OP0506. UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Live Performance, 15 Jan., 1944, w.Bruno Walter Cond.Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Jan Peerce, Leonard Warren, Kerstin Thorborg, Frances Greer, etc. (Italy) 2-ASdisc 428/29. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy!
"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
"Exciting as Panizza’s conducting was in the 1940, it was more a moment-to-moment excitement. Walter sacrifices none of the drama while adding an overall sense of architecture and shape to the opera. His tempo adjustments are better integrated, allowing for almost imperceptible shifts from one tempo to the next. BALLO comes off less like a string of highlights, more as a musical and dramatic whole. In addition, Walter seems more concerned with matters of color and balance, providing a richer and more varied orchestral sonority - this is audible even through the sonic limitations of a historical radio broadcast. A perfect point of comparison is the orchestral introduction to the second act, preceding Amelia’s recitative ‘Ecco l’orrido campo’ and aria ‘Ma dall'arido stelo divulsa’. Under Panizza, with overly incisive attacks and bright sonority, the introduction sounds somewhat clattery. Under Walter the darkness of the drama and the richness of Verdi’s scoring become much more evident. On the whole, Milanov is preferable here to her 1940 performance. In the earlier broadcast she didn’t seem totally at ease. Whether she felt rushed by some of Panizza’s tempos, or whether this was an example of a certain lack of consistency that was always true of her singing, the fact is that in 1940 a generally fine performance was compromised by moments of throaty sound and pitch instability. One reason, perhaps, for her improvement here is Milanov’s musical relationship with Walter, which began in 1936 when she substituted at the Vienna State Opera as Aida in a performance under Walter, who then recommended her to Toscanini for a Salzburg Verdi REQUIEM. The way that Milanov and the orchestra play off of each other is very special, and her greater comfort allows her to float her pianissimi and expand her long phrases beautifully. She also characterizes the music with more specificity of vocal color and inflection than she exhibited in 1940. The melismatic passages at the end of ‘Ma dall’arido stelo divulsa’ are a master class in Verdi singing. Her singing of Amelia’s other great aria, ‘Morrň, ma prima in grazia’, is also more secure and beautiful here. Jan Peerce was, to be sure, no Björling. His long Metropolitan Opera career, 1941 - 1968, was a testament to his reliability and to the even, secure sound he produced in a wide range of repertoire.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE March / April, 2021
“As Amelia, Zinka Milanov is in radiant form, her rich and silvery soprano voice easily surmounting Verdi’s challenging music, all the way to blazing top Cs (Peerce does not join her in this note at the conclusion of their great Act II love duet). At her best, Milanov was not just a stunning vocalist, but a supremely committed actress. Here, she throws herself completely into the role, conveying Amelia’s desperation and sorrow in heartbreaking fashion. Leonard Warren is also in prime form, which is to say that of one of the greatest Verdi baritones on records. Warren sings Renato’s music with breathtaking technical ease, all the while aligned to an interpretation of the utmost conviction and subtlety. As with ‘Alla vita’, Act III’s ‘Eri tu’ is a highlight of the performance, a rendition that embodies Shakespearean dimensions of intensity and variety of expression. Kerstin Thorborg’s grand and rich voice, pungent declamation, and imposing demeanor make the most out of the fortuneteller Ulrica’s relatively brief appearance."
- Ken Meltzer, FANFARE March / April, 2021