 460 times at the MET, fourteen of these opposite Jussi Björling. Here, at age 34, she is at her freshest and most radiant…vocally she is superb and her hallmarks, the fearless and ringing top notes and her wonderful floated pianissimi, grace her readings of the two arias, ‘Ecco l’orrido campo’ and ‘Morrň, ma prima in grazia’ where she is heart-rending. She also reigns the ensembles where she takes part, but even better than that is the long duet with Riccardo, ‘Teco io sto’. Here she is both magnificent and loving. One never doubts that this is a woman deeply in love. In the 1955 she recorded excerpts from BALLO with Jan Peerce and Leonard Warren and she sings marvelously there too….Here…she is at her freshest and produces some of the loveliest Verdi singing of the period."
- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International, Dec., 2013
"[Ettore Panizza] was blessed with the 31-year-old Jussi Björling as Ricardo and the 34-year-old Zinka Milanov as his Amelia, both in their prime – casting for the gods….At this stage in Milanov’s career, no excuses have to be made for inequalities in her singing: this is an Amelia with all the resources and innate style her music calls for. Act Two with both singers involved and impassioned is thus a vocal feast. Amelia’s Prayer is quite gloriously delivered. With Alexander Svéd, in his Met début, a powerful if unsubtle Renato (his voice has rightly been compared with Ruffo’s), and Bruna Castagna, a classic Ulrica, this is a performance to savour...."
- Alan Blyth, GRAMOPHONE, Aug., 2006