OP0191. UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Live Performance, 15 Jan., 1944, w.Walter Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Jan Peerce, Leonard Warren, Kerstin Thorborg, Frances Greer, etc. (Italy) 2-Arkadia 2001. Very long out-of-print, Final ever-so-slightly used copy! - 8011571020016
"A first-class of group of principals responds to Walter's leadership. Thorborg is the most convincing of Ulricas, primarily because she has a sizable, well-knit voice which surmounts the ungainly aspects of her music - she is wonderfully mysterious and conspiratorial. The vocal honors of the afternoon fall to Warren [who] has reached full mastery of his powers. His vocal command is complete. The entire afternoon is his triumph. Peerce, equally self-assured, gives one of his finest performances. Fear and agitation are the built-in mental states of Amelia throughout of the opera, and Milanov suffers no deficiency there; she is actively involved in the dramatic situation. The [rarely occasional] Milanov blemishes are like a chip on a fine Titian."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.347-49
"One of the last of a breed of thoroughbred singers, [Milanov] is mistress of an operatic grandeur that has all but vanished."
- John Ardoin, Metropolitan Opera Archives
“It was the Nile scene that did it. Never in my life have I heard a pianissimo like that, or the pure vocal control she had....[We] used to sit up in the balcony for every one of Zinka's performances and just marvel at her singing. When we came to Prague, we didn't expect to hear anything like that. Of course, I had heard wonderful Aïdas in New York — Rethberg, for instance — as a Juilliard student who went to [performances at] the Met. But Zinka's voice made such a direct connection with you. I would say the way that sound came out into the opera house and just pulsated all around you, that was electrifying.”
- Risë Stevens (on hearing Milanov's Aïda in Prague)
“Milanov came like a bolt out of heaven - the voice and the young woman, both so vibrant and exciting. We knew something great had come into [the Met’s] Italian wing. What was not obvious at the beginning was that she would have such a staying power, for she gave so much in her singing.…I was present years later on her great anniversaries and she sang at mine [the fiftieth anniversary of [my] Met début, 1963]. She was incomparable. She was like a vocal sorceress singing the OTELLO arias that night. Such a roar went up from the public, I can never forget it.”
- Giovanni Martinelli
"In the dramatic Italian roles, the greatest soprano I ever sang with was Zinka Milanov. Milanov had one of the greatest voices of this century - she had such power, such dramatic drive in her voice - and she had such pure top tones, including a pianissimo even on the high C, if she wanted."
- Alexander Kipnis
"The basic tonal quality [of Peerce's voice] is bright, ringing, and firmly focused on the note. The superior diction that Toscanini so admired is abundantly audible, as is the elegant musicianship and fervent declamation. Most striking of all [Peerce] exudes an infectious self-confidence and absolute security in his vocal personality, virtues that cannot be taught."
- Peter G. Davis, THE AMERICAN OPERA SINGER, p.421
"Jan Peerce was known as 'Toscanini's tenor', with his clean, incisive singing, exceptional breath support, and immediately distinctive timbre. After his New York song recital in 1964, Theodore Strongin wrote in The New York Times: 'He is a phenomenon, a master professional, a tenor of impeccable poise and control. His enunciation is completely clear, no matter what the language. His fortissimos fill the hall. His pianissimos, though remarkably soft, come through as clearly as many singers' fortissimos, so solid is the basic quality of his voice'. Mr. Peerce participated in Toscanini's broadcasts of LA BOHEME, LA TRAVIATA, FIDELIO, UN BALLO IN MASCHERA and the last act of RIGOLETTO. Many of these were released by Victor as commercial recordings. On 14 May, 1941, Mr. Peerce made his stage debut as the Duke in RIGOLETTO in Philadelphia. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut on 29 Nov., 1941, as Alfredo in LA TRAVIATA. In his Metropolitan Opera years, Mr. Peerce concentrated on the Italian repertory. From 1941 to 1968 at the Met, Mr. Peerce sang 205 performances in 11 operas, plus 119 performances on tour. His last complete stage performance at the Metropolitan Opera took place on 21 Feb, 1966, in DON GIOVANNI. On 16 April, 1966, he was one of the participants in the Metropolitan's farewell gala, the last performance in the old opera house.
James Levine, who first heard Mr. Peerce in Cincinnati many years ago and later worked with him professionally, described Mr. Peerce as 'one of the most extraordinary singers and human beings I have ever known'. He paid tribute to the tenor's 'stylistic versatility, rhythmic & Ã©lan, communicative ability and wide repertory'.
When he was not singing at the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Peerce was giving concerts. He never could stand still. But the basic condition of his voice never changed, and he thrived on a schedule that would have killed most other singers. He also appeared in European opera houses, and in 1956 was the first American ever to sing at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow since the war.
His films included appearances in CARNEGIE HALL, TONIGHT WE SING and GOODBYE, COLUMBUS. He recorded for many companies. For many years Mr. Peerce was one of the steadiest, most reliable singers before the public. He attributed his vocal longevity to a secure technique."
- Harold C. Schonberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 Dec., 1984
"Leonard Warren emerged as the principal baritone of the Metï¿½s Italian wing in the early 1940s and remained so until his untimely death on the Met's stage, 4 March, 1960, at the peak of his career. His smooth, velvety, and beautiful voice was powerful and had an unusually large range in its high register. It was easily and evenly produced, whether he sang softly or roared like a lion. Warren acted his roles primarily by vocal coloring, expressivity, and his excellent diction - his singing was unusually consistent.
Warren's legacy should be of interest to all lovers of great singing."
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2006
"[Warren's] remarkable voice had a dramatic intensity which did not come naturally to him. As with everything else in his life, he worked at that until he got it right. Fortunately, his incomparable voice and dramatic power are still available to us on recordings of some of his most famous roles....[He] became one of the most famous and beloved operatic baritones in the world....Warren's flawless technique, seamless flow of sound, and brilliant top voice were his vocal trademarks and these qualities became the standard by which others would be measured, including me."
- Sherrill Milnes, AMERICAN ARIA, pp.76-77