OP0076. LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Live Performance, 9 Dec., 1961, w.Varviso Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Joan Sutherland, Richard Tucker, Frank Guarrera, Nicola Moscona, etc. (Italy) 2-Myto MCD 944.110, w.full libretto. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 8014399001106
“JOAN SUTHERLAND came, sang, and conquered the Metropolitan Opera House…as Lucia. This mode of putting it means there was never much doubt of her ability to deliver Donizetti's music with distinction. But how it would sound in a theatre that has devoured many another famous voice was something else. This, however, was quickly determined after her entrance aria in the Fountain Scene: broad, fluent, perfectly in pitch, fastidious in style, a treat to the ear and an incitement to the enthusiasm of an audience that filled every saleable spot.
Thereafter it was a matter of sitting back to enjoy a superlative demonstration of vocalism by a grand mistress of the ancient, ever new art. As she developed the part, through the duet with Edgardo, the angry episode with her brother, into the sextet, the accumulating evidence pointed to one thing in particular: this is a voice consistent in timbre through two octaves with scarcely a break - full, ringing, and clear at the top, solid in the middle, viola-mellow at the bottom.
Her ‘Mad Scene’ was a thoroughly studied thing in itself, altogether suited in character to what had preceded, but sufficiently illuminated by highlights to be the shining climax to the whole. Here she allowed herself more freedom in ornamentation than previously, working out delicate traceries of figuration in and around the melodic line, stitching in a bit of petit-point staccato, coasting cleanly down a descending scale, and finally demonstrating her prize beyond price-a perfectly controlled trill that was not a mere glorified vibrato but a swift, even beat of two notes perfectly interchanged. Finally? Not quite. She ended her work with a bright, firm, fully produced high E flat that is still ringing in the ear as this is written….One especially apt incident accompanied an echo effect in the music, in which she turned her back to the audience, apparently listening (to herself)….There is so much of this, however, that one could only say: ‘Well done and welcome, Miss Sutherland; may your prime be long and productive’.
In the old-fashioned way, her entrance was accompanied, physically as well as musically, by her own conductor, the young Swiss Italian Silvio Varviso. There is nothing in the least old-fashioned about his treatment of the score, except a virtuous attention to detail, a well-discriminated distribution of emphasis between pit and stage. “
- Irving Kolodin, THE SATURDAY REVIEW
“Although explosions of enthusiasm are familiar enough, though never common, at the Met nothing comparable is recalled in recent times. There wasn't applause but wild beatings of palms; not bravos but roars of exultant appreciation. There were 10 genuine, unforced, prolonged solo curtain calls….Suffice that with this Australian's arrival, a box-office sensation, a queen among divas and opera history were all made simultaneously. It was simply not possible to find anything to quibble about. Even the creaky old libretto suddenly seemed exciting….No point in complicating the simple fact of a once-in-a-generation eruption of performing genius. Miss Sutherland, tall, completely the mistress of her role, and pretty good actress to boot, was that rara avis, a promised glory that exceeded hopes. She is the kind of talent that old-timers often refuse to believe any longer lives.”
- Robert J. Landry, VARIETY
“With his slender but firm voice and winning stage presence, Frank Guarrera was a fixture at the Met in a number of roles: Escamillo in CARMEN (his début role in 1948), Marcello in LA BOHÈME, Valentin in FAUST. He also essayed larger, Verdian roles with honor, if not quite the vocal opulence of contemporaries like Robert Merrill, or Leonard Warren, whom he replaced as Simon Boccanegra a few days after Mr. Warren’s death onstage in 1960.
In 1948, when the 24-year-old Mr. Guarrera was participating in the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Auditions of the Air’ (a precursor of the current National Council Auditions), which he eventually won, Toscanini heard him on the radio singing Ford’s monologue from FALSTAFF and arranged for an audition. The result was Mr. Guarrera’s engagement at La Scala in Boito’s NERONE on the 30th anniversary of Boito’s death. It was the first of several performances under Toscanini; Mr. Guarrera sang Ford on the conductor’s legendary 1950 FALSTAFF broadcasts, still available on CD.
His final role at the Met was Gianni Schicchi, which he last sang in 1976. After his retirement from the stage, he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle for 10 years."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27 Nov., 2007