OP0741. DON GIOVANNI, Live Performance, 3 April, 1943, Chicago, w.Breisach Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Ezio Pinza, Salvatore Baccaloni, James Melton, Zinka Milanov, Jarmila Novotná, Bidù Sayão, Mack Harrell & Norman Cordon. (England) 2-Guild 2236/37. Final Sealed Copy! - 795754223729
"To cap the 1943 performance [above], we have Milanov's only broadcast of a Mozart role. Its uniqueness lies not only in its rarity....her discovery of her dead father is a heartrending, gripping episode. Will she ever again be so passionately involved, so varied in vocal and dramatic effects, now flashing out, now retreating into sorrowful diminuendi, the vocal color astonishingly rich? She even faints convincingly. The thrill of her vocalism is undeniable. She spins great webs of silvery tone as she enters in the finale; her control is sure, the tone ravishing in the mask trio with the top voice well focused, her scales perfectly realized. The voice is well knit throughout its entire range and at all dynamic levels. She takes the first phrase of 'Non mi dir' in one breath; the turns are excellent and executed in a silky legato. When Anna first enters, Milanov, in her excitability, occasionally overshoots the mark vocally, but her discovery of her dead father is a heartrending, gripping episode. Will she ever again be so passionately involved, so varied in vocal and dramatic effects, now flashing out, now retreating into sorrowful diminuendi, the vocal color astonishingly rich?....the thrill of her vocalism is undeniable. She spins great webs of silvery tone as she enters in the finale; her control is secure, the tone ravishing in the mask trio with the top voice well focused, her scales perfectly realized. The voice is well knit throughout its entire range and at all dynamic levels....the turns are excellent and executed in a silky legato."
- Paul Jackson, SATURDAY AFTERNOONS AT THE OLD MET, pp.306-07
“Milanov is now singing with a beauty unmatched among the sopranos of this country.…with Miss Milanov’s truly wondrous vocal beauty to embellish the whole, [the performance of DON GIOVANNI] became…a humane communication of unusual power.”
- Virgil Thomson, 1943
“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
“Pinza and Baccaloni are indeed wonderful in their recitatives, the words of their native language flashing vividly from their tongues...[Sayáo has] great charm and a real personality, so that Zerlina assumes a more central role in the opera than is often the case...Pinza’s suave charmer of a Don is certainly worth having.”
- MusicWeb International, Nov., 2003
“Sayão's technical mastery appeared not to include a well-knit trill, but superb phrasing, splendid diction, acting ability and a svelte figure made her a compelling artist both on stage and on the recital platform....What further eulogies can be written about this charming, mid-century songbird? A Jean de Reszke pupil and the worthy successor to the delicious Lucrezia Bori at the Met, she enjoyed a long career in the lighter French repertoire and is remembered with deep affection by all who had the good fortune to hear her in her prime.”
- Vivian A. Liff, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May / June, 2011
“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