OP0998. MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Live Performance, 6 Jan., 1969 (not a broadcast, thus occasionally variable sound), w.Schick Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Pilar Lorengar, Sandor Konya, Mario Sereni, Nedda Casei, etc. (Portugal) 2-Bella Voce 107.247. Long out-of-print; Final copy! - 8712177040520
"Lorengar had a radiant voice, bewitchingly feminine stage presence, musicianship, and intelligence. The singing is beautiful, the artistry inviting. A first-rate artist is at work."
- Michael Mark, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2009
“Nedda Casei, who in the 1960s and ’70s could be reliably heard as Suzuki, Maddalena, Lola and other bread-and-butter mezzo-soprano characters at the Metropolitan Opera before transforming herself into a pathbreaking labor leader, sang in some 280 performances at the Met, from her debut as Maddalena in Verdi’s RIGOLETTO in 1964 until her final curtain, in 1984, as Larina in Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN.
She also sang Carmen there. In one performance, in 1978, as the understudy for Elena Obraztsova, she had to go on at the last minute. After her first scene, ‘Boo’ rang out like a clap of thunder, full-throated, resonant and shocking’, the critic Jack Hiemenz wrote in the newspaper THE NEWS WORLD. ‘For a moment there was stunned silence, then the audience, outraged, shot back vehement applause and a few bravos’. Mr. Hiemenz suggested that a plant in the audience might have emitted the ‘boo’ to generate sympathy for Ms. Casei. Then he gushed. ‘She was simply splendid’, he wrote. ‘It’s been a long time since the Met gave us a sexually exciting Carmen, one who repels you and arouses you at the same time’.
Her professional opera debut came in 1960, at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, and she went on to sing at numerous houses in Europe and across the United States, and at the White House for Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.
Ms. Casei’s labor career started when she helped negotiate a contract for solo singers at the Met amid a bitter dispute with management that delayed the 1969-70 season. The performers received better pay and a reduction in the long hours they were required to be at the house. ‘She always took care of herself; when she saw a wrong, she wanted to right it’. In 1972 she joined the board of the American Guild of Musical Artists, the union representing opera singers, chorus members, ballet dancers and other theater denizens. She won, becoming the first woman to head the Guild, which at the time had 5,800 members nationwide. Her signature achievement was to build up an emergency fund to help members in times of trouble. It amounted to about $1 million when she left office in 1993 (the equivalent of about $1.8 today). ‘Nedda used her fame, her warm and generous personality, and powerful friendships to create an endowment which continues to provide a secure future for the Relief Fund’, Linda Mays, a former Guild president and current Relief Fund trustee, said in a statement.
In later years, Ms. Casei judged voice competitions and taught singing, including for a time at Aichi Prefectural University in Nagoya, Japan. By then she had retired from the stage, but she agreed to sing a recital there even if she was out of shape. That caused an attack of nerves, she said in an interview with the blog CLASSICAL VOICE.
‘Surprise! The instant I walked onstage the nerves were totally gone’, she said. ‘I realized: These are your friends. These are people you want to sing for’. It was the best she had ever sung, she said – ‘and’, she added, ‘that’s the way I finished’.”
- Daniel J. Wakin, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 15 Feb., 2020
"Mr. Konya had a powerful, dramatic voice and was most highly regarded as a Wagnerian tenor. But his broad repertory also included several of the major Verdi and Puccini roles, as well as Edgardo in Donizetti's LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR and Turiddu in Mascagni's CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. Although his Wagner was criticized by some for embodying an Italianate sob, Mr. Konya's admirers prized exactly that tendency toward stylistic cross-pollination. Just as he brought the emotional lyricism of Italian opera to Germanic roles, he sang Italian roles with the big, heroic sound more typically heard in German works.
Mr. Konya studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, as well as in Milan and at the Music Academy of Detmold, in northwestern Germany. In 1951 he made his professional debut as Turiddu at the Bielefeld Opera. He remained on the company's roster for three years, during which he expanded his repertory, both in grand opera and in lighter roles."
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 June, 2002
“Although he never achieved the star status of his some of his baritone contemporaries in the Italian repertory, Mario Sereni was an unfailingly sincere, intelligent artist of great commitment….Sereni, was a valuable member of the Metropolitan Opera’s roster for more than 27 seasons, beginning with his company debut, as Carlo Gerard in Andrea Chenier, in 1957. Sereni enjoyed a long and steady career at the Metropolitan Opera. In twenty-seven seasons, he sang most of the important baritone roles of the Italian repertory in opera such as Ernani, Luisa Miller, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Forza del Destino, Don Carlo, and Aida. He also sang in La Gioconda, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, and Madama Butterfly, as well as L'Elisir d'Amore and Lucia di Lammermoor. In 1964, Sereni was a memorable Ford in the first performances of Franco Zeffirelli’s beloved Met staging of Falstaff, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. He also appeared in the 1972 Met gala saluting Rudolf Bing. Sereni made his last appearance with the Met in 1984, as Schaunard in La Boheme.
Sereni was also a regular guest at the opera houses of Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas. He also enjoyed a successful international career appearing frequently at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala in Milan and the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
Despite his success, Sereni always remained in the shadow of the more charismatic baritones of his time, principally Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill, Ettore Bastianini, Rolando Panerai and Piero Cappuccilli, yet Sereni’s many recordings reveal a singer and musician of considerable distinction, with a handsome voice, a solid technique, and a fine sense of style.”
- OPERA NEWS, 1 Aug., 2015