OP0065. IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, Live Performance, 16 Dec., 1950, w.Erede Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Giuseppe Valdengo, Giuseppe di Stefano, Lily Pons, Jerome Hines, Salvatore Baccaloni, etc.; BARBIERE Excerpts, Live Performance, 7 July, 1949. México, Cellini; Enzo Mascherini, Giuseppe di Stefano, Giulietta Simionato, Cesare Siepi, etc. (Portugal) 2Gala 100.738. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! 8712177044290
"The happy memory of [di Stefano's] artful Fenton from Johnson's last season lingers in the ear and is nourished, on this afternoon, by his flirtations with mezza voce in the opening aria....As Figaro, Giuseppe Valdengo validates his consecration by Toscanini, for whom he played Iago and Falstaff on NBC Symphony broadcasts. His finely honed baritone has a near-ideal quality and size for the mercurial barber."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.16-17
Lily Pons made her début in 1917 in a concert at Paris. She continued studying for 10 more years, making her operatic début in Mulhouse as Lakmé. Because of her youthful beauty, she lied about her age in all interviews saying that she was born in 1904. The ruse was not discovered until after her retirement. She appeared in many provincial French opera houses where she came to the attention of the Italian tenor Giovanni Zenatello and his wife Maria Gay. They assisted Pons in obtaining an audition with the Metropolitan Opera and in 1931 she made her début as Lucia di Lammermoor, the role with which she was to be associated throughout her career and which marked her farewell in 1962. The Metropolitan Opera became her home base, but she continued to appear at the Paris Opéra, Royal Opera Covent Garden in London, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Teatro Colón Buenos Aires. She concentrated her appearances on a few well chosen roles which fit her style and temperament perfectly. In 1951, however, she sang two performances of Violetta in LA TRAVIATA, but this excursion into a more dramatic repertoire was never repeated.
Pons traveled for several months every year, giving recitals and concerts. She was always a welcome visitor for she embodied the essence of the prima donna. She was always made up perfectly and her gowns were created by the finest fashion designers. During World War II, she toured many of the battle theaters, often near the front lines, and even under those difficult conditions she insisted that she look her best in order to lift the spirits of the military personnel. Although her orchestral concerts usually concentrated on famous arias and coloratura showpieces, she did sing the première of Les Chansons de Ronsard by Milhaud. In her recitals, she often sang songs of Fauré and Debussy. Her last public performance was with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Andre Kostelanetz in May 1972.
The voice of Pons was a very high, light coloratura soprano. She was a very small woman, about five feet tall and very slight, so she always appeared fragile, and yet she was always in total control of her life and career. She married the conductor Andre Kostelanetz in 1938, but the union dissolved in 1958. She was one of the most popular classical singers of her era.
- Richard LeSueur, allmusic.com
"The American bass Jerome Hines had a long and distinguished career at the Metropolitan Opera singing a wide variety of roles with true consistency of voice and style. He appeared with the company for more than 40 years from 1946. An imposing figure - he was 6ft 6in tall - he had a voluminous bass to match his stature.
His charismatic presence made him ideal for the many roles demanding a big personality. It was thus hardly surprising that Sarastro in THE MAGIC FLUTE, Gounod's Mephistopheles, the high priest Ramfis in AIDA, the Grand Inquisitor in DON CARLOS, Boris Godunov, and King Mark in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE were among his leading roles.
Although always faithful to the Met, Hines made many forays abroad. In 1953, he undertook Nick Shadow, with Glyndebourne, at the Edinburgh festival, in the first British performances of Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS. That led to engagements in leading houses in Europe and south America, and eventually to Bayreuth, where he sang Gurnemanz, King Mark and Wotan (1958-63). In 1958, he made his La Scala debut in the title part of Handel's HERCULES, and, in 1961, he first appeared at the San Carlo in Naples, in the title role of Boito's MEFISTOFELE. His Boris Godunov, at the Bolshoi in Moscow in 1962 was, by all accounts, a deeply impressive portrayal.
He was fortunate to arrive at the Met just as the opera house was in need of replacements for the great Ezio Pinza, who had decided to appear in SOUTH PACIFIC. Unlike his distinguished predecessor, Hines could also sing the German and Russian repertory, in addition to Italian and French. In all, his innate musicianship stood him in good stead. Most of his discs derived from live performances. They reveal a sterling voice, a refined style, consisting of a burnished tone, a fine line and exemplary diction, although he never seems to have have been a very profound interpreter.
Hines was both a deeply religious person and a good writer. He combined these qualities in his own opera, I AM THE WAY, a work about Jesus, performed, with Hines as the protagonist, at Philadelphia in 1969. The previous year, he had published his autobiography, THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG, but his most lasting volume was GREAT SINGERS ON GREAT SINGING (1982), in which he made discerning comments on the art of many colleagues.
Hines' later appearances befitted his advancing years: he was Arkel, the elderly grandfather in PELLEAS ET MELISANDE (Rome, 1984), and the blind father in Mascagni's IRIS (Newark, 1989). His last stage appearance was as Sarastro, in New Orleans in 1998, when he was 77."
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 13 Feb., 2003