OP1537. MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Live Performance, 3 Sept., 1948, w.Ormandy Cond. Hollywood Bowl S.O.; Eleanor Steber, Jan Peerce, Richard Bonelli, etc. (England) 2-Eklipse 16. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 501914860257
"American soprano Eleanor Steber sang this fully-staged production in the Hollywood Bowl in 1948, with a conductor who had never previously led an opera! It was a role she had not yet sung in the opera house, but she aced it. Her credo hints at why: 'I learnt every role as Eleanor Steber. When I have learnt it using all the techniques at my command, gradually this role takes me over. When I finally get it on stage, I become that character. At the same time, part of me is wholly aware of the what my character is doing, because to become emotionally lost in a role is to fail to project it beyond yourself'.
Her voice is ideal for Butterfly. Light-voiced (de los Angeles, dal Monte) and heavier-voiced (Callas, Scotto) sopranos have been successful in this role, and Steber has the charm and flexibility associated with the first group and the dramatic heft of the second; this really is the best of both worlds. Better yet, she is a strong actress. As with Callas, the most vivid moments are the conversational exchanges with Pinkerton, Sharpless, and Suzuki, in which her sensitivity to words and inflections fleshes out her portrayal and makes it seem natural. Through her versatile voice and her dramatic technique, she makes the transition from shy child-bride to tragic, deserted woman as convincing as it can be."
"The mind is occupied constantly with admiration for the excellence in all the technical essentials of singing. There can hardly have been, for instance, a cleaner singer than Steber. There is never a smudged or awkwardly taken interval, and her accuracy in staccato and the placing of notes is uncanny. She commands a real legato, an evenness of production which is habitual, as an absolute first condition of success in her art. The voice is whole and indivisible, with no register breaks, and no weakness in the commonly vulnerable areas."
"The basic tonal quality [of Peerce's voice] is bright, ringing, and firmly focused on the note. The superior diction that Toscanini so admired is abundantly audible, as is the elegant musicianship and fervent declamation. Most striking of all [Peerce] exudes an infectious self-confidence and absolute security in his vocal personality, virtues that cannot be taught."
- Peter G. Davis, THE AMERICAN OPERA SINGER, p.421
"Jan Peerce was known as 'Toscanini's tenor', with his clean, incisive singing, exceptional breath support, and immediately distinctive timbre. After his New York song recital in 1964, Theodore Strongin wrote in The New York Times: 'He is a phenomenon, a master professional, a tenor of impeccable poise and control. His enunciation is completely clear, no matter what the language. His fortissimos fill the hall. His pianissimos, though remarkably soft, come through as clearly as many singers' fortissimos, so solid is the basic quality of his voice'. Mr. Peerce participated in Toscanini's broadcasts of LA BOHEME, LA TRAVIATA, FIDELIO, UN BALLO IN MASCHERA and the last act of RIGOLETTO. Many of these were released by Victor as commercial recordings. On 14 May, 1941, Mr. Peerce made his stage debut as the Duke in RIGOLETTO in Philadelphia. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut on 29 Nov., 1941, as Alfredo in LA TRAVIATA. In his Metropolitan Opera years, Mr. Peerce concentrated on the Italian repertory. From 1941 to 1968 at the Met, Mr. Peerce sang 205 performances in 11 operas, plus 119 performances on tour. His last complete stage performance at the Metropolitan Opera took place on 21 Feb, 1966, in DON GIOVANNI. On 16 April, 1966, he was one of the participants in the Metropolitan's farewell gala, the last performance in the old opera house.
When he was not singing at the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Peerce was giving concerts. He never could stand still. But the basic condition of his voice never changed, and he thrived on a schedule that would have killed most other singers. He also appeared in European opera houses, and in 1956 was the first American ever to sing at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow since the war.
His films included appearances in CARNEGIE HALL, TONIGHT WE SING and GOODBYE, COLUMBUS. He recorded for many companies. For many years Mr. Peerce was one of the steadiest, most reliable singers before the public. He attributed his vocal longevity to a secure technique."
- Harold C. Schonberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 Dec., 1984