OP0658. LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, recorded 1954, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Lily Pons, Richard Tucker, Frank Guerrera, Norman Scott, Thomas Hayward, Thelma Votipka & James McCracken; Lily Pons: Mozart Arias. (Germany) 2-Archipel 0247. Final copy! - 4035122402476
“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
"...for some thirty years, until his sudden death in 1975, Tucker's vocal security, boundless energy, unceasing enthusiasm, and thorough professionalism ensured a level of popularity that necessitated comparisons to some of his greatest predecessors....Tucker sang thrillingly and delivered the goods, communicating his own joy in singing to all who would listen...."
- Marc Mandel, FANFARE, May/June, 1997
“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