OP0233. LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Live Performance, 29 Jan., 1944, w.Walter Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Ezio Pinza, Bidu Sayão, Eleanor Steber, Jarmila Novotna, John Brownlee, Salvatore Baccaloni, etc. (Italy) 2-AS Disc 419/20. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy!
"During the forties, [Steber's] Mozart singing is a herald of the emerging Viennese Mozart manner. She is as subtle as any Viennese in handling tone and word, vocally able to cast a glinting shimmer upon Mozart's phrases. The Steber voice is as lovely as ever, or more so, since the palette she draws upon is greater and her emotional response has deepened. In Walter's 'Dove sono' Steber is no longer merely spinning tone - she summons an outburst of tone and shame at the close of the recitative. 'Dove sono' is a vocal and interpretive trial by fire, and the young soprano, whose control of the Mozartean line is both supple and steadfast, emerges not only unscathed but triumphant. What remains a matter for wonder is the complete poise of her vocalism from start to finish. Thoroughly composed, she wafts the gentlest, slenderest thread of tone onto the ether, yet there is nothing anemic or uncommunicative about it. Seldom does an artist capture the psychology as well as the beauty of Mozart's heroine.
At projecting character, Sayão, in particular, is a past mistress, especially in those parts where a wheedling charm is essential.
Bampton is at the peak of her form here and gives an estimable performance. She offers a thoughtfully, carefully plotted reading of the role. Anna's plight has captured her imagination."
- Paul Jackson, SATURDAY AFTERNOONS AT THE OLD MET, pp.304; 309 & 310
“Jarmila Novotna, a Czech-born lyric soprano who sang major roles at the Metropolitan Opera from 1940 to 1956, was widely considered one of the finest singing actresses of her time. Her interpretations of such roles as Donna Elvira, Euridice, Manon, Melisande, Antonia and Marenka were praised for their intelligence and lyrical grace. She also excelled in trouser roles, particularly Orlofsky in DIE FLEDERMAUS, Cherubino in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO and Octavian in DER ROSENKAVALIER. On hearing her American debut in San Francisco in MADAMA BUTTERFLY in 1939, Olin Downes wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES: ‘There is grace, warmth, communicative feeling in all that she does’.
She made her Metropolitan debut in LA BOHEME in 1940, singing with Jussi Björling. THE TIMES review noted her ‘charming simplicity, feeling and high artistic intelligence’. That year Downes also praised her ‘great’ Violetta at the Met: ‘She conceived the music, from first note to last, dramatically, and portrayed the character with an aristocratic sensibility and simplicity. The word and the tone were indissoluble; the phrasing was that of the finest musician’. In her years at the Metropolitan Opera, Miss Novotna sang 193 performances -142 in the opera house, the rest on tour - and won consistent praise for her expressiveness and musicianship.
Her acting abilities and regal appearance also led to other offers: the director Max Reinhardt urged her to devote herself to the theater; the studio head Louis B. Mayer asked her to become a film star. During the course of her career, she appeared in Hollywood films (THE GREAT CARUSO and THE SEARCH), on Broadway (as an unscrupulous concert singer in the 1953 drama SHERLOCK HOLMES) and on television (as Kim Stanley's mother in a postwar drama set in France). But she resisted all attempts to steer her away from singing, which was her first love. ‘Of course there are many important things in life besides music’, she said in a 1989 interview in OPERA NEWS, ‘but that doesn't make music unimportant. If you love music, what would life be without it - can you imagine? Art is what brings beauty into life’.
Miss Novotna studied with Emmy Destinn and made her debut at the age of 17 with the Prague National Opera. She continued her studies in Milan and became a member of the Vienna State Opera from 1933 to 1938, eventually singing opera and concerts in most of the major houses of Europe. The Met invited her to sing in 1928, but she did not want to be separated from her future husband, the Baron George Daubek, whom she married in 1931. Toscanini brought her to the attention of the Met again after she sang Pamina under his direction in Salzburg in 1937. She came to New York in 1940, arriving, she noted years later, the day Hitler marched into Prague. During the war years she recorded ‘Songs of Lidice’, in memory of the victims of the Nazi massacre. The recording presents folk songs of her native land; the piano accompaniments are by Jan Masaryk, the son of the former president of Czechoslovakia. Masaryk died in 1948, and the loss of his protection led to the nationalization of the Daubeks' 3,700-acre estate and castle. That same year, Miss Novotna appeared in Fred Zinnemann's film THE SEARCH, as a mother seeking her lost son at the end of World War II.
Miss Novotna moved from Vienna to New York after her husband's death in 1981. She was frequently seen at opera performances and at events celebrating the art of singing.”
- Edward Rothstein, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 Feb., 1994